The newest skill on bankers' resumes: making cheese

Tom Johansmeyer

In Milan, some bank employees are assigned to care for the collateral. Rather than examine credit spreads and market indicators, however, they are focused on temperatures in a warehouse and the centuries of tradition that have come to define making Parmesan cheese.

Some banks are allowing manufacturers to use their product as collateral -- but not in the traditional sense. The notion of using underlying goods to secure a loan isn't new. But, in this uniquely Milanese transaction, 85-pound wheels of Parmesan cheese are put up as collateral during their aging periods. Parmesan has to sit in a climate-controlled vault for up to two years, and the producers have found a way to make there inventory productive when it normally would only take up space.