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Bank of England raises capital requirements for U.K. banks

Jaclyn Jaeger | June 27, 2017

The U.K. Financial Policy Committee this week published its latest Financial Stability Report, which sets out its views on the U.K. financial system’s stability and an assessment of any risks to it. Among the requirements in that report: U.K. banks must increase their capital buffers to protect themselves against myriad risks, including Brexit and an overall increase in consumer borrowing.

The primary responsibility of the Financial Policy Committee (FPC), a sub-committee of the Bank of England’s Court of Directors, is to contribute to the Bank of England’s objective for maintaining financial stability. It does this primarily by identifying, monitoring and taking action to remove or reduce systemic risks, with a view to protecting and enhancing the resilience of the UK financial system. Subject to that, it supports the economic policy of Her Majesty’s Government, including its objectives for growth and employment.

The overall risks from the domestic environment are at a “standard level,” the FPC said. “Most financial stability indicators are neither particularly elevated nor subdued.”

Exit negotiations between the United Kingdom and the EU have begun, creating a  range of possible outcomes for, and paths to, the U.K.’s withdrawal from the EU, FPC added.

“Some possible global risks have not crystallised, though financial vulnerabilities in China remain pronounced,” the FPC said. “Measures of market volatility and the valuation of some assets—such as corporate bonds and U.K. commercial real estate—do not appear to reflect fully the downside risks that are implied by very low long-term interest rates.”

To ensure that the financial system has the resilience it needs, the FPC said it is:

  • Increasing the U.K. counter-cyclical capital buffer (CCB) rate to 0.5%, from 0%: The CCB limits the amount of debt that private banks can use to fund their balance sheets in addition to their normal regulatory buffers; it was cut to 0% following the Brexit vote to encourage lending to continue to flow and to help support the wider economy. The FPC said increasing the CCB rate “will supplement banks’ already substantial ability to absorb losses.” Absent a material change in the outlook, and consistent with its stated policy for a standard risk environment and of moving gradually, the FPC expects to increase the rate to 1% at its November meeting. The increase to 0.5% will raise regulatory buffers of common equity Tier 1 capital (the highest quality capital) by £5.7 billion, according to the FPC. “This will provide a buffer of capital that can be released quickly in the event of an adverse shock occurring that threatens to tighten lending conditions,” the Financial Stability Report stated.
  • Bringing forward the assessment of stressed losses on consumer credit lending in the Bank’s 2017 annual stress-test: This will inform the FPC’s assessment at its next meeting of any additional resilience required in aggregate against this lending. The FPC said it “further supports the intentions of the Prudential Regulation Authority and Financial Conduct Authority to publish, in July, their expectations of lenders in the consumer credit market.”
  • Clarifying its existing insurance measures in the mortgage market, designed to prevent excessive growth in the number of highly indebted households: This will promote consistency across lenders in their application of tests to assess whether new mortgage borrowers can afford repayments.
  • Consistent with its previous commitment, restoring the level of resilience delivered by its leverage ratio standard to the level it delivered in July 2016 before the FPC excluded central bank reserves from the leverage ratio exposure measure: The FPC intends to set the minimum leverage requirement at 3.25% of non-reserve exposures, subject to consultation.
  • Overseeing contingency planning to mitigate risks to financial stability as the United Kingdom withdraws from the European Union.
  • Building on the programme of cyber-resilience testing it instigated in 2013, by setting out the essential elements of the regulatory framework for maintaining cyber resilience: It will now monitor that each element is being fulfilled by the relevant U.K. authorities.

The FPC’s Financial Stability Report in its entirely may be downloaded here.