Liquidity is Biggest Regulatory Challenge for Banks

A new report from KPMG International finds that regulatory pressures are building on banks across the world and that, if there is no change to their business models, new measures affecting bank liquidity in particular will result in a ‘systemic reduction in profitability’.  This will affect government tax revenues, pension fund income and, potentially, the overall level of employment in the financial services industry. KPMG’s report finds that European and US banks face the most intense regulatory pressure over the next couple of years and that liquidity is the highest pressure area for banks as a whole globally.


In recent months, the new proposals on the levels of capital that banks must hold have dominated the headlines.  But whilst these requirements will be stretching for many banks, it is the new liquidity requirements from the Basel Committee of Banking Supervisors that will arguably have a greater impact, according to KPMG.  New liquidity buffers potentially three times their present size will increase the costs of liquidity sharply and permanently depress margins.  Liquid funds will have to be held in low risk, low return assets such as government bonds which yield very small returns, further reducing profitability.  The cost of attracting long dated retail deposits will be a key business challenge over the next few years.


“Banks have recently returned to profitability following two or more years of heavy losses due to the economic crisis.  But the signs are that regulatory developments will introduce an era of permanently lower profitability.  The regulatory efforts are designed to ensure that banking is more stable and conservative than before, in order to protect the interests of individual depositors and avoid the risk of national bailouts.  Banks recognise the challenges – but the scale of regulatory reform is daunting.  Lower profits are recognised as one potential outcome,” says Jeremy Anderson, global Chairman of KPMG’s Financial Services practice.


KPMG’s report, Evolving Bank Regulation, contains a “Regulatory Pressure Index” which seeks to capture the challenges that banks in different regions of the world face over the next two years.  The Index shows that, overall, European and US banks face the greatest challenges, while banks in ASPAC face considerably less pressure.  Commentators in ASPAC attribute the relatively lower pressure in that region to the changes that have already been made to the sector in the wake of the Asian banking crisis of 1999.


In terms of individual areas representing the greatest challenge for banks globally, liquidity issues emerged as the top area, followed by governance, supervision and systemic risk.




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