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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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.


Number of unbanked adult EU citizens more than halved in the last four years

Nevertheless, more than 13 million adults, or 4% of the adult population, face financial exclusion, according to an ESBG analysis of the Global Findex Database 2021, recently released by the World Bank.

 

 

BRUSSELS, 14 July 2022 – The number of unbanked citizens more than halved over the past four years, but more than 13 million adult EU citizens still lack access to formal financial services, with room for Europe’s savings and retail banks to continue contributing to financial inclusion.

The European Savings and Retail Banking Group (ESBG) conducted an analysis of the Global Findex Database 2021 recently released by the World Bank, and was pleased to find that the number of banked adults in the EU has climbed.

This significant improvement can be attributed to increased efforts from the banking industry, including notably the ESBG membership serving 162 million Europeans, as well as to an increased move towards digitalisation spurred by the pandemic.

“Financial inclusion is at the core of our members’ vocation and they put great efforts on serving individuals, families and SMEs, with a focus on leaving no one behind, which has surely contributed to the improvement of financial inclusion in the block”, said ESBG Managing Director, Peter Simon.

According to the World Bank Findex (which has no data for Luxembourg over 2021), 3,6 % of Europe’s population remain financially excluded, an improvement from the 8,2% reported in 2017. This percentage translates to some 13 million adult citizens being unbanked in 2021, down from close to 31 million in 2017.

Part of the remaining unbanked are probably less-digital savvy people and banks need to continue cater for that segment. Without any doubt, all the unbanked rely on cash to participate in the economy and therefore banks must play a responsible role regarding cash provision.

Looking at some European countries in detail, Romania suffers the highest no-account rate at 30,9%, while neighbour Bulgaria faces the second highest financial exclusion rate at 16%. Following them are Hungary (11,8%), Croatia (8,2%) and Portugal (7,4%). Compared to the 2017 data, Bulgaria showed nearly an 11 percentage points improvement from 2017 when they reported 27,8% of the population remained unbanked. The Czech Republic and Lithuania significantly improved their unbanked rates over the reported period, dropping out of the top 5 list of EU countries with the highest no-account rates, as Croatia and Portugal replaced the pair.

Best-in-class countries include Denmark, with hardly any unbanked people reported, followed by Germany (0,02% unbanked) and Austria (0,05%). These are followed by the Netherlands (0,3%) and Sweden (0,3%). Austria is the newcomer in this top 5, replacing Belgium. Nevertheless, Belgium, together with 10 other countries have more than 99% of their population participating in banking services.

Table: Financial inclusion in EU Member States, unbanked adults

(Sources and notes: Global Findex – 2021 data on Luxembourg is missing in Global Findex so has been omitted, analysis by WSBI-ESBG)

  2017 2021
Country Unbanked adults 15+ Relative share Unbanked adults 15+ Relative share
Austria 137.700 1,84% 3.761 0,05%
Belgium 128.041 1,36% 95.329 0,99%
Bulgaria 1.697.604 27,80% 947.642 16,03%
Croatia 494.946 13,86% 283.466 8,20%
Cyprus 109.767 11,28% 69.197 6,87%
Czech Republic 1.703.016 19,01% 456.366 5,06%
Denmark 3.947 0,08% 0 0,00%
Estonia 22.137 2,01% 6.929 0,62%
Finland 9.866 0,21% 21.861 0,47%
France 3.270.789 6,00% 419.374 0,76%
Germany 613.053 0,86% 16.765 0,02%
Greece 1.341.302 14,53% 473.335 5,12%
Hungary 2.105.537 25,06% 983.136 11,78%
Ireland 173.372 4,66% 13.310 0,34%
Italy 3.255.366 6,21% 1.401.949 2,71%
Latvia 112.583 6,78% 53.731 3,38%
Lithuania 419.049 17,12% 152.777 6,47%
Malta 10.302 2,64% 15.982 3,55%
Netherlands 51.485 0,36% 39.231 0,27%
Poland 4.292.591 13,27% 1.377.061 4,28%
Portugal 681.086 7,66% 658.625 7,35%
Romania 7.039.982 42,25% 5.031.950 30,88%
Slovak Republic 727.964 15,82% 201.923 4,38%
Slovenia 43.408 2,47% 16.937 0,95%
Spain 2.474.022 6,24% 689.696 1,70%
Sweden 21.133 0,26% 26.545 0,31%
Totals 30.940.048 8,20% 13.456.879 3,54%

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World savings and retail banks call for harmonised taxonomies on sustainable finance

WSBI Chairman, Isidro Fainé, says banks face the future with hope and optimism, despite the short-term turbulent context.

