ESBG keeps a close eye on prudential treatment of crypto assets

On 30 September 2022, ESBG responded to the second public consultation of the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision (BCBS) on the prudential treatment of banks' crypto asset exposures, which is built on the proposals in the first consultation issued in June 2021.

The basic structure of the proposal in the first consultation is maintained, with crypto assets divided into two broad groups: Group 1 includes those that are eligible for treatment under the existing Basel Framework with some modifications. Group 2, on the other hand, includes unbacked crypto asset and stable coins with ineffective stabilisation mechanisms, which are subject to a new conservative prudential treatment.

In the response to the second consultation in 2022, we advocated for the removal of the technological risk add-on from the proposed prudential framework.

The first reason for this would be the principle of technological neutrality. The regulation should focus on regulating the services but not the applicable technology in order not to prevent the adoption of a specific technology and to neither prefer nor prejudice a specific business model or service provider. Secondly, technological risk already exists in all asset classes. If persistent technological risks are detected, the supervisor could require actions for their mitigation or apply a Pillar 2 Requirement (P2R) surcharge. Finally, a common surcharge of capital would reduce institutions’ incentives to mitigate inherent risk.

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OCTOBER 2022 | TOPICS: Prudential, Supervision and Resolution | Public Consultation | Crypto Assests | Basel Framework | Technology Neutrality

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Joint letter to Commissioner McGuiness on the EFRAG consultation regarding its first set of draft ESRSs

ESBG

October 5, 2022

On 27 September, the ESBG, together with the European Banking Federation (EBF), the European Association of Co-operative Banks (EACB), Insurance Europe, Accountancy Europe, Business Europe and European Issuers, has submitted a joint industry letter to Commissioner Mairead McGuinness regarding the European Financial Reporting Advisory Group (EFRAG) public consultation on its first set of draft European Sustainability Reporting Standards (ESRS).

In the letter, ESBG strongly emphasized the necessity to phase-in the submission of the disclosure requirements from EFRAG to the Commission. In this respect, it is considered that EFRAG should deliver a limited set of crucial ESRS by November 2022. After this, EFRAG and the Commission should agree on a detailed plan to deliver the rest of the first set of standards and all the other deliverables required by the Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD). All these will constitute the minimum requirements to be delivered within the pre-set deadlines by the Commission.

Download the Joint Letter

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EVENT

ESBG

25 OCTOBER

HYBRID EVENT

REGISTRATIONS

Promoting financial education among women and highlighting the need to focus a few more efforts in improving female financial literacy. This is the aim of the upcoming ESBG event “My World, My Knowledge, My Future: A Female Approach To Financial Education”.

Studies show that women are less likely to be financially literate than men – especially when it comes to investing. Men are statistically more likely to take risks, but also research their activities and understand what they are doing. A basis in financial education is key to our future success in saving, investing, and growing wealth in a safe environment – calculating the risk and understanding what could go wrong, or right.
Empowering consumers – in particular women, who are less engaged than men – with the knowledge to make sound financial decisions and build a better future is important in an era of low savings rates, pandemic recovery and an ever-changing digital world. Every day we find new challenges and face new risks, and we need to be armed with up-to-date information and simple knowledge how to navigate through the financial world.

Join us and be part of a pivotal debate on topics like :

• How can financial institutions raise awareness among women of the risks and responsibilities when investing?
• What can school curricula do to engage more girls in money topics?
• Where can financial institutions improve their financial education plans to appeal to a female audience?
• What can policy makers do to provide support when targeting this group?

SPEAKERS & PANELLISTS

Mairead McGuinness

EU Commissioner for Financial Services and
Capital Markets Union

Keynote Speaker

Petra Hielkema

Chairperson of the European Insurance and
Occupational Pensions Authority (EIOPA) 

Panellist

Dominique Goursolle Nouhaud

President ESBG and
National Federation of Savings Banks

Keynote Speaker

Verena Ross

Chairperson, European Securities and
Markets Autorithy ( ESMA)

