Every month IREF publishes a Newsletter on Financial and Banking Features that are affecting the EU.
They are authored by IREF Senior Fellows Gordon Kerr and John Butler, with Prof. Enrico Colombatto, experts with first-hand insight into financial markets and their interplay with government policy.
You can subscribe to the Newsletter (for free) by entering your email address in the box on the left.
A substantial and growing amount of press attention has been devoted to the subject of Central Bank Digital Currencies (CBDCs) since last year’s announcement of Libra which spooked regulators at central banks who are petrified of losing control of the mint. Central banks have a mixed track (...)
In the ten years since the first iteration of the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) emerged, its status has changed markedly. Initially, it was just a clever example of financial engineering deployed by the ECB to enable certain EU member states to be bailed out without imposing the costs (...)
Sir Donald Brydon, former Chairman of the London Stock Exchange, published just before Christmas his wide-ranging review of the UK audit industry. This is likely to have significant ramifications for bank financial reporting throughout Europe because (with only a few national opt outs) (...)
In November, Germany’s Finance Minister Olaf Scholz wrote an article in the Financial Times claiming that he had devised a common European Deposit Insurance Scheme (EDIS)  that could be acceptable to both sides of the hitherto gridlocked debate. Mr Scholz also circulated a document which he (...)
As the momentum has built behind calls for policy responses towards climate change, the ECB and the Bank of England have not been the quickest central banks to act. Back in 2011, the Banco do Brasil announced that banks must incorporate ‘Environmental and Social Risk’ in their reporting and risk (...)
New entrants into every aspect of banking were encouraged by two recent regulatory developments: the Open Banking initiative and the ‘sandboxing’ exemptions from regulations. Open Banking, part of the Payment Services Directive enacted October 2015, encourages customers to allow their data to be (...)
A cynical English expression popular in sporting circles is “All the Gear and No Idea”. This is expressed, sotto voce, at the club bar when mocking a typically well-off amateur sportsman who has shown up at the ski slope, the golf course or the clay pigeon shoot with the most expensive equipment (...)
Facebook’s greatest recent challenge has been the fading of its brand. A veritable slew of newer social media platforms are cooler and more trendy than Fb, which now languishes in popular esteem as the social platform of choice for the out of touch greying generations, rather than youngsters. (...)
Reuters reported in May that “The European Commission is working on its biggest regulatory push on banking since the 2008 financial crash that could curb Britain’s access to the bloc”. According to Reuter’s account, the document outlines three areas which the Commission seeks to reform: bank (...)
Personnel changes are afoot, both of Central Bankers and Politicians. ECB President Draghi will step down at the end of October when his eight-year term expires. Half the ECB Governing Board will also be replaced at the same time. Bank of England Governor Mark Carney’s term expires at the end (...)
The ECB is under twin pressures, both of which are only likely to increase. Firstly, with interest rates stuck at minus 0.4% ECB policy is diverging from Fed policy; secondly, problems with Europe’s banking look likely to be highlighted soon by the ECB’s Supervisory Board.
A) Interest Rate (...)
Latest Political Developments
Given the media’s focus on the March 29th Brexit date, the views of present and former EU political leaders captivated recent mainstream media. Former Italian prime minister Paolo Gentiloni called Brexit ‘the biggest mistake by a European country since the war’. (...)
In January, there were two interesting speeches by senior ECB figures which provided some insight as to likely future policy.
Speaking at an event in Riga to commemorate the fifth anniversary of Latvia’s adoption of the euro, ECB vice president Luis de Guindos (also a former Finance Minister (...)
With little fanfare, the Eurogroup of 19 Eurozone finance ministries published in December its report detailing progress on how to strengthen and deepen the Economic and Monetary Union (EMU). Written in dry bureaucratic language, the Report Summary hardly appeared on the radar screens of (...)
Background to MIFID, MIFIR and EMIR
Version 2 of the Markets in Financial Instruments Directive (MIFID II) is a particularly important piece of recent European Law due to the extent and scale of its impacts on professionals operating in capital markets. MIFID II was enacted in 2014, and the (...)
Why all the fuss?