 

Read the full WSBI Paris Declaration

Paris, 8 July 2022 – The World Savings and Retail Banking Institute (WSBI), a global network representing over 7,000 savings and retail banks, called today on policymakers for the harmonisation of taxonomies on sustainable finance. This as a necessary step for banks to play an effective cross-regional role providing the investment needed to achieve the ambitions of the 2015 Paris Agreement.

At the end of the WSBI World Congress, the association’s members approved the Paris Declaration which detailed the call to policy makers to develop a set of principles for designing taxonomies that are centred on pragmatic and science-based targets.

“As WSBI members are present in remote areas, close to the people, and focus on SMEs and private households, they are aware of the necessity of having ambitious, yet pragmatic, progressive and proportional, targets”, states the document.

The Declaration called for taxonomy design principles that encourage interoperability and mutual recognition to promote cross-border sustainable finance and to reduce compliance costs. It points out the need for a common language to ease comparability while preventing duplication of efforts and points to the EU-China Common Ground Taxonomy (CGT) as a promising first step in the right direction.

The WSBI Chairman, Isidro Fainé, closed the World Congress with a message of optimism despite the short-term turbulent context the world is living.

“The WSBI community of banks is facing the future with hope and optimism. An optimism that translates into specific actions for social progress. This is evidenced by our impeccable track record in the way we do banking, where financial inclusion is our flag and with our philanthropic actions, where our priority is to help those most in need through a wide range of social and educational programmes”, said Isidro Fainé.

The Chairman also emphasised that “the determination of our community to contribute to a better world, as our DNA dictates. Our WSBI members on five continents believe that a better world is possible”.

Founded in 1924, the WSBI members share a business model that has social responsibility at its core and is focused on serving local communities, households and SMEs. WSBI has 65 members in 88 countries. They serve over 1.7 billion customers, have total assets of over 15 trillion dollars, and employ 2.2 million workers.

The 26th World Congress was held in Paris on 7-8 July.

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World savings and retail banks moving forward on sustainability

World Savings and Retail Banking Institute (WSBI)'s members get together for the first time since 2018 at the 26th World Congress, in Paris.

Paris, 7 July 2022 – The World Savings and Retail Banking Institute (WSBI), representing over 7,000 organisations globally and serving some 1.7 billion customers, held today its 26th Congress ‘Regionally rooted, globally responsible’ with focus on how to move forward with financial sustainability in the current challenging times.

“Feeling and acting socially responsible is inextricably linked to our identity. The fact is we were born that way, it forms part of our DNA, and it is our vocation. All of this translates into our way of doing banking that is fundamentally different from other players in the sector, and furthermore, it is profitable, efficient and fair”, said WSBI President, Isidro Faine, as he addressed over 200 participants from 4 continents who gathered today in Paris for the first time since 2018.

Sustainability was the key topic at the centre of the discussions and panels, as savings and retails banks seek the most effective ways to move forward on the topic and contribute to address the pressing environmental needs.

The internationally renowned mountaineer and activist, Reinhold Messner, presented his vision for a sustainable future.

Sustainable financial regulation, the role of the physical branch in the digital era, and the most recent geopolitical shifts were some of the topics covered today.

“This kind of crisis moments are the time that we have to realise our power and to fulfil our duty to the fullest by contemplating on what we can deliver in the face of these challenges,” said WSBI Managing Director, Peter Simon, at the end of the first day of this event.

The 26th World Congress is held in Paris on 7-8 July.

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WSBI shares conclusions of its 6-year programme for financial inclusion

Scale2Save Campaign

Micro savings, maximum impact.

The Scale2Save programme, a WSBI partnership with the Mastercard Foundation, achieved its goal of banking over 1 million people in African countries through 8 innovative projects with local partners. The programme also made important contributions to finding sustainable business models to serve the mass market of low-income people. This is the most recent of a series of initiatives by WSBI to build financial inclusion and resilience for people in vulnerable situations.

Paris, 6 July 2022 – The World Savings and Retail Banking Institute (WSBI)’s programme for financial inclusion, Scale2Save, held today a closing knowledge sharing event in Paris with focus on the achievements of a six-year partnership with the Mastercard Foundation: over 1 million people banked in Africa and a substantial contribution to the understanding of products and services that can boost financial inclusion.