Keynote Speaker


Ellen Bramness Arvidsson

Executive Director, Finance Norway

Panellist

Magdalena Brier

Chief Executive Officer, Profuturo

Panellist


Ann Cairns

Executive Vice Chair
Mastercard

Panellist

Gabriele Semmelrock-Werzer

President, Austrian Savings Banks Association

Panellist


Karolin Schriever

Executive Board Member
DSGV

Panellist

Prof. Dr. Bettina Fuhrmann

Vienna University of Economics and Business

Panellist


Weselina Angelow

Programme Director on
Scale2Save

Speaker

Michelle Schonenberger

Advisor at European Savings and Retail Banking Group – ESBG

Speaker


Jacki Davis

Moderator


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New taxes on banks can affect economic growth

In the current context of high inflation and economic slowdown, and with the possibility of a recession in the horizon, it is more important than ever that savings and retail banks preserve their solvency. In this respect, the recent decision in some EU countries to impose new windfall taxes on the banking sector will further reduce the latter’s lending capacity to corporates and individuals.

BRUSSELS, 6 September 2022 – European savings and retail banks played a very relevant role during the Covid-19 pandemic, contributing to sustain businesses and families during lockdown periods and beyond, while closely cooperating with the authorities to avoid a credit crunch. They have also been publicly recognised in many jurisdictions as a relevant part of the solution to the post-pandemic economic recovery.

While the effects of the Covid-19 pandemics are still being felt, the EU economy is now facing a new crisis arising from supply chain shortages and the war in Ukraine, in which savings and retail banks continue to support their customers and economic activities in general. Even further, they are actively contributing to helping Next Generation EU funds reach the real economy, by providing additional funding through their extended network of branches covering the whole EU territory and through their expertise in risk assessment.

In the current context of high inflation and economic slowdown, and with the possibility of a recession in the horizon, it is more important than ever that savings and retail banks preserve their solvency. In this respect, the recent decision in some EU countries to impose new windfall taxes on the banking sector will further reduce the latter’s lending capacity to corporates and individuals.  These sectorial taxes are discriminatory and unjustified, as the expected increase in interest rates is unlikely to lead to extraordinary profits in the banking sector (they can even decrease if NPLs start to grow). In fact, marginally higher rates simply represent the return to a normal situation after many years of very low profitability due to the negative interest rate environment, which, in turn, has also negatively affected returns to shareholders. These new taxes have also placed financial institutions in a difficult situation with their supervisors, as the requirement of not transferring their cost to customers goes against EU legislation (“EBA Guidelines on Loan Origination” state that loan pricing should include all the costs supported by banks, including taxes).

A tax on the banking sector may also undermine the social work undertaken by savings and retail banks. Social responsibility is a core value of our members; towards their clients, employees, communities, and the environment. In this context, policy makers should carefully consider the negative impact of taxation on banking foundations which have historically been involved in investing in local communities, fighting poverty, and helping those who are the most vulnerable in society.

The EU financial sector already contributes significantly to EU national budgets under the current tax framework, and it is ESBG’s view that what is needed in these uncertain times is a strong and competitive retail banking sector in Europe that continues to fulfil its key function as credit provider to companies (especially SMEs) and families alike. Therefore, any measure that can weaken the recovery of the EU economy should be carefully considered.

Finally, we are also warning against the risk of a fragmented EU tax system and calling for more tax harmonisation across EU countries. Additional taxation at national level is detrimental to a level playing field by distorting competition within the EU internal market. A particular source of distortion arises from shadow banking activity (e.g.: hedge funds) and other non-bank financial players (e.g.: big techs or credit cooperatives) which generally remain outside the scope of windfall taxes applied to the banking sector. For this reason, we believe that uncoordinated national initiatives in the field of taxation should be avoided at all costs in order to provide the necessary conditions for a fair and even distribution of financial services to European citizens and companies; especially SMEs.

 

Press contact:

Leticia Lozano, Senior Communications Adviser

leticialozano@wsbi-esbg.org

Tel. +32 2211 1196

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ESBG response to the EFRAG consultation on its first set of draft ESRSs calls to ensure levelled global playing field

ESBG submitted its response to the European Financial Reporting Advisory Group (EFRAG) public consultation on the first set of Draft EU Sustainability Reporting Standards (ESRSs) on 4 August. The consultation comes in response the European Commission’s proposal for a Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD) which envisages the adoption of EU Sustainability Reporting Standards (ESRSs). As part of this, the Commission mandated EFRAG to provide technical advice in the form of draft sustainability reporting standards.

