Chris Giles

Yes. As Angela Knight, chief executive of the British Bankers’ Association says:

“A bank is like any other business – if its fixed operating costs go up then so does the price of its product. All the changes are good from a stability perspective but add billions to the fixed operating cost of a bank. The consequence is that inevitably the cost of credit – the price the borrower pays for money – will rise. The cheap money era is over.”

But I am sure Ms Knight, as a skilled lobbyist, knows that being strictly correct can happily coexist with being seriously misleading. The impression she gives is that tighter capital and liquidity standards will hit households hard through dearer credit and it is all the fault of pesky regulators. There are two big problems with this: first, the costs of tighter capital standards are only important relative to the benefits; second, the scale of the costs is more important than their existence.

Costs and benefits

Basel attendees have effectively raised the tier one capital ratio from 2 to 7 per cent. The package, popularly known as Basel III, sets a new ratio of 4.5 per cent, but also sets a buffer of 2.5 per cent, setting an effective buffer of 7 per cent. (Banks with capital ratios falling between 4.5 and 7 per cent will face restrictions on paying dividends and discretionary bonuses.) Changes will not be entirely phased in till 2019.

Had the stress tests required 7 per cent, rather than 6 per cent, 17 more European banks would have failed under the adverse scenario with sovereign shock (see column T1_AdvS, below). These are almost exclusively PIIGS banks – except for one Slovenian bank, and two German banks (Norddeutsche and Deutsche Postbank). Read more >>

Basel policymakers, beware: higher capital requirements for banks can increase systemic risk. Although risks are lower for each bank individually, “systemic linkage” between the banks is higher. Depending on the banks’ balance sheets, this can mean higher systemic risk.

Researchers at the Dutch central bank explain

Norwegian banks will be overcapitalised and British banks undercapitalised under the new Basel rules.

So says research from Matrix Group, which considered the fate of European retail and corporate lending banks under the regulations.

The paper concludes that changes to bank capital under new Basel regulations will be a ‘game changer’ for the sector, and will “increase the quantum of capital in the system, improve its quality, force out complexity from balance sheets and ultimately drive down ROE”.

That seems to be a thumbs-up for the new rules, which are intended to create a safer system at the expense of shareholder return. But it’s not good news for Lloyds or HSBC, two of the three British banks studied. Read more >>

The Central Bank Governors and Heads of Supervision yesterday welcomed progress made by the Basel Committee on Banking supervision, suggesting five areas of particular focus for the banking standards expected by the end of this year.

The Group of Central Bank Governors and Heads of Supervision (“the Group”) is the oversight body of the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision and comprises the same member jurisdictions. Read more >>

By Henny Sender

The Bank for International Settlements, the Basel-based body that is sometimes known as the “central bankers’ bank” because it plays a vital global co-ordinating role, is convening a group of senior financiers such as Stephen Green, HSBC chairman; Larry Fink, Blackrock founder; and executives from JPMorgan and Morgan StanleyRead more >>