Archive | Banking

Reserve Bank proposes forcing commercial bank owners to lift their capital levels to bear greater share of financial system risks

The Reserve Bank went out to consultation on Friday on a proposal for bank owners to lift their shareholding stakes – their capital ratio – and thereby bear a greater share of the financial system’s risks.

The consultation has 2 closing dates on successive Fridays in March, the 22nd & 29th, depending on which consultation document you look at.

Deputy governor & financial stability general manager Geoff Bascand put the bank’s case: “Insisting that bank shareholders have a meaningful stake in their bank provides a greater incentive to ensure it is well managed. Having shareholders able to absorb a greater share of losses if the company fails also provides stronger protection for depositors.

“Bank crises happen more often than many people care to remember, and the economic & social costs of bank failures can be very high & persistent. These proposals are designed to make bank failures less frequent. With these changes we estimate the banking system will be resilient to shocks that might occur only once every 200 years.

“We are proposing to almost double the required amount of high quality capital that banks will have to hold. In practice, actual changes to the amount that they hold will be less than double and will vary. The increase will depend on their current levels of capital, how much extra they choose to hold above the required minimum, and whether they are a large or small bank.

“Generally, it will be an increase of between 20-60%. This represents about 70% of the banking sector’s expected profits over the transition period. We expect only a minor impact on borrowing rates for customers.

“While borrowing costs may increase a little, and bank shareholders may earn a lower return on their investment, we believe these impacts will be more than offset by having a safer banking system for all New Zealanders.”

Mr Bascand said the Reserve Bank was consulting on a 5-year transition period for banks to meet the new requirements.

 Links: Reviewing bank capital rules
Non-technical summary 
Consultation paper: How much capital is enough?
Speech: Higher capital better for banking system & New Zealand
Video: What is capital adequacy?
Video: Governor Adrian Orr describes importance of bank capital
Earlier consultations: Review of capital adequacy framework for registered banks

Attribution: Bank release.

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Reserve Bank releases capital adequacy issues paper

The Reserve Bank published an issues paper today on regulation of banks’ capital adequacy.

It’s seeking feedback by Friday 9 June and will follow up with detailed consultation documents on policy proposals & options for each of 3 components later this year, with a view to concluding the review by the first quarter of 2018.

Deputy governor Grant Spencer foreshadowed the broad-ranging capital review in March, in a speech in which he compared the average housing risk weights of large banks in 6 countries.

New Zealand was clearly the most heavily weighted towards housing at 28.3%, followed by Australia at 23.5% (and its bank overseers also tightening the reins), then a long way back to Denmark 13.9%, the UK 11.7%, Canada 7.2%, Sweden 6.8%.

The Reserve Bank aims to identify the most appropriate capital adequacy framework, taking into account experience with the current framework & international developments.

The review will focus on the 3 key components of the current framework:

  • The definition of eligible capital instruments
  • The measurement of risk, and
  • The minimum capital ratios & buffers.

Paper sets out 2 sides

In its issues paper summary, the bank said it recognised the need to balance the benefits of higher capital against the costs, but set out 2 sides to the argument: “It is expected that a higher level of capital would reduce the probability & severity of bank failures and would smooth out credit cycles.

“But banks typically argue that capital is a costly source of funding and that if they had to seek more of it they would need to pass on costs to customers, leading to reduced investment & growth.

“There has been debate about the extent to which these costs reduce national welfare. In one view the capital levels of banks are inefficiently low because of implicit government guarantees of creditors or other incentives. Raising the minimum capital requirement restores efficiency by reversing the implicit subsidy to bank shareholders, and in this way improves overall welfare.

“A growing number of academics, most notably Anat Admati from Stanford University & Martin Hellwig from the Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods (as well as some regulators) have argued that the costs to society as a whole of higher capital are very low and that capital requirements should be much higher than they are now.

“These authors are associated with the ‘big equity’ view and are distinguished by the extent to which they see significant increases in capital as being possible without net negative economic impacts.

