Basel Committee Announces Higher Global Minimum Capital Standards
The Group of Governors and Heads of Supervision (GHOS), the oversight body of the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision, has announced a substantial strengthening of existing capital requirements and fully endorsed the agreements it reached on 26 July 2010. These capital reforms, together with the introduction of a global liquidity standard, deliver on the core of the global financial reform agenda and will be presented to the Seoul G20 Leaders summit in November.
The Committee’s package of reforms will increase the minimum common equity requirement from 2% to 4.5%. In addition, banks will be required to hold a capital conservation buffer of 2.5% to withstand future periods of stress bringing the total common equity requirements to 7%. This reinforces the stronger definition of capital agreed by GHOS in July and the higher capital requirements for trading, derivative and securitisation activities to be introduced at the end of 2011.
Jean-Claude Trichet, president of the European Central Bank (ECB) and chairman of the GHOS, said that “the agreements reached today are a fundamental strengthening of global capital standards,” adding that “their contribution to long-term financial stability and growth will be substantial. The transition arrangements will enable banks to meet the new standards while supporting the economic recovery.”
Increased Capital Requirements
Under the agreement, the minimum requirement for common equity, the highest form of loss absorbing capital, will be raised from the current 2% level, before the application of regulatory adjustments, to 4.5% after the application of stricter adjustments. This will be phased in by 1 January 2015. The Tier 1 capital requirement, which includes common equity and other qualifying financial instruments based on stricter criteria, will increase from 4% to 6% over the same period.
The GHOS also agreed that the capital conservation buffer above the regulatory minimum requirement be calibrated at 2.5% and be met with common equity, after the application of deductions. The purpose of the conservation buffer is to ensure that banks maintain a buffer of capital that can be used to absorb losses during periods of financial and economic stress.
While banks are allowed to draw on the buffer during such periods of stress, the closer their regulatory capital ratios approach the minimum requirement, the greater the constraints on earnings distributions. This framework will reinforce the objective of sound supervision and bank governance and address the collective action problem that has prevented some banks from curtailing distributions such as discretionary bonuses and high dividends, even in the face of deteriorating capital positions.
A countercyclical buffer within a range of 0% – 2.5% of common equity or other fully loss absorbing capital will be implemented according to national circumstances. The purpose of the countercyclical buffer is to achieve the broader macroprudential goal of protecting the banking sector from periods of excess aggregate credit growth. For any given country, this buffer will only be in effect when there is excess credit growth that is resulting in a system wide build up of risk. The countercyclical buffer, when in effect, would be introduced as an extension of the conservation buffer range.
These capital requirements are supplemented by a non-risk-based leverage ratio that will serve as a backstop to the risk-based measures described above. In July, GHOS agreed to test a minimum Tier 1 leverage ratio of 3% during the parallel run period. Based on the results of the parallel run period, any final adjustments would be carried out in the first half of 2017 with a view to migrating to a Pillar 1 treatment on 1 January 2018 based on appropriate review and calibration.
Systemically important banks should have loss absorbing capacity beyond the standards announced today and work continues on this issue in the Financial Stability Board (FSB) and relevant Basel Committee work streams. The Basel Committee and the FSB are developing a well-integrated approach to systemically important financial institutions which could include combinations of capital surcharges, contingent capital and bail-in debt.
In addition, work is continuing to strengthen resolution regimes. The Basel Committee also recently issued a consultative document proposal to ensure the loss absorbency of regulatory capital at the point of non-viability. GHOS endorse the aim to strengthen the loss absorbency of non-common Tier 1 and Tier 2 capital instruments.
Since the onset of the crisis, banks have already undertaken substantial efforts to raise their capital levels. However, preliminary results of the Committee’s comprehensive quantitative impact study show that as of the end of 2009, large banks will need, in the aggregate, a significant amount of additional capital to meet these new requirements. Smaller banks, which are particularly important for lending to the SME sector, for the most part already meet these higher standards.
The GHOS also agreed on transitional arrangements for implementing the new standards. These will help ensure that the banking sector can meet the higher capital standards through reasonable earnings retention and capital raising, while still supporting lending to the economy. The transitional arrangements, which are summarised in Annex 2, include:
The minimum common equity and Tier 1 requirements will be phased in between 1 January 2013 and 1 January 2015. On 1 January 2013, the minimum common equity requirement will rise from the current 2% level to 3.5%. The Tier 1 capital requirement will rise from 4% to 4.5%. On 1 January 2014, banks will have to meet a 4% minimum common equity requirement and a Tier 1 requirement of 5.5%. On 1 January 2015, banks will have to meet the 4.5% common equity and the 6% Tier 1 requirements. The total capital requirement remains at the existing level of 8.0% and so does not need to be phased in. The difference between the total capital requirement of 8.0% and the Tier 1 requirement can be met with Tier 2 and higher forms of capital.
Only those instruments issued before 12 September 2010 should qualify for the above transition arrangements.
Phase-in arrangements for the leverage ratio were announced in the 26 July 2010 press release of the GHOS. That is, the supervisory monitoring period will commence 1 January 2011; the parallel run period will commence 1 January 2013 and run until 1 January 2017; and disclosure of the leverage ratio and its components will start 1 January 2015. Based on the results of the parallel run period, any final adjustments will be carried out in the first half of 2017 with a view to migrating to a Pillar 1 treatment on 1 January 2018 based on appropriate review and calibration.
After an observation period beginning in 2011, the liquidity coverage ratio (LCR) will be introduced on 1 January 2015. The revised net stable funding ratio (NSFR) will move to a minimum standard by 1 January 2018. The Committee will put in place rigorous reporting processes to monitor the ratios during the transition period and will continue to review the implications of these standards for financial markets, credit extension and economic growth, addressing unintended consequences as necessary.