The additional disclosure requirements will not necessarily increase the efficiency of secondary markets for Non-Performing Loans (NPLs). The proposed solutions, such as the mandatory NPLs templates and the establishment of an EU Data Hub, bring additional complexity, costs and efforts to all market participants.

BRUSSELS, 9 September 2021 – The European Savings and Retail Banking Group (ESBG) replied yesterday to the European Commission’s targeted consultation on improving transparency and efficiency in secondary markets for Non-Performing Loans (NPLs).

With this consultation, the Commission wants to be informed on the remaining obstacles to the proper functioning of secondary markets for NPLs as well as actions that it could take to foster these markets by improving the quantity, quality and comparability of NPL data. The consultation will also enable the Commission to decide on whether EU coordinated action and/or policy measures would be taken. This in order to limit market failures in terms of information asymmetries, to increase market liquidity, to lower bid/ask spreads and hence to enable more efficient NPL markets.

From ESBG’s perspective, the statement that an increase of market transparency would have a positive impact on the efficiency of NPL secondary markets is not necessarily true. The proposed data structure of the revised NPL templates is in fact too wide, including a lot of non-essential data. This would make it more time consuming for investors to conduct operations on the NPLs market.

For those reasons, ESBG does not support the obligation to provide data on NPLs, especially not for low NPL banks (with an NPL ratio lower than 5%) who have no or little need to sell NPLs. It would make neither economic sense (the costs will surpass the benefits), nor would it materially support the build-up of an NPL trading market (as low NPL banks would not contribute to it). Furthermore, it would be against any proportionality consideration with regards to NPL size.

About the proposal for the establishment of an EU Data Hub for NPLs, ESBG would like to highlight that the information disclosure via Pillar 3 has been reinforced recently with heightened requirements for high-level NPL entities. These entities already provide all the relevant information they have, to get the best possible price. EBA NPL templates will further increase standardisation of NPL data.

ESBG believes that the risks of leaks of information largely outweighs the potential benefits of increased transparency. Even if data is anonymised, names of distressed companies could be identified, which could have very serious consequences, notably for firms that are still viable but whose debt one bank wants to sell, while other banks may not have recognised it as a non-performing counterpart.

Furthermore, there are many intangible parameters that have an impact on the price and purchase/sales volumes that cannot be collected in a Data Hub. Therefore, a partial analysis of the information provided could lead to infer wrong and undesirable conclusions.

In this context, the obligation to provide data on NPLs would not consider the role of all involved market participants and thus may have a negative impact for some of them – like the templates provide huge administrative burdens on the seller side but do not provide any incentive for buyers.

What must be pointed out is that the lack of a single NPL market is evident, amongst other factors, due to the differences in national insolvency laws and in jurisdictional systems. NPL markets work very differently across EU countries and the creation of a pan-EU Data Hub would not help NPL markets function any better.

ESBG members have a high level of operational readiness to deal with the increase in NPLs, when (and if) the need emerges. Accordingly, ESBG firmly believes that banks – or at least low level NPL banks – should rather be given the discretion to decide on the use of the NPL data templates even in their revised format in case of a sale. As sellers of NPLs, it is in the interest of banks to disclose relevant information in line with the characteristics of the product. Establishing a data hub with standardized data for all market participants could even reduce the liquidity and depth of the NPL secondary markets.

In conclusion, while understanding the rationality of aiming at increasing market transparency, ESBG believes that a solution should be implemented without bringing any additional complexity, investments and effort to all involved, using existing regulatory and legal framework and IT infrastructure.