“Empirical studies have attempted to quantify the costs & benefits of increasing capital requirements, and to determine the optimal capital ratio which has the greatest net benefit. In the more mainstream studies the Reserve Bank has considered so far, a typical optimal ratio is about 14%, but estimates do vary widely (the range is roughly 5-17%). The Reserve Bank will continue to review & assess these studies, but also welcomes the views of submitters on this issue.”

The bank said that, at this early stage of the review, it hadn’t formed a view on the final calibration of capital requirements, but said it was likely to take into account the studies it had seen, as well as empirical evidence.

Review of the capital adequacy framework for registered banks
Grant Spencer’s March speech

Attribution: Bank release.

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Institute says Wheeler exit opportune for Reserve Bank policy review

Property Institute chief executive Ashley Church called today for Finance Minister Steven Joyce to renegotiate the Government’s target agreements with the Reserve Bank because of bank governor Graeme Wheeler’s convenient retirement 3 days after the election in September.

Mr Wheeler said he wouldn’t seek a second 5-year term. Deputy governor Graeme Spencer, who’s also retiring, will hang in as acting governor for 6 months after Mr Wheeler leaves.

Mr Church has been a strong critic of Reserve Bank policy for 2 years, and said Mr Wheeler’s resignation gave the Government a timely opportunity to review that policy & its effect on the housing market. He said many of the bank’s decisions had damaged the market and had slowed construction of new homes to a rate well short of catching up with demand.

“While the Government, the Auckland Council & the private sector have all been focused on addressing the supply issue in Auckland, the Reserve Bank has been unashamedly at odds with the market in its attempt to artificially cool demand. Sadly, it’s failed, and has only served to make the problems in Auckland even worse.”

Mr Church said he would like to see the Government add a ‘housing market supply’ clause to its contract with the Reserve Bank, which would require the bank to consider the effect its policies would have on overall supply: “If such a policy had been in place 2 years ago, the disastrous LVR (loan:value ratio) restrictions would have been much more carefully considered – and there would be no talk of debt:income limits on lending.”

Mr Church said he would also like to see the Government move to immediately modify existing Reserve Bank policy, particularly the LVR restrictions on first-homebuyers: “The decision to put LVR restrictions on first-homebuyers has been directly responsible for stopping thousands of Kiwis from buying a first home – and the longer they stay in place the worse the situation gets. We don’t have the luxury of waiting till September till those restrictions go – they need to be removed right now.”

Related story: On the move, February 2017, Wheeler sticks to one term at Reserve Bank, Spencer to fill in post-election

Attribution: Institute release.

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BRICS’ new bank a step change in international influence

Establishment of an international development bank by the BRICS nations (Brazil, Russia, India, China & South Africa) this week was a major step change in international finance & power 2 years after work on it began, although it was played down in much of the Western media.

One question asked was whether it would be a competitor for the IMF (International Monetary Fund) & World Bank. With initial subscribed capital of $US50 billion and initial authorised capital of $US100 billion, it was seen as a much smaller entity. Its initial reserve fund (contingent reserve arrangement) will be $US100 billion.

But initial size is not the point. The BRICS nations’ leaders reiterated their annoyance that the IMF & World Bank were sticking to having European & US presidents and had failed to become more democratic. The BRICS’ New Development Bank will enable – and probably encourage – a move away from the US greenback as international reserve currency, and it will set up a tussle for influence.

It may see China, India & Russia agreeing on issues where previously they would have taken individual positions that reduced their combined effect, but that will only happen if they get over their annoyance and forge a positive course to lead the world’s many struggling nations; if not, the whole venture could collapse.

The international financial crisis that got underway in 2007 can be attributed to financial structures in the US getting out of control, and the US’s subsequent focus on measures to improve its domestic situation, particularly quantitative easing, have highlighted the need for other countries to take greater control over their affairs.

