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European elections: Gearing Up

European elections: Gearing Up

​​In the latest WSBI-ESBG News & Views magazine​, Sebastian Stodulka, who heads up ESBG’s legal and regulatory affairs, explores the ESBG memorandum Together for a growing and more integrated Europe. 

Tell us about the publication and its purpose?

We see this publication, which we call the “memorandum”, as a chance to show our pro-European attitude. We know that the European Parliament elections are right in front of us. Election campaigning has already started, so we released it now to give visibility to our pro-European attitude and support our members when they interact with political candidates. They will surely have activities at national level, and we welcome them to point out to politicians that the banks they represent form part of a bigger European family.

By joining together with some common messages, ESBG and its members have one clear voice for the European savings and retail banking sector that includes some 1000 savings and retail banks in more than 20 countries. 

Tell the readers a little bit more of what's inside. Perhaps distil the opening chapters.

At the beginning, we present a little bit about ESBG, its members and how savings and retail banks work and how they help Europeans and the local economies where they live.

It seems a bit basic, but as we welcome a newly elected European Parliament, you can be sure it will have a new composition. That leads naturally to the fact that many of the intake of new MEPs don’t know our story. The memorandum should also provide a small introduction to as to who we are. We hit home the message that we are held together by belief in the same values, we are regionally focused banks, our members pursue a responsible business and we have a very much of a retail focus. Apart from that, we delve down into some policy-specific areas in each section of the paper. 

​How does ESBG frame the savings and retail banking business model? Why should policymakers care? 

The start of memorandum really shows that savings and retail banks help improve financing that spurs growth and sustainable development in Europe. We point out that it's crucially important that the conditions are right for our members to continue serving the real economy – where most clients of our members comprise households and small- and medium-sized enterprises. 

We argue that a large majority of SMEs still prefer bank landing over market-sourced financing. So it’s crucial for SMEs and locally focused banks to work within a regulatory framework that enables our members to continue being “champions” in SME financing. ESBG members seek to be acknowledged by policymakers and regulators as retail banks in the regions they serve. They have a local focus, meaning a long-standing track record for being close to the people. We are convinced that they will continue to play a crucial role in financing the real economy.

That said, market-based financing has a place. A project of the EU Capital Markets Union, market financing provides a wellfitting complement to bank financing. It shouldn't replace bank financing. In fact, it couldn't. We would like to see the right framework for SME lending provided by banks.

The term “sustainable” has been buzzing around frequently in recent weeks and months. It's bandied about all over Europe, and you hear it used often among decision-makers and stakeholders. How do ESBG and its members define the word? 

Everybody has been jumping on “sustainable” to be sure, us included. Sustainable is of course environmental but it's more than just environmental. 

It also has a social dimension and this is what we would like decision-makers to take appropriately into account, without neglecting that we all need to put lots of effort into the mitigation of climate change and environmental risks. 

​Savings and retail banks have had a responsible business model, a sustainable business model and we are fully aligned with the goal with what policymakers would like to achieve. Often they use three letters – E.S.G. – that stands for environ - mental, social, and good governance.

>> Read it in WSBI-ESBG News & Views ​ 

Proportionality; European Institutions