In its response, ESBG highlighted the need for consistency between the International Sustainability Standards (ISSB) sustainability disclosures and the EFRAG ESRSs in order to ensure a levelled global playing field. Moreover, ESBG emphasises the lack of proportionality with respect to disclosure requirements, specifically for smaller/unlisted companies and proposes the provision of certain reporting requirements being made optional.

With respect to implementation challenges, ESBG considers that the data availability issue is the most critical challenge for financial institutions. Taking into consideration the above, ESBG proposed two phase-in solutions that are mutually complementary: i) first year reporting on own operations and gradual reporting on information from the value chain and ii) prioritisation of climate topics and gradual consideration of other environmental, social and governance topics.

Furthermore, we believe that there is not enough guidance in the exposure drafts with respect to the application of the double materiality principle (the requirements for companies to disclose not only the risks that affect, but also their impacts on society and on the environment). In this sense, this concept needs to be clarified and more guidance is needed in relation to specific sectors in due time.

ESBG stresses the limitation on disclosing value chain information for companies. We consider it is difficult to obtain information from companies that are not under the control of the institution (e.g. associate companies). We propose that a phase-in period of 2 years must be granted to financial undertakings to allow them to adapt their processes to collect the necessary information from their value chain.

As a next step, ESBG will evaluate if there is interest from members in submitting input into the up-coming EFRAG consultations on SME specific standards as well as on sector specific standards (EFRAG consultations are expected to be published in 2023).

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EU Taxonomy minimum safeguards: Criteria for the application of external checks should be further defined

ESBG submitted its final response to the Platform for Sustainable Finance (PSF) consultation on its draft report on minimum safeguards (MS) on 6 September. In its response, ESBG highlights that assessing whether a company complies with the due diligence processes should, other than relying on external checks as only possibility, be demonstrated by: i) proving that the applicable national legislation provides for sufficient guarantees concerning the specific topic; ii) self-declarations made by the client concerning the specific topic.

ESBG submitted its final response to the Platform for Sustainable Finance (PSF) consultation on its draft report on minimum safeguards (MS) on 6 September.

The report is intended to provide advice on the application of the minimum safeguards which bring a social and governance component to the EU Taxonomy. The report looks at human rights including workers’ rights and consumers´ rights, bribery/corruption, taxation and fair competition as core substantive topics for which compliance with minimum safeguards has to be defined. The draft report proposes a two-pronged approach for identifying non-compliance with MS, namely one related to adequate due diligence processes implemented in companies (internal checks) and the other related to the actual outcome of these processes or the company’s performance (external checks).

In its response, ESBG highlights that assessing whether a company complies with the due diligence processes should, other than relying on external checks as only possibility, be demonstrated by: i) proving that the applicable national legislation provides for sufficient guarantees concerning the specific topic; ii) self-declarations made by the client concerning the specific topic.

Moreover, ESBG emphasises that gravity thresholds for non-compliance should be defined, so that not every minor violation (e.g. of taxation or work laws) leads to the establishment of an external check.

Furthermore, when assessing compliance with MS, the report recommends that the focus should be on assessing the human rights due diligence processes of a company, rather than on controversy checks e.g. media coverage (currently employed by ESG ratings agencies), as it is considered that the latter is based on value judgement and is sometimes difficult to justify. ESBG believes that the administrative cost derived from direct analysis of due diligence processes would be too burdensome for institutions and emphasizes that they should rely on ESG ratings agencies in order to not impair financial activity.

Finally, ESBG calls for further clarifications on the level of application of MS in particular cases, e.g. an exposure to a company active in sectors that by definition do not fulfil the minimum safeguards to be taxonomy-eligible or -aligned, even if the specific transaction finances activities that fulfil all requirements.

As a next step, the Platform will analyse the feedback received and prepare the final report. ESBG will continue to monitor this very important topic, with the possibility to get involved at a later stage.

related


New taxes on banks can affect economic growth

In the current context of high inflation and economic slowdown, and with the possibility of a recession in the horizon, it is more important than ever that savings and retail banks preserve their solvency. In this respect, the recent decision in some EU countries to impose new windfall taxes on the banking sector will further reduce the latter’s lending capacity to corporates and individuals.  