The Foreign Policy website, on its South Asia Channel, highlighted both fortuitous & concerning features of US policy from other countries’ perspectives: “Since the financial crisis, the US has embarked on a massive bond-buying programme known as quantitative easing (QE) in an attempt to reinvigorate its domestic economy. By pushing US interest rates to historic lows, this flood of easy money also spurred financial flows into emerging markets, which have offered investors higher returns. Foreign direct investment into BRICS nations reached $263 billion last year, accounting for 20% of global foreign direct investment, up from 6 % in 2000, according to the UN Conference on Trade & Development.

“But now that the US Federal Reserve has begun scaling back or ‘tapering’ its QE programme, that flow of funds to emerging markets has begun to reverse – sparking concerns that an exodus of portfolio investment could destabilise emerging markets. That fear is especially acute in India, which has run continuous current account deficits over the years and experienced a currency crisis last year.”

Each founding nation got something from this week’s agreement: The first chair of the board of governors will be from Russia, the first chair of the board of directors from Brazil, the first president of the bank from India, the headquarters will be in Shanghai and a regional centre will be established in South Africa.

The 5 leaders said after their meeting at Fontaleza in Brazil the reserve arrangement “will have a positive precautionary effect, help countries forestall short-term liquidity pressures, promote further BRICS co-operation, strengthen the global financial safety net and complement existing international arrangements”.

They said their development banks had made progress in strengthening ties between the 5 countries, would also look at pooling insurance & reinsurance capacities and would advance major changes to combat tax evasion: “We believe sustainable development & economic growth will be facilitated by taxation of revenue generated in jurisdictions where economic activity takes place.

“We express our concern over the harmful impact of tax evasion, transnational fraud & aggressive tax planning on the world economy. We are aware of the challenges brought by aggressive tax avoidance & non-compliance practices. We therefore affirm our commitment to continue a co-operative approach on issues related to tax administrations and to enhance co-operation in the international forums targeting tax-base erosion & information exchange for tax purposes.”

Looking for information about the Fontaleza declaration has taken me in interesting directions: the status of media sources will also change.

Prime-source Western media such as the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and major agencies like Bloomberg & Reuters habitually present information from the perspective of their origins. Western media will quote Western sources, but habitually represent information from other sources as less reliable.

Oddly, I found the wording of the declaration on the Dispatch News Desk, Pakistan. Several of the more thoughtful articles were on the Lowy Institute website in Australia.

Links: Dispatch News Desk, Pakistan, Fontaleza declaration
Foreign Policy, South Asia Channel, Move over, IMF: BRICS bank aims to rewrite the rules of development
Lowy Interpreter, Did the BRICS score in Brazil?
Lowy Interpreter, The BRICS bank and China’s growing web of development financing
Lowy Interpreter, China’s determination to be a great power
Podcast: ‘The future of the renminbi’ – Wing Thye Woo & Stephen Grenville

Attribution: Declaration, multiple sources.

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Anti-Bernanke Keen lauds IMF authors’ paper on changing banking

Published 13 November 2012

Australian economics professor & columnist Steve Keen – a highly respected critic of US Federal Reserve governor Ben Bernanke – got excited last week about a working paper from the International Fund on the Chicago Plan, byJaromir Benes & Michael Kumhof.

The significance of this is that Professor Keen has acknowledged a paper by neoclassicists from a neoclassical organisation, but has done so because they’ve stepped outside the usual neoclassical thought band.

It matters because the neoclassical approach has held sway through the US stimulus programmes – and, Professor Keen has argued, held sway earlier by encouraging the steep rise in debt pre-global financial crisis.

One reason for Professor Keen’s enthusiasm for the IMF researchers’ paper was its “realistic perspective on banking is the hallmark of the first, very literary, section of the paper, which discusses both the actual mechanisms of money creation now and the historical debate about the nature of money and the proper role of banks. I do urge everyone to read this section, since it is so rare to have the actual practices of banking realistically discussed in a formal academic paper, let alone one issued by the IMF”.

Under the Chicago Plan, devised in the 1930s, the banking system’s monetary & credit functions would be separated by a requirement for banks to have 100% reserve backing for deposits.

