Anthony Hopkins and the Big Bank theory

"Many people have asked me about my controversial Big Bank Theory," said Professor Sir Anthony Hopkins, giving the first of this year's Reith Lectures, "and I would like to take this opportunity to clear up some of the misunderstandings that have attended my previous attempts to explain the nature of the universe."

"Briefly, thanks to the research which I have undertaken with funding from the admirable Barclays Bank, I have grown more and more convinced that the entire universe is on course from fragmentation towards unification. Once there was a time when there were no banks. Then there was a time when there were lots of banks, some of them big, some small, but none of them big enough to change the history of banking as we know it."

"Now, if we project this change forward, we see the number of banks getting smaller and smaller, and the size of the banks themselves getting larger and larger. It is only logical to assume that some time in the future, perhaps the near future, there will remain only one Big Bank, which I shall call merely, for ease of reference, Barclays. Already in Britain there are only a few big banks whereas, when I was a boy, there were dozens, and the reduction in number is a scientifically valid process."

"It stands to reason that a bank cannot perform efficiently as a big bank if it has many small functions to perform as well. Wembley Stadium would not be efficient if it had midweek kick-arounds and amateur hirings to encompass. We would not expect Heathrow Airport to handle local flights to Biggin Hill and Manston. It may not entirely surprise you to know that the Bank of England has no facilities for private customers at all, and no branches in East Anglia either.

What this means is that size equals efficiency, but ONLY if the big boys continue to do big things. The bigger a bank gets, the better it becomes at doing big things, and the worse at doing small things. When a bank like Barclays closes down its small rural branches, it is, whether the community knows it or not, doing it a service by relieving it of an inefficient branch...."

"Let me widen this out from banks into another area I know well, that is to say, acting. I began my career as a Welsh actor. I became known as a Welsh actor, rather as Richard Burton did. Then I achieved a British fame which was not predicated on my Welshness, after which I achieved a fame in America based on my ability as an actor. Not as a Welsh actor. Not as a British actor, but as an actor. Most people in America who have seen my films do not know that I am British or Welsh. Most of them have no idea what it is to be Welsh, and not all of them have heard of Britain, so I have now become an American actor. The logical extension of this is to become an American by nationality, which I now have done. You see? It is the Big Bank Theory of the universe being played out before your very eyes. In order to preserve my own efficiency I must expand into America - but I must also close down my small, no longer needed roots in Wales. No more branches for Barclays - no more roots for me. No more knighthood either, alas, but you can't have everything."

"Now, this may not be much comfort for someone living in East Anglia who has no bank branch within easy reach, and whose main alternative is to keep his cash under the bed. A man with cash under his bed is a man who is afraid of robbers, and therefore a man who is going to keep a gun handy, and use it when necessary. Am I saying that the closing down of rural bank branches is going to lead to an increase in murders? No, that is a completely foolish idea. On the other hand, it is a very attractive one and if anyone is proposing to make a film of Mr Tony Martin's life story so far, I should certainly like to be considered for the part. "

"It is unlikely that I should be able to take it, however, as I am currently well into doing a sequel based on the doings of Hannibal Lecter, a violent serial killer. The last time I made a film based on him, I promised I would never do another Lecter film again. I seem however to have broken my word. Why is this? I shall attempt to explain this in my next Reith Lecture which is entitled: 'Is That A Cheque In Your Hand And Am I Pleased To See You !"