The European Savings and Retail Banking Group (ESBG) considers that what is needed in these uncertain times is a strong and competitive retail banking sector.

 

BRUSSELS, 6 September 2022 – European savings and retail banks played a very relevant role during the Covid-19 pandemic, contributing to sustain businesses and families during lockdown periods and beyond, while closely cooperating with the authorities to avoid a credit crunch. They have also been publicly recognised in many jurisdictions as a relevant part of the solution to the post-pandemic economic recovery.

While the effects of the Covid-19 pandemics are still being felt, the EU economy is now facing a new crisis arising from supply chain shortages and the war in Ukraine, in which savings and retail banks continue to support their customers and economic activities in general. Even further, they are actively contributing to helping Next Generation EU funds reach the real economy, by providing additional funding through their extended network of branches covering the whole EU territory and through their expertise in risk assessment.

In the current context of high inflation and economic slowdown, and with the possibility of a recession in the horizon, it is more important than ever that savings and retail banks preserve their solvency. In this respect, the recent decision in some EU countries to impose new windfall taxes on the banking sector will further reduce the latter’s lending capacity to corporates and individuals.  These sectorial taxes are discriminatory and unjustified, as the expected increase in interest rates is unlikely to lead to extraordinary profits in the banking sector (they can even decrease if NPLs start to grow). In fact, marginally higher rates simply represent the return to a normal situation after many years of very low profitability due to the negative interest rate environment, which, in turn, has also negatively affected returns to shareholders. These new taxes have also placed financial institutions in a difficult situation with their supervisors, as the requirement of not transferring their cost to customers goes against EU legislation (“EBA Guidelines on Loan Origination” state that loan pricing should include all the costs supported by banks, including taxes).

A tax on the banking sector may also undermine the social work undertaken by savings and retail banks. Social responsibility is a core value of our members; towards their clients, employees, communities, and the environment. In this context, policy makers should carefully consider the negative impact of taxation on banking foundations which have historically been involved in investing in local communities, fighting poverty, and helping those who are the most vulnerable in society.

The EU financial sector already contributes significantly to EU national budgets under the current tax framework, and it is ESBG’s view that what is needed in these uncertain times is a strong and competitive retail banking sector in Europe that continues to fulfil its key function as credit provider to companies (especially SMEs) and families alike. Therefore, any measure that can weaken the recovery of the EU economy should be carefully considered.

Finally, we are also warning against the risk of a fragmented EU tax system and calling for more tax harmonisation across EU countries. Additional taxation at national level is detrimental to a level playing field by distorting competition within the EU internal market. A particular source of distortion arises from shadow banking activity (e.g.: hedge funds) and other non-bank financial players (e.g.: big techs or credit cooperatives) which generally remain outside the scope of windfall taxes applied to the banking sector. For this reason, we believe that uncoordinated national initiatives in the field of taxation should be avoided at all costs in order to provide the necessary conditions for a fair and even distribution of financial services to European citizens and companies; especially SMEs.


Reducing the scope of the EBA NPLs data templates

On 5 September 2022, ESBG responded to the EBA consultation on the draft non-performing loans (NPL) transaction data templates, which seek to improve the functioning of secondary markets for NPLs.

The number of data fields in the proposed templates (especially those marked as “mandatory”) is significantly higher than what has historically been proven necessary to close voluntary NPL deals from a market standards perspective and it should therefore be reduced. Such a high number of data fields would in fact bring a significant costs increase for sellers and may jeopardise the development of NPL secondary markets.

In addition to the fact that most of the required information is too detailed and not relevant for the purposes of loan valuations, the data is also not always available within the banking system. This could lead to a counter-productive effect where sellers could renounce to sales they could execute due to constraining mandatory fields.

Another main impediment for this template to be useful is the issue of data consistency. The template would mainly be populated with management data and internal methodologies that can use different calculations and logics leading to incomparable information among portfolios.

Furthermore, it makes no sense to have common templates for single names or reduced portfolios of single names and massive portfolios of NPLs. Exposures to one single debtor or to a reduced number of corporates or SMEs have historically needed a different set of information, as their potential purchasers perform a deeper financial and legal analysis of the exposures rather than a statistical analysis, which is more adequate for massive portfolios.

