Advisers to the European Commission have issued their recommendations for a structural reform of the continent’s banking system. They’re in favor of separating retail and investment operations to reduce future risks.
A group of advisers, led by Finnish Central Bank Governor Erkki Liikanen (left in the picture), on Tuesday recommended splitting big European banks’ retail business from their investment operations, to protect savers and governments from the sort of risk-taking that triggered the ongoing debt crisis.
The proposal is the central pillar of reforms the group of financial experts and academics deem is needed to overhaul the banking sector, particularly in the embattled 17-member eurozone.
“The analysis conducted revealed excessive risk-taking and excessive reliance on short-term funding in the run-up to the financial crisis,” the group said in a statement. Hence the experts “deem it necessary to call for legal separation of certain particularly risky financial activities from deposit-taking operations within a given bank.”
Fate of proposals unclear
The report, to be scrutinized by the European Commission, said such a measure would be limited only to banks whose trading assets exceeded 100 billion euros ($129 billion). “The smallest banks would be considered to be fully excluded from the separation requirement,” the group commented.
The report made it clear that a separated trading and deposit model could be implemented within the same bank, but would need to be funded and capitalized independently. It added that would make it easier for the part of a bank holding savers’ deposits and lending to businesses to keep running without any public bailouts, even if other parts of that bank collapsed.
Bankers have not been amused by such proposals. It will be up to EU Market Regulation Commissioner Michel Barnier (right in the picture) to help put the experts’ recommendations into practice. However, he is not bound to implement the proposals.