Regulators Must Finish Job on Basel III, Top Official Says

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Stefan Ingves, chairman of the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision, called Friday for global regulators to complete their work on already agreed upon international banking reforms.

"The committee needs to bring the post-crisis reform agenda to a satisfactory conclusion," said Ingves, who is also the governor of Sveriges Riksbank, in a speech at a high-level meeting in Cape Town, South Africa.

Using a Swedish proverb, Ingves said the onus is on international regulators to finish the job they started. "If you bring the devil aboard the boat, you have to row him ashore," he said.

Since the Basel Committee, which comprises 27 members, agreed upon the Basel III global framework in 2010, regulators have been working to put the non-binding agreement into action, including here in the U.S.

Still, more work remains to be done on a leverage ratio, a long-term liquidity requirement, the trading book, as well as securitization reforms.

"We should be able to row most of them to shore over the next 12 months or so, given the current effort and commitment," said Ingves. "This will be an important milestone for the international community, when we can say that all the main pieces of reform have been settled."

The chairman, who has strongly advocated the importance of uniformity in how individual countries adopt the Basel framework, said another top priority will be monitoring and evaluating the implementation of such reforms.

"Not just by conducting country-by-country assessment, but also by making sure the intended outcomes of reforms and to stay alert to any unintended prudential consequences," said Ingves.

He also cited the importance of dealing with "inconsistencies" found in the risk-weighted asset calculation.

"Much is at stake here — in fact, nothing less than the credibility of banks' model-based capital ratios and hence the confidence of external parties that such ratios can be meaningfully compared," said Ingves.

Work is already underway on this issue with international teams of supervisors examining modeling practices of individual global banks. Additionally, three studies have also been undertaken, he said.

Ingves projected it would take regulators until 2015 to establish a fuller picture of how the accord has been implemented. In the meantime, he offered a range of corrective measures that could be taken sooner without settling on any particular action, suggesting there would be no one silver bullet.

For example, he said the committee plans to propose enhancements to Pillar 3 in the first half of the year, while it also plans to examine the role of floors and benchmarks within the regulatory framework.

Ingves stressed the importance of both regulators and industry engaging in a constructive dialogue to find the correct policy mix.

"Banks have a keen interest in ensuring that their risk measurement methods are seen as robust and credible: not only does this affect confidence in the reliability of their capital ratios, but any doubts also call into question their stress-testing results and their risk management systems more generally, since these are invariably all built on the same foundations," he said.

The task before global regulators, Ingves said, will be to ensure that there is quality and consistency of implementation, while also offering adjustments where needed to improve measures.

Ingves remarks came just as U.S. and European Union officials met to discuss a range of financial regulatory issues, including cross-border resolution, implementation of Basel III capital and liquidity rules, and structural reforms in their respective banking systems.

Both sides hailed progress, citing the European authority's steps to finalize the Bank Recovery & Resolution Directive and work toward a banking union.

"Our challenge is to ensure that the United States and Europe are united in implementing high quality standards across the Atlantic in a consistent and convergent manner to promote a race to the top, minimize risk to taxpayers, and avoid harmful arbitrage," said Mark Sobel, deputy assistant secretary for International Monetary and Financial Policy for the Treasury Department.

U.S. and EU officials agreed to continue to cooperate in implementing consistent rules for globally active banks.

"We have gone through an unprecedented transformation of financial market regulation," said Nadia Calvino, head of the EU delegation. "But we have to ensure that our rules capture the international reality of modern-day finance. This not only requires rigorous regulatory frameworks on both sides of the Atlantic, but also compatibility and reliance on each other's systems."

For their part, EU officials continued to press Washington to include a financial regulatory cooperation framework in a trade deal currently being negotiated by both sides. The U.S., however, wants to see such an agreement to be excluded from ongoing trade talks.

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