The nub of the dispute is Italy’s budget plans, which have been rejected by the European Commission (EC). The budget claims to increase public indebtedness by 2.4% in 2019 rather than the previously approved figure of 1.6%. However, the EC is unhappy about the violation of (...)
In September, the UK cross party Parliamentary Committee dealing with bank regulation and central banking published its analysis of the opportunities and risks posed by ‘crypto-assets’, such as Bitcoin, Ether, as well as any other coin issued via an Initial Coin Offering.
The report makes stark (...)
To help understand the genuinely transformative business technology of blockchain in the context of cryptocurrency hype, Wharton professor David Werbach encourages the distinction to be drawn between three frequently confused concepts:
1. Cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin, which are simply (...)
Background to the looming standoff between Italy and the ECB
Italy’s new government continues to confirm its commitment to fiscal policies which have triggered sensationalist reports in mainstream media questioning whether Italy can remain a Eurozone country. The alliance between Italy’s 5 (...)
Despite our regular reports highlighting some of the challenges facing those tasked with managing the euro, public concern about government debt levels appears to have subsided to its lowest level since 2008. This low level of public awareness is due to a combination of factors; the natural (...)
WP 2018-05. Executive Summary.
Given the tremendous success of technology companies in the last 15 years, nobody is surprised by the continuing enthusiasm among investors, entrepreneurs, and policymakers for disruptive financial technology (“fintech”). However, banking regulators and rule-makers have always (...)
Despite the widely held view that the European sovereign debt crisis, and the euro itself, have been stabilized, we are not alone in the opinion that the deep problems not only remain but have probably been exacerbated by the ECB’s actions. Far from being addressed, these problems have only (...)
The collapse in January of Carillion PLC, the UK’s second largest construction and outsourcing company has attracted considerable media coverage. Carillion was principally engaged in public sector contracts to build (and in some cases operate) hospitals, prisons, roads, and part of the new (...)
The Interest Rate Outlook
Despite their shortcomings, European banks do not seem on the verge of collapse and few commentators, analysts or policymakers think that there will be any systemic wobbles in 2018. We do not necessarily disagree; with ECB interest rates still zero to negative and a (...)
Brief technical overview Let us begin with a definition of the terms ‘digital currency’ and ‘cryptocurrency’.
Digital currency – any currency that exists on a ledger. This term includes all the world’s major currencies as well as cryptocurrencies. Notes and coins are the physical form of euros, (...)
The ECB has lost confidence in bank industry efforts to reform or replace Euribor; but finding a replacement, and designing transitional arrangements will not be a straightforward task. It also risks highlighting the uncomfortable truth that the volume of unsecured interbank lending is (...)
Although there never seemed much doubt that Mrs. Merkel would be elected for a fourth term as Chancellor of Germany on September 23rd, it is not clear whether she will be strong enough to help the EU authorities push through banking union before any pro-nationalist political parties gain real (...)
Ten years on from the late summer collapse of first Paribas’ money market funds and then the failure of the UK’s Northern Rock bank, the media have published a raft of reviews reflecting on the past decade of banking reforms.
Central bankers were quick to use the anniversary to make grand (...)
Electoral victories for Mark Rutte of the Netherlands in March, followed by Emanuel Macron’s presidential ascent in France in May and his landslide Parliamentary victory in June, have encouraged the view that closer integration of Europe’s banking and financial system is quite likely. The (...)
The contrast between the actions of the Spanish and Italian governments in the past two months could hardly be more marked. As we reported in June, the Madrid government allowed the relevant European authority – the Single Resolution Board – to apply the bail-in rules to failed Banco Popular. (...)
Bail-ins Expected after Banco Popular fails in Spain. Chewing gum accounting
Just as elections of political leaders have become difficult to predict, it is becoming harder to guess which of Europe’s beleaguered banks will be bailed out and rescued, or allowed to fail thus exposing creditors (...)
Given the effort being invested into the banking turnaround story by the European authorities, and in particular the European Banking Authority, and the cohesive international supervisory effort being spearheaded by Commissioner Valdis Dombrovskis which we reported in March, you would have (...)