US economist Irving Fisher claimed in 1936 this would give much better control of a major source of business cycle fluctuations, sudden increases & contractions of bank credit and of the supply of bank-created money; it would completely eliminate bank runs; it would dramatically reduce net public debt; and it would dramatically reduce private debt because the creation of money no longer required the simultaneous creation of debt.

The authors of the IMF paper said they found support for all 4 of these claims through their study, in which they embedded a comprehensive & carefully calibrated model of the banking system in a DSGE (dynamic stochastic general equilibrium modelling) model of the US economy. In addition, they found output gains approached 10% and steady state inflation could drop to zero without posing problems for the conduct of monetary policy.

According to Wikipedia, the DSGE (dynamic stochastic general equilibrium)methodology “attempts to explain aggregate economic phenomena, such as economic growth, business cycles and the effects of monetary & fiscal policy on the basis of macro-economic models derived from micro-economic principles”.

The authors said the critical feature of their model was that the economy’s money supply would be created by banks through debt, rather than being created debt-free by the Government.

They said it would reduce debt “by making government-issued money, which represents equity in the commonwealth rather than debt, the central liquid asset of the economy, while banks concentrate on their strength, the extension of credit to investment projects that require monitoring & risk management expertise.

“We find the advantages of the Chicago Plan go even beyond those claimed by Fisher. One additional advantage is large steady state output gains due to the removal or reduction of multiple distortions, including interest rate risk spreads, distortionary taxes and costly monitoring of macro-economically unnecessary credit risks.

“Another advantage is the ability to drive steady state inflation to zero in an environment where liquidity traps do not exist, and where monetarism becomes feasible & desirable because the government does in fact control broad monetary aggregates. This ability to generate & live with zero steady state inflation is an important result, because it answers the somewhat confused claim of opponents of an exclusive government monopoly on money issuance, namely that such a monetary system would be highly inflationary. There is nothing in our theoretical framework to support this claim. And there is very little in the monetary history of ancient societies & western nations to support it either.”

Jaromir Benes was a research advisor at New Zealand’s Reserve Bank from 2006-08. He was a member of the DSGE team, responsible for developing & implementing a new forecasting model. For the previous 7 years he headed the Czech National Bank’s macro-economic modelling unit, where he was responsible for developing & implementing the quarterly projection model and the G3 model. From New Zealand, he moved to the IMF in Washington as an economist. Michael Kumhof is deputy chief of the IMF research department’s modelling division in Washington.

Professor Keen is a professor of economics at the University of Western Sydney, which has just decided to cut back on all but one of the economics papers it offers before partly relenting, in response to government funding changes. As a result, he’s in danger of losing his job.


Links: The Chicago plan revisited Steve Keen: The IMF goes radical? Steve Keen, Debtwatch blog Steve Keen: The economic case against Bernanke, 24 January 2010


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Attribution: Steve Keen blog, Business Spectator, IMF paper, story written by Bob Dey for the Bob Dey Property Report.

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Gruen proposes banking reform in Australian research paper

Published 24 November 2010

Australian economic reformist Dr Nicholas Gruen has set out a way to improve banking across the Tasman without wholesale change in the latest Whitlam Institute Perspectives paper, released on Monday. The institute’s director, Eric Sidoti, said Dr Gruen had produced the paper quickly in response to a symposium held by the institute and the University of Western Sydney’s School of Economics & Finance in July, Delivering a 21st century economy for a fair Australia.

Mr Sidoti said: “Australian banks’ profitable navigation of the global financial crisis may be pleasing shareholders, but the political & community reception has been hostile. Dr Gruen proposes a viable, low-risk policy reform which would address the current inequity in the structure of the Australian banking system.

“Dr Gruen’s insight is that the Canadian arrangements enabled the major elements of the mortgage market (including the market for securitisation) to continue to function throughout the global financial crisis, and in that sense performed better than the Australian market. The proposal that follows takes that experience and applies it in a prudent manner to the Australian conditions.”

