Top Banker Warns of Rule Fixation ‘Going Beyond Reason’

Christian Clausen, president of the European Banking Federation, said regulators need to rethink an approach he warned will bury the industry under a mountain of rules with little coherence.


Clausen, who is also the chief executive officer of Nordea Bank AB (NDA), said his group plans to take up the issue with the new European Commission and parliament in an effort to prevent regulators adding more rules to the existing framework.
“We need to have a serious talk,” he said yesterday in an interview in Stockholm. “We need to calibrate, we cannot just add on. I think it is going beyond reason.”
Bankers across Europe are trying to anticipate what regulatory changes might follow the results of stress tests by the European Central Bank and the European Banking Authority, with results due to be released on Oct. 26. The examinations will establish the financial health of Europe’s biggest banks and provide a master document from which the ECB can start its supervisory work on Nov. 4.
Since dragging the global economy into the worst slump since the Great Depression, banks have spent the past half-decade adjusting to the biggest overhaul in financial regulation in 80 years. Clausen said that work should now be regarded as finished.
“We have solved the issue now, the too-big-too-fail, we have solved the issue on most of them,” he said. “Maybe there are a few left — let’s handle them — but no more big reforms, I think, no more good ideas.”
New Approach
Jonathan Hill, Europe’s financial services chief in the new commission confirmed by parliament yesterday, has already flagged his interest in focusing on “implementation, enforcement and evaluation” of existing rules rather than further tightening.
“Now we are entering a new phase,” Hill said in a written reply to questions from the European Parliament before an initial hearing earlier this month. “Although we must continue to be alert to the emergence of new risks in our system and stand ready to take appropriate action, we are unlikely, over the next five years, to need to pass the same amount of new legislation again.”
‘Holistic View’
Some of Europe’s best-capitalized banks are also urging regulators to review their approach. Annika Falkengren, CEO of SEB AB, one of Sweden’s four biggest lenders, said today that while she “highly” supports rules that contribute to a “stable and more transparent banking system,” she urges regulators to “take a holistic view on the consequences of all initiatives — old and new — so that the rules do not hamper banks in supporting the real economy to get back on track.”
ECB President Mario Draghi said Oct. 9 that since the summer of 2013, banks falling under his direct supervision have “strengthened their balance sheets by almost 203 billion euros ($258 billion).” Estimates of how much new capital Europe’s financial system might need have varied from zero to as high as 767 billion euros, according to one study.
Clausen said the stress tests “will hopefully remove some of the question marks that are still out there in European banking so we can get on with life.”
He urged policy makers to ensure that life after stress tests follows a different regulatory path if Europe’s economy is to recover.
“I think very few people understand the cost that’s piled up,” he said. “For an average small, medium-sized enterprise in Europe that has to borrow money where risk weights are 150 percent, capital requirements 20 percent, including bail-in, you can calculate the margin that company has to pay. It’s not consistent with growth.”

 
Source: Bloomberg / Oct. 23, 2014

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