Last month, we reported on compliance failures at very senior levels of the Bank of England, resulting in the resignation of Charlotte Hogg. There was another scandal, also involving the Bank of England and Barclays Bank, which was breaking just as we were going to press. We decided to defer (...)
We believe that the ECB is presently using monetary policy in effect to conduct fiscal, as well as monetary policy. Elected politicians should be up in arms; that they are not would imply either that they do not understand this or that they simply accept it. This may provide an interesting (...)
The Bank of England is the focus of two separate news items. Firstly, the BBC has apparently uncovered a videotape evidencing that the Bank strongly pressured commercial banks to falsify Libor submissions in 2008. If true, this contradicts denials we reported in 2012 when such allegations (...)
Unicredit’s well-publicised rights issue was reported by the press as a resounding success. Underwritten by Morgan Stanley and UBS, the €13bn issue, priced at a 38% discount to the bank’s theoretical value before the rights, closed early. Some big Italian investors publicly declared their (...)
Regulators Provide Misleading Reassurances as to Bank Solvency
February 10th was the fourth anniversary of David Cameron’s “Bloomberg Speech” in which he promised an ‘in or out’ EU membership referendum if re-elected in 2015. This year, the EU’s Commissioner for Financial Stability, Financial (...)
Criticisms of bank stress tests continue to mount, particularly as banks continue to struggle. A new problem recently emerged: the marked shortfall between the market capitalisation of most European banks and their book values.
This should soon lead to a new stress test methodology. This (...)
Purely for geopolitical reasons, namely frustration at the failure of the governments of individual member states to respond to repeated calls for “structural reforms”, your authors had taken the view in recent months that the ECB might increase interest rates this year.
Our views are changing. (...)
Central Banks Pray for Electoral “Shocks”. Forced to Nationalise Monte dei Paschi, Italy Looks in Trouble, but Cleverly Plays its Sicilian Defence.
How will Central Banks cope with 2017 shocks? Perhaps new rules, one-off solutions, doubtless lots more QE. Populism will (...)
The Eventual Impact of Rising Bond Yields. Further Cracks Appearing in the ‘Global Consensus’ of Bank Supervision.
Global Bond Market Yields are Rising
The ECB’s recently announced 6 month extension of its QE programme reminds us that the speed at which the programme will (...)
The European Banking Can Nears the End of the Road
“The key thing to know about Lehman Brothers is that it did not cause the financial crisis, it revealed the financial crisis”
The Credibility of Central Banks is Irreparably Damaged. Critics of Policy Grow as More Evidence (...)
As QE becomes widely discredited, German policymakers end their uneasy truce with the ECB. Banking woes deepen.
Central Banks under fire for crossing the line into fiscal policy. Claudio Borio, head of monetary and economic research at the Bank for International (...)
The absence of structural reforms brings the effectiveness of ECB policy increasingly into question. The Financial Stability Board claims that banking reform is largely complete. Despite a quiet summer, there is plenty of evidence that it (...)
Post Brexit, Sterling weakens. Brexit will retest Central Banks’ Firepower. Will Scotland’s Resurgent Independence Campaign Want to Keep the Pound?
The reaction of financial markets to the Brexit vote was well covered by the press. After initial sharp falls, stock markets throughout the (...)
Brexit Fervour Underscores the Weakness of Economic Forecasting.
Increasingly Outlandish Economic Arguments on Both Sides of the Brexit Debate. The Bank of England’s intervention is questionable.
As apolitical neutral observers, your authors seek to draw attention to (...)
Central Banking – Embracing the Blockchain
In a recent speech, Bank of England deputy governor Ben Broadbent opined that the key innovation underlying Bitcoin is not the unit of account itself but blockchain – the digital settlement ledger in which all transactions are recorded chronologically (...)
The European Commission accepts that EU law requires accounts to provide a “true and fair view” of assets, liabilities, financial position and profit or loss as specific indicators of financial health of companies, including banks. That is something that that IFRS accounting (...)
Bank share prices recover after further falls early February. However, credibility of ECB increasingly questioned as it considers further expansionary policies.
Fears of a renewed banking crisis, which had seemed a possibility in January, abated in February. By March 7th, (...)