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Carving out legacy assets: a successful tool for bank restructuring?

Separating ‘legacy assets’ from banks’ core business is central to the rehabilitation of Europe’s banking system. How can Europe progress in its ongoing effort to rid the financial system of legacy assets, and equip it with renewed growth?

By: Date: March 17, 2017 Topic: European Parliament

This material was originally published in a paper provided at the request of the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs of the European Parliament and commissioned by the Directorate-General for Internal Policies of the Union and supervised by its Economic Governance Support Unit (EGOV). The opinions expressed in this document are the sole responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official position of the European Parliament. The original paper is available on the European Parliament’s webpage (here). © European Union, 2017

The separation of so-called legacy assets from the remaining healthy business of a bank has become a central concern in risk management and supervision. In the European Union, non-performing loans amount to over €1 trillion and an additional stock of non-core assets that is at least as large is also being offered in the secondary market.

Banks have employed various organisational models to separate these assets from their core business. At one extreme, banks have tasked specialist staff to focus on workout or selective sales, while the bulk of these assets remain on the same balance sheets. To do this, appropriate incentives have to be set for bank staff, and a number of failures that are inherent to the market for loan sales have to be addressed.

At the other extreme, in situations of serious distress, countries set up external asset management companies (AMCs), either specific to an individual bank, or working across the industry for specific types of loans. As the transfer to another entity crystallises the value loss of legacy assets, this option requires a capital injection and restructuring of the bank’s balance sheet.

Past EU experience has demonstrated the effectiveness of AMCs, in particular when they work with a large part of the banking sector and are focused on specific loan types. Asset separation in conjunction with an asset management company can also be an effective tool for bank resolution, but the difficulties inherent in setting up an AMC and achieving a track record in restructuring should not be underestimated. Countries are well advised to prepare the legal basis for such entities.

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Germany’s savings banks: uniquely intertwined with local politics

German savings banks, known as Sparkassen, form an important feature of the country's banking assets. Unlike in other European countries, German Sparkassen also hold direct links with local political communities. This post focuses on the Sparkassen's structural links and relationships with elected politicians. Three findings which do not appear to have been specifically documented previously stand out.

By: Jonas Markgraf and Nicolas Véron Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance, Finance & Financial Regulation Date: July 18, 2018
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Italy's economic and political outlook

In this week's Sound of Economics, Bruegel affiliate fellow, Silvia Merler, is joined by Marcello Minenna, PhD lecturer at the London Graduate School and Head of Quants at Consob, as well as Lorenzo Codogno, LSE visiting professor, to discuss the Italian government's economic outlook in the European context.

By: The Sound of Economics Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Date: July 11, 2018
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European bank mergers: domestic or cross-border?

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By: Patty Duijm and Dirk Schoenmaker Topic: Finance & Financial Regulation Date: June 21, 2018
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The changing fortunes of central banking

What are the major challenges of central banks today? This book discusses the developing role of central banks and the policies they pursue in seeking monetary and financial stabilisation, while also giving suggestions for model strategies.

By: Philipp Hartmann, Haizhou Huang and Dirk Schoenmaker Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance, Finance & Financial Regulation Date: May 29, 2018
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Past Event

Where is China’s financial system heading? Implications for Europe

How ready is China for the transformation of its financial system and how will this effect Europe?

Speakers: Elena Flores, Alicia García-Herrero, Gene Ma, Hu Yuwei and Guntram B. Wolff Topic: Finance & Financial Regulation, Global Economics & Governance Location: Bruegel, Rue de la Charité 33, 1210 Brussels Date: May 25, 2018
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Europe needs a broader discussion of its future

When thinking about what will determine the prosperity and well-being of citizens living in the euro area, five issues are central. This column, part of VoxEU's Euro Area Reform debate, argues that the important CEPR Policy Insight by a team of French and German economists makes an important contribution to two of them, but leaves aside some of the most crucial ones: European public goods, a proper fiscal stance and major national reforms. It also argues that its compromise on sovereign debt appears unbalanced.

By: Guntram B. Wolff Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance, Finance & Financial Regulation Date: May 4, 2018
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The debate on euro-area reform

A paper jointly written by 14 French and German economists set off a debate about the reform of euro-area macroeconomic governance. We review economists’ opinions about it.

By: Silvia Merler Topic: Finance & Financial Regulation Date: April 16, 2018
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Latvia’s money laundering scandal

Latvia’s third largest bank ABLV sought emergency liquidity from the ECB and eventually voted to start a process of voluntary liquidation, after being accused by US authorities of large-scale money laundering and having failed to produce a survival plan. What does it mean for the ECB?

By: Silvia Merler Topic: Finance & Financial Regulation Date: April 9, 2018
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External Publication

European Parliament

Cash outflows in crisis scenarios: do liquidity requirements and reporting obligations give the SRB sufficient time to react?

Bank failures have multiple causes though they are typically precipitated by a rapidly unfolding funding crisis. The European Union’s new prudential liquidity requirements offer some safeguards against risky funding models, but will not prevent such scenarios. The speed of events seen in the 2017 resolution of a Spanish bank offers a number of lessons for the further strengthening of the resolution framework within the euro area, in particular in terms of inter-agency coordination, the use of payments moratoria and funding of the resolution process.

By: Alexander Lehmann Topic: European Parliament, Finance & Financial Regulation, Testimonies Date: March 28, 2018
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Central banks in the age of populism

Two years of elections have shown that we live in an age of increasing political and economic populism. What are the consequences of that for central banks? We explore opinions about it, from both 2017 and more recently.

By: Silvia Merler Topic: Finance & Financial Regulation Date: March 19, 2018
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External Publication

European Parliament

Note on the interactions between payment systems and monetary policy

This paper analyses the interactions between, on one hand, monetary policy and financial stability responsibilities of the ECB and, on the other hand, Post-Trading-Financial Market Infrastructures. In the author's opinion, payment Systems are critical for monetary policy while Central Counter Parties (CCPs) are critical for financial stability. However, in stressed conditions CCPs can be the source of risks also for monetary policy.

By: Francesco Papadia Topic: European Parliament, Finance & Financial Regulation, Testimonies Date: February 26, 2018
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Green bonds: who is to certify ‘sustainability’?

Poland’s issue of a green bond earlier this month was the country’s second financing of this type, and the first ever repeat issue by a sovereign. It has revived the debate as to whether there should be a single regulatory standard to certify the environmental quality of financial assets. This will be a key issue for the EU’s sustainable finance strategy which is due to be released shortly.

By: Alexander Lehmann Topic: Finance & Financial Regulation Date: February 19, 2018
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