Overall, the remaining fields compared to the original templates from 2017 still contain significantly more information than market standards require. For a well-functioning secondary market it is currently possible to sell NPLs by providing mainly 20 data fields.

Against this background, we request that the EBA further streamlines the templates, aiming at simpler, more balanced and effective design in order to achieve a broader application and increase transparency in the NPL market, without having a detrimental impact on EU NPL deals.

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FATF revision of Recommendation 25

The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) aims to better meet its objective of preventing the misuse of legal arrangements for money laundering and terrorist financing (ML/TF) and therefore conducts a review of its Recommendation 25 (R.25) and the Interpretive Note on their transparency and beneficial ownership (BO).

WSBI-ESBG response to the public consultation
General position
• The fragmented regulatory landscape is an issue for obtaining information from other jurisdictions.
• Guidance for implementing R.25 rules would improve the timely availability and accuracy of BO information.
• Resourcing and funding of the implementation of the R.25 requirements pose potential challenges.
Scope of legal arrangements, risk assessment and foreign trusts
• Regarding the potential limitation of the scope of risk assessment and mitigation obligation to such legal arrangements that have sufficient links with the countries, a sectoral risk assessment for legal persons and arrangements should be considered as a “sufficient link”.
• The new suggested risk assessment allows for the application of enhanced due diligence measures and also provides for how best to mitigate risks associated with different products and services.
Obligations of trustees under R.25
• When extending the requirement to obtain and hold information on beneficiaries or classes of beneficiaries to objects of powers of discretionary trusts, who may derive a benefit form a trust in the future, it should be referred to professional service providers such as lawyers, notaries, accountants, etc.
• Regarding the nexus of such obligations based on residence of trustees or location where the trusts are administered, it would be difficult to verify or authenticate information provided by trustees from other jurisdictions. Some trustees may reside from high-risk jurisdictions.
Definition of beneficial owners
• A standalone definition for BO in the context of legal arrangements might create a clear distinction between a BO for legal arrangements and for legal persons, but could lead to confusion. For a harmonised definition, the interpretive note should provide clarifications on, e.g., the element of “control” in a trust.
• Information regarding beneficiaries should be publicly available to promote transparency.
Obstacles to transparency
• Trusts that are owned or controlled by a company with various directors or nominee shareholders in different jurisdictions could be used to obscure ownership in legal arrangements.
• Flee/flight clauses are used as a protective mechanism for members and the interest of the trust. The enforceability of such clauses might be challenging.
• Key obstacles to transparency of trusts and other legal arrangements are the lack of uniform know-your-customer (KYC) standards as well as the use of professional intermediaries. Furthermore, the identification of BO of nominee shareholders, directors or various stocks can be difficult.
Approach in collecting beneficial ownership information
• Incomplete mandatory KYC information collected by other agents or service providers incl. trust and company service providers are observed to be an issue, as well as a fragmented regulatory landscape.
• A multi-pronged approach should be followed for accessing BO information of legal arrangements.
Adequate, accurate and up-to-date information
• The notion of “independently sourced/obtained documents, data or information” in the definition of accurate information poses an issue for the private sector as it is difficult to obtain adequate information

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State Aid rules for banks in difficulty

The European Savings and Retail Banking Group (ESBG) welcomes the initiative of the European Commission to launch a targeted consultation aiming at reviewing the State Aid rules for banks in difficulty.

The potential revision will assess the fitness of the current rules regarding burden-sharing, market discipline, financial stability, and the protection of taxpayers among other things. The modernized framework should ensure that the State Aid rules are applied proportionally, are adapted to the crisis management and deposit insurance (CMDI) legislation and are specifically targeted at different kinds of bank crises.

ESBG argues that all DGS measures available under the CMDI framework applied in accordance with the rules established by the DGSD and the BRRD/SRMR, regardless of national specificities in the design, the governance, and the functioning of DGSs, should be exempted from the application of the regular State Aid control rules. It should be made clear that when DGS funds are used for support measures, State Aid rules should not be applicable and no notification to the Commission be required. Exempting the application of the State Aid rules on actions under the CMDI framework will allow the effective and undisturbed use of measures foreseen under DGSD/BRRD/SRMR.
Furthermore, and until such improvements are effectively achieved, ESBG finds it important to avoid any increase in contributions to the national DGS and to the Single Resolution Fund (SRF).

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