Thursday, September 16, 2010

Basel III: An Effective Banking Insurance Policy?

As the latest incarnation of Basel Accords primarily designed for insuring the financial risks of banks, will it finally prevent the reoccurrence of another global financial crisis?

By: Ringo Bones

Touted as the financial risk reduction proposal that could one and for all reduce the occurrence of the financial crisis that plague our global economy back in 2008, Basel III – the latest version of Basel Accords aimed at reducing financial risks of banks by finding out the adequate amount of Core Tier 1 Capital a bank has to maintain in reserve – is seen by most bankers as mere management-related rigmarole rather than a truly effective financial tool to hedge risks. But in truth, it is much more than that.

All of the three Basel Accords grew out of the consensus of the Basel Committee of the Bank for International Settlements in Basel, Switzerland. The Basel Committee on Banking Supervision provides a forum for regular cooperation on banking supervision matters. Its objective is to enhance understanding of key supervisory issues and improve the quality of banking supervision worldwide.

The Basel Committee seeks to do so by exchanging information on national supervisory issues, approaches and techniques, with a view to promoting common understanding. At times, the Committee was this be-all-end-all of common understanding to develop guidelines and supervisory standards in areas where they are considered desirable. In this regard, the Committee is best known for its international standards on capital adequacy; the Core Principles for Effective Banking Supervision; and the Concordant on cross-border banking supervision.

The Basel Committee’s members come from Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States. Countries are represented by their central banks and also by the authority with formal responsibility for the prudent supervision of banking business that is not the central bank.

The latest capital requirement revamp primarily grew out of various governments’ decision to avoid using taxpayers’ money to prop-up failing banks. And could – in theory at least – allow banks better cope even if large numbers of borrowers default on their debts, triggering a subprime mortgage crisis. But most bankers have reservations over the new capital requirement reforms because it could hurt their potential future earnings by making less money available for potential borrowers.

The latest Basel III agreement now requires central banks to triple the size of its capital reserve. This ratio will “supposedly” protect against another banking crisis, the 7 % ratio includes a “conservation buffer”. And failure to maintain the ratio could result in penalizing the banks by cutting bonuses of bank executives. The new rules will be submitted to the upcoming G-20 meeting in South Korea. The question now is, will the new Basel Accord really work in preventing another global financial crisis?

Given that banks do need to earn a profit, the issue of lowered potential earnings will probably dominate the discussion in implementing the latest version of the Basel Accord. Adequate capital ratio verification process could also prove tricky – remember the 2001 era currency swap that the Greek central bank did with Goldman Sachs that eventually lead to the current Greek debt crisis? With all its promised insurance against financial risks, Basel III might prove to be a hard sell. Sad, after all a healthy business environment has always been the be-all-end –all of the insurance industry, isn’t it?

1 comment:

May Anne said...

It is now high tome to legislate laws that would require banks to have increased equity capital in order to prevent another subprime mortgage crisis / credit crunch from happening again - especially when most investment banking and other financial industry institutions are continuing to operate without any existing risk management system. Worse still, these financial industry institutions are even leveraged 30 times or more for every dollar of the funds that they currently have at any given moment.