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Can transaction banking survive in this world of regulation?

As mentioned, I attended two great sessions, so here’s the
next one: can transaction banking survive in this world of regulation?

A good theme and one that I was really keen to hear about,
particularly as David Wright was part of the panel.  David was instrumental in the European
theatre during the development of MiFID and is now Secretary General of IOSCO,
the International Organization of Securities Commissions.

Joining David on stage were:

  • Jaspal Singh Bindra, Group Executive Director
    & Chief Executive Officer, Asia, Standard Chartered
  • Barbara Ridpath, CEO, International Centre for
    Financial Regulation
  • Francesco Vanni d'Archirafi, CEO Transaction
    Services, Citi


although I’m not going to write a great deal of Francesco’s
comments here as he made the fundamental faux pas of advertising his company

No-one wants to hear about how many countries, clients or
currencies you deal with as a bank Francesco, so don’t do it.

The only direct quote I will attribute to him is “we should
have the clients serving our needs better”. He meant we should serve our
clients’ needs better, but he probably got the statement right in the first
place according to the other banking guys sitting near me.

Anyways, here are my highlights of this session (impressions
not quotes):

David Wright:

Most of the banking people I meet, when it comes to
regulation, ask: is there light at end of tunnel or are we still in the middle
of a storm?

The regulatory bodies, the G20, the Basel Committee, IAIS,
IOSCO and more, are making a massive effort to make the system safer,
sustainable, productive and socially acceptable.  There is a massive political effort under

The job is now at an interesting point of time, for a number
of reasons. 

There is a lot of conceptual agreement on the key regulatory
issues, and I would list them as:

  • the resolution framework for failing financial institutions;
  • the level of bank capital, which is going up;
  • the whole OTC derivatives package, which is due to be
    finished by the end of this year; and
  • a nexus of issues around securitisation, repos, money
    markets and shadow banking; and finally
  • improving corporate governance in financial institutions,
    and having concomitant deterrent sanctions.

The big question is: will all these principles be implemented
in a consistent way and, if they’re not, we face much higher costs and friction.

Right now, there are two big challenges, one on the OTC derivatives
package with the restrictions in the USA and overlapping rules. The second
issue is an important one on the increasing divergence of accounting

Beneath this there are other big issues.  The toolbox for getting to convergent
regulation is weak.  There are no enforceable
sanction powers and so we can only use peer reviews, transparency, political
pressure, monitoring and the press, as there are no institutional binding
mechanism as there is with the world trade council, for example.

As we see capital being raised around the world, there will
be new capital markets and then we get into new markets that are a matrix of
3×3 or even 10×10 as these markets evolve and develop.  This was reflected in the remarks of Simon Tay
yesterday (see blog).

Here we are, in year six of this crisis, and we are still
struggling to understand all the aspects of shadow banking, which covers 100%
of the GDP of the world. 

What are the effects on liquidity and capital; have we got
the balance right; what are the impacts on credit supply; and so on.  We need much more co-operation amongst these
bodies to make these things work.


Barbara Ridpath (who
was moderating):

Jaspal, do you concur with David’s comments?

Jaspal Singh Bindra:

We welcome regulation and change, but it is getting too
complex.  We have no difficulty with
compliance but, with each of the regulators in our local markets having
divergence and differences, it makes it a challenge. 

Regulators must be conscious that there has to be a balance,
as if the banks fail to support the real economy due to these changes, then
that will be a disaster.

Importantly, there are very definitely some unintended but
real consequences.

Finally, the emerging market voice is not being heard or
having the voice it deserves, as these regulatory systems are being developed.

Barbara Ridpath:

And Francesco, what are your regulatory challenges?

Francesco Vanni

Every weekend we update 6,000 lines of code in our
transaction systems across 96 countries of our operations to be consistent with
regulatory needs and compliance.  That is
every weekend.

And unintended consequences of regulations also worry us a
lot, not just from a liquidity point of view. 
We are pushing liquidity outside of the banking system, and the more we
create these complex matrices, the more we will see people using shadow banking
to work around these challenges.

Barbara Ridpath:

If regulators could create regulations consistently and in a
co-ordinated fashion, we would not have to update systems so frequently.  We have seen several instances where every
regulator was asking for different data on different dates in different formats,
and when we said we couldn’t deliver, we were accused of obfuscating.  The regulators need more co-ordination, as
this inconsistency of demand, approach and timing causes global operators a
massive headache.

Francesco Vanni

Exactly.  For example,
our submission on the Basel III regulatory changes ended up being 2,300 pages,
excluding the appendices.  To operate,
you need to comply with the rules to keep your licence in every country, region
and globally, and we can provide the information but there are not enough
roundtables with all the relevant stakeholders to deal with this complexity in
our environment.

Barbara Ridpath:

You said in your opening Jaspal that the Asian voice is not
being heard enough.  What did you mean?

Jaspal Singh Bindra:

Too big to fail and deleveraging the excesses of the past is
a Western issue.  If you look at the
banking sector in the emerging markets and Asia, the challenge is very
different for banks.  It’s more about how
to support growth in the real economy, create jobs and ensure financial inclusion
to lift Asia out its low levels of growth in the past.  That in itself means that anything entirely
based around the needs of the developed world cannot support the needs of the
entire world. 