Dr Gruen said in his introduction: “While the financial crisis cut swathes through the financial sector & real economics of developed countries generally, its effect in Australia was to illustrate a grand paradox. Our banks were revealed to be amongst the strongest in the world, profitable beyond the wildest dreams of the pre-deregulation era. At the same time they were dangerously fragile, requiring unprecedented guarantees not just on deposits but also for wholesale creditors. If the analysis offered in this paper is sound, the policies it proposes will make our financial system not just less fragile, but also substantially more competitive.

“There has been no shortage of proposals for comprehensive re-regulation of finance. Yet even relatively like-minded experts who can often broadly agree on the causes of the crisis still disagree on the correct solution. Thus for instance John Kay, Paul Volcker, or even the Bank of England governor, Mervyn King, appear to back strong action to return the core banking systemto ‘narrow banking’ and avoiding the problem that some banks are ‘too big to fail’, whilst Nobel laureate Paul Krugman is not so sure.

“Many prescribe substantial increases in capital adequacy by banks. But while this may improve the robustness of our banks, it would do little to improve competition between them and nothing for the competitiveness & stability of alternative sources of finance such as securitisation.

“The approach in this paper is slightly different. It does not propose a new regulatory regime arising from a comprehensive view of finance. Instead we go looking for hundred dollar bills on the pavement: That is, areas of inefficiency whose source can be easily seen in both theory & empirically and which can be improved by the application of simple principles & procedures of micro-economic reform…..

“The paper focuses on lending to households in Australia, and particularly on the largest household debt market – the $A1 trillion home loan market, which constitutes around 60% of Australian banks’ assets. However, the principles articulated here would apply to any area of banking which is susceptible to disintermediation through market-traded portfolio funding (also known as ‘securitisation’).

“The central motivating concerns of the paper are these:

Most finance is ‘commoditised’. Yet in contrast to an industry like IT, where a service being ‘commoditised’ leads to dramatic price falls, in finance this has not happenedAs the crisis demonstrated, banking is a public-private partnership. Banks risk capital to earn profits. But given their capital adequacy will always be limited, catastrophic downside risks are assumed by governments. No amount of denial or policy ambition will remove the government’s guarantee. And even if it were possible to remove it, it is not possible to prevent depositors & money markets from perceiving it as likely that bank guarantees would be activated in a crisisWhile the dilemmas of banking will always involve difficult tradeoffs, the current architecture of banking is inefficient, inequitable & fragile. The real economic payoff is in finessing the contours of the private-public partnership that is banking. The assignment of roles should be the product of careful, practical & principled thought, rather than ideological predisposition which privileges the role of either public or private sectorsGiven the complexity, importance & politically contentious nature of finance, there is a premium on evolving industry structure through choices in the presence of competitionCrucially, competitive neutrality is invoked not just to protect private competitors from subsidised competition from the public sector, but also to ensure that the contribution public-sector assets & capabilities can make to productivity are not artificially withheldTo prevent moral hazard and to manage its own exposure, governments heavily regulate banks. There have been similar calls for governments to regulate shadow banking built on securitisation. However given the advantages of limiting regulation to where its benefits outweigh its costs, an alternative is to allow those in the shadow banking sector to purchase the liquidity-provision & risk-bearing services of governments. Thus ‘regulation’ occurs, but on an opt-in basis and only on products that a government agency considers appropriate risksNew technological possibilities, particularly on the internet, have powerful implications for the way this public-private partnership of finance should be crafted. This point will only live in the background in the analysis here but will come to the fore in a subsequent companion paper.”

Dr Gruen has advised 2 Labour cabinet ministers and sat on the Productivity Commission He’s chief executive of Lateral Economics, a regular columnist & prolific blogger. He chaired the Federal Government’s 2.0 Taskforce in 2009 and is a strong public advocate for economic reform & innovation.

The Whitlam Institute, within the University of Western Sydney at Parramatta, commemorates the life and work of 1970s Labour prime minister Gough Whitlam and pursues the causes he championed.

Link: Delivering a 21st century economy for a fair Australia

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Attribution: Whitlam Institute, paper, story written by Bob Dey for the Bob Dey Property Report.

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