Scale2Save, soon to come to an end, worked with local banks and microfinance institutions in Cote d’Ivoire, Kenya, Nigeria, Morocco, Senegal and Uganda. It implemented eight innovative projects to reach out to the lowest income people. As projects are implemented, Scale2Save also contributes to building knowledge about the key elements of sustainable business models to serve this segment of customers, often underserved or completely excluded from formal financial services.

“Scale2Save theme is ‘Microsavings for Maximum Impact’ because we aim at enabling our partners to find financial solutions that work, and that can be scaled-up to allow low-income people to actively save”, said WSBI Managing Director, Peter Simon, during the event attended by participants from financial inclusion stakeholders from Africa, Latin America, Asia and Europe.

Scale2Save goes beyond banking people towards adding value to the lives of these new customers by finding ways of keeping them engaged and making full use of their financial services and products, to address the common issue among low-income people of not using the accounts offered to them on a regular basis.

The keys to success found though the eight projects include a customer-centric approaches, digitalisation, financial education and literacy, and the use of roving agents and sharing agency infrastructure.

Scale2Save projects are focused on three long time financially excluded groups: women, to close the gender gap as they are more than half of the financially excluded worldwide; youth, because they increasingly make significant contributions to their households; and farmers, as they constitute an important part of many African economies and formal financial services.

Scale2Save current partners are:  Advans Microfinance in Cote d’Ivoire; PostBank in Kenya; Al Barid and Barid Cash in Morocco; LAPO Microfinance and First City Monument Bank (FCMB) in Nigeria; and FINCA Uganda, Centenary Bank, BRAC Bank Limited in Uganda.

“I am absolutely positive that that the Scale2Save partners as well as WSBI and its members are committed to continue their efforts to contribute closing the remaining access gaps”, said Programme Director, Weselina Angelow.

Scale2Save is a six-year partnership with the Mastercard Foundation. It is the most recent in a series of initiatives by WSBI to mobilize its global network of over 7,000 savings and retails banks in favour of financial inclusion. WSBI sees financial inclusion as an enabler to achieve the UN Agenda 2030, to open the doors to economic and employment opportunities for people in vulnerable situations and to build resilience to shocks.

Founded in 1924, WSBI has members who share a business model that has social responsibility at its core and is focused on serving local communities, households and SMEs. WSBI has 65 members in 88 countries. They serve over 1.8 billion customers, have total assets of over 15 trillion dollars, and employ 2.2 million workers.

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Overtime for Ukrainian war refugees: DSGV employees donate over 100,000 euros through extra work

Overtime for Ukrainian war refugees: DSGV employees donate over 100,000 euros through extra work

Russia’s military incursion into Ukraine has caused the largest humanitarian crisis in Europe since the Second World War with millions fleeing their country. At the same time, it has triggered various actions and reactions from the European Commission and EU regulators that heavily affect banks.
ESBG members have raised to the challenges that the crisis in Ukraine has created. On one hand, they are sharing knowledge and best practices in a coordinated way to tackle the challenges as they raise. On the other, European savings and retail banks have reaffirmed their commitment to social responsibility with direct actions and initiatives to support people in need.

Overtime for Ukrainian war refugees: DSGV employees donate over 100,000 euros through extra work

Employees of the German Savings Banks and Giro Association (DSGV) have so far collected more than €100,000 for Ukrainian war refugees. The proud sum was raised because employees donated part of their overtime. The DSGV converted the overtime donation into a corresponding cash donation.
With the overtime donation, DSGV supports various projects that benefit war refugees from Ukraine, including “Arrival Support Berlin”, “Support for Ukrainian Refugees in Moldova”, “Ukraine-Hilfe Lobetal” and the Ukraine aid of “wildtierrettung.de”. The initiatives have in common that they make it easier for people to arrive in Germany and thus make an important contribution in a difficult life situation.

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Stand with Ukraine: Erste family provides extensive humanitarian aid

Stand with Ukraine: Erste family provides extensive humanitarian aid

Russia’s military incursion into Ukraine has caused the largest humanitarian crisis in Europe since the Second World War with millions fleeing their country. At the same time, it has triggered various actions and reactions from the European Commission and EU regulators that heavily affect banks.
ESBG members have raised to the challenges that the crisis in Ukraine has created. On one hand, they are sharing knowledge and best practices in a coordinated way to tackle the challenges as they raise. On the other, European savings and retail banks have reaffirmed their commitment to social responsibility with direct actions and initiatives to support people in need.