The regulations being introduced as the medicine for the
Western crisis are all having an impact on our operations, in terms of higher
costs of capital, efficiency and portability of liquidity, headcount and

In particular, trade finance will suffer, there will be a
higher cost of finance, and that will be passed on to the customers where
possible and, if not possible, then bank businesses will close down.  There is also a bigger impact on long-term
finance and that will upset the emerging markets again, where there is a major
requirement for infrastructure investments.

This is why there should be preferential treatment for trade


Barbara Ridpath:

The deleveraging of the European banks back to domestic
markets has an impact.  Is that being filled
by American and Asian banks?

Jaspal Singh Bindra:

Some of the loss of capital and finance from Europe has been
picked up by Asian and American banks, but we’re talking about a humongous
vacant space.  It’s not that the hole has
been filled, it’s that the demand, the hole itself, is growing fast and it’s
getting bigger by the day.

Francesco Vanni

The trade finance needs of Africa, Latin America and Asia
are great, and there is a challenge particularly when looking at the supply chain
needs of small to medium sized companies. 
We are not happy on the trade side as it is obvious that not all the
businesses on the trade side have structural liquidity.  That means an imbalance in counterparty trade,
and it is important that as banks deleverage due to regulatory needs, we
continue to finance the commercial flows of our clients.

Barbara Ridpath:

The Basel committee’s greatest own goal has been the impact
on trade finance.  They recognise it, but
it’s after the horse has bolted.  How can
regulators avoid scoring these own goals?

David Wright:

To avoid this, you consult widely to look at the economic impacts,
to ensure such problems don’t exist. 
Everyone makes mistakes, and I’m not saying whether the BIS did or not,
but it’s a choice.  You can have local,
national and regional rules, and there will be a lot of arbitrage across
markets and the banks will call that unfair competition.  Or we can work as constructively as possible
to create global frameworks at the global level, but with allowance for freedom
to interpret at the local level.  It’s
like the difference in Europe between a Directive and a Regulation, and this
creates some flexibility.

One point about the East-West issues, my colleagues in Asia
were saying crisis, what crisis, you
created it, you sort it out,
and I think we should look at the countries
that have not been caught in this maelstrom and ask why they were not
impacted.  Was it due to regulation,
governance, markets or more and it’s a debate about complexity versus simplicity.

So some flexibility yes, but you cannot have a free for all.

Francesco Vanni

AML and KYC is a key area and we need to work out how to do
more intelligently, as fragmentation can be a killer, especially as we move our
world to digital mobile operations.

David Wright:

From a regulatory perspective, everything starts from a need
for financial stability.  The issue now
is that the damage is so bad.  There’s
been a fifteen percent loss of global GDP, a forty percent increase in the Western
world’s public sector debt, and more. 
These are the things you simply cannot ignore as a regulator. 

We need the banking industry working for the economy and not
the economy working for the banking industry.  
The financial industry needs to work for the real economy, and it’s
getting this balance right.  During a
crisis, the concern is that the pendulum can swing too far the other way.

Then we have things like LIBOR, and what does this do to the
mindset of the regulator and, more importantly, the mindset of the public? 

We just want a financial system that is stable.  We remember 2008 too much when we all thought
the lights were going out, and that’s what this is all about .

The problem we have is that we are all looking at the Basel
framework, and when you find a region or major country completely ignoring this
framework, hyo uahve to ask will that region or country be compliant: yes or
no.  and then we have cpaitla markets
growing in these regions ansd we wonder what that will mean.

Barbara Ridpath:

If you read that you have to have regulators who cantrust
their counterparties, not just banks who trust theirs.

David Wright:

That’s an issue.  A
big, big issue.

It starts with a convergent framework of law in all the
regions.  If the laws are different, you
cannot increase cooperation.  We need a
quantum leap in cooperation and, more importantly, trust.  You cannot resolve a failing institution that
has a global structure if there is a region or major country in the system that
does not cooperate or have trust.  At the
end of the day, under the current framework, there will not be the legal
instruments or incentives to make this work.

The more co-operation and the more convergence, the safer
the financial system will be and that’s why we need a quantum leap.

Jaspal Singh Bindra:

There’s context here that needs to be understood.  Look at the Asia regulators. They took a
great deal of medicine from the regulators of the west when we had a crisis in
the 1990s. You have the same issues ten years later, and you should take that
same bitter pill that we took.

Hmmm … I think the
Asian tiger wants to bite back … more on this later, I’m sure.  Anyways, off to the innotribe again …


About Chris M Skinner

Chris M Skinner
Chris Skinner is best known as an independent commentator on the financial markets through his blog, the Finanser.com, as author of the bestselling book Digital Bank, and Chair of the European networking forum the Financial Services Club. He has been voted one of the most influential people in banking by The Financial Brand (as well as one of the best blogs), a FinTech Titan (Next Bank), one of the Fintech Leaders you need to follow (City AM, Deluxe and Jax Finance), as well as one of the Top 40 most influential people in financial technology by the Wall Street Journal’s Financial News. To learn more click here...

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  • Great post, best I have seen from #sibos. Thanks