Erste Bank Group (Austria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania, Slovakia): Together with its subsidiary banks and ERSTE Foundation, Erste Group has been implementing a comprehensive package of humanitarian support measures for Ukrainians. For instance, since Monday 14 March 2022, the Caritas Day Centre at Erste Campus in Vienna has been welcoming Ukrainians in need from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. – seven days a week. People on the move also have access to WiFi and quiet zones. A children’s play corner is also provided for the little ones thanks to SOS Children’s Village. In addition, all payments from Erste Group accounts to Ukraine are free of charge, with any fees incurred being refunded after the transfer to facilitate private aid payments and donations to organizations. Erste Group’s subsidiary banks offer access to free accounts for Ukrainian refugees to facilitate money transfers. Moreover, Erste Group will support its partner organizations Caritas and the International Red Cross with donations of one million euros each. In addition, the Romanian subsidiary bank BCR donated a total of 100,000 euros to Save the Children, the Red Cross, and Romanian government initiatives

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The German Savings Banks Association (DSVG): Over 100,000 accounts already opened for Ukrainian war refugees

The German Savings Banks Association ( DSVG ): More than 100,000 accounts already opened for Ukrainian war refugees

Russia’s military incursion into Ukraine has caused the largest humanitarian crisis in Europe since the Second World War with millions fleeing their country. At the same time, it has triggered various actions and reactions from the European Commission and EU regulators that heavily affect banks.
ESBG members have raised to the challenges that the crisis in Ukraine has created. On one hand, they are sharing knowledge and best practices in a coordinated way to tackle the challenges as they raise. On the other, European savings and retail banks have reaffirmed their commitment to social responsibility with direct actions and initiatives to support people in need.

DSVG (Germany): As of 27 April 2022, the German Savings Banks Association had provided Ukrainian refugees with more than 136.000 bank accounts. Refugees can easily apply online for a GiroExpress account with their ID thanks to a simplified procedure. Moreover, DSGV is providing all relevant information on bank accounts in Ukrainian and is working on extending the service to online banking, its platform for job seekers, etc. DSVG is also supporting the initiative #UnterkunftUkraine (Accommodation Ukraine) which connects volunteers with refugees looking for temporary accommodation. By the end of April, the initiative offered temporary accommodation to 24,000 people in 150 German cities, offering almost 370,000 beds, which makes #UnterkunftUkraine currently the platform with the most bed offers.

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CaixaBank has been leveraging its network of branches in Spain to assist asylum seekers and refugees fleeing Ukraine

CaixaBank has been leveraging its network of branches in Spain to assist asylum seekers and refugees fleeing Ukraine.

Russia’s military incursion into Ukraine has caused the largest humanitarian crisis in Europe since the Second World War with millions fleeing their country. At the same time, it has triggered various actions and reactions from the European Commission and EU regulators that heavily affect banks.
ESBG members have raised to the challenges that the crisis in Ukraine has created. On one hand, they are sharing knowledge and best practices in a coordinated way to tackle the challenges as they raise. On the other, European savings and retail banks have reaffirmed their commitment to social responsibility with direct actions and initiatives to support people in need.

CaixaBank (Spain): Since late February, CaixaBank has been leveraging its network of branches in Spain to assist asylum seekers and refugees fleeing Ukraine. Ukrainian refugees in Spain are eligible for several free services, regardless of which bank they use. Since the early stages of the emergency, CaixaBank set up interpretation and translation services to make it easy for newly arrived people from Ukraine to sign up for basic financial services. As other customers in vulnerable situations do, Ukrainians can open a Social Account at CaixaBank, which includes a checking account, a bank card, and access to online banking free of charge. Moreover, customers of Ukrainian banks are allowed to use CaixaBank’s entire network of ATMs in Spain for free.

Since early March, CaixaBank has been offering free money transfers to Ukraine and neighboring countries, where Ukrainian civilians seek refuge: Moldova, Romania, Hungary, Slovakia, and Poland.
Among the wide range of measures to facilitate aid to the Ukrainian people, CaixaBank collaborated with the CaixaBank Volunteers Association, with more than 5,000 members spread throughout Spain, to mobilize a convoy of buses to the Polish-Ukrainian border and help evacuate people wishing to request asylum in Spain. A total of 204 Ukrainians, mostly young women, and children, have already arrived in Spain thanks to this initiative, and a second convoy was scheduled for the end of April.

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