Download publication

External Publication

Sovereign Concentration Charges: A New Regime for Banks’ Sovereign Exposures

Europe’s banking union has been central to the resolution of the euro-area crisis. It has had an encouraging start but remains unfinished business. If it remains in its current halfway-house condition, it may eventually move backwards and fail. EU leaders should seize these opportunities

By: Date: November 17, 2017 Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance

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

© European Union, 2017]. Copyright remains with the European Union at all times.

Europe’s banking union project, initiated in 2012, has had a promising start. But its stated aim of breaking the vicious circle between banks and sovereigns is very far from being achieved. A key bank-sovereign linkage is the euro area’s home-bias problem, namely the fact that the sovereign exposures of many euro-area banks are highly concentrated in the home country, instead of being diversified within the monetary union.

The home-bias problem, in turn, is a key obstacle to the adoption of a European Deposit Insurance Scheme (EDIS), as proposed by the European Commission in late 2015, because of the suspicion that deposits protected by EDIS would be used by banks, under moral suasion from their home country’s government, to excessively increase their purchases of that government’s debt. In turn, the absence of a full EDIS is one of the banking union’s greatest weaknesses because deposits are not protected uniformly.

There is therefore a strong policy case for the simultaneous consideration of EDIS and of a regulatory instrument targeted at reducing highly concentrated sovereign exposures. The adoption of one of these two reforms without the other is both unlikely and arguably undesirable.

To address the home-bias problem, a general and mandatory (Pillar 1) regulatory requirement is necessary. It should focus on sovereign concentration risk rather than sovereign credit risk, constraining only large exposures as opposed to the risk-weighting of all sovereign assets (the latter might also be envisaged, but on the condition of a global consensus and thus presumably at a later stage). Because the home-bias problem is unique to the euro area, the new requirement should only be binding for the euro-area sovereign exposures of euro-area banks.

This paper outlines a workable design for a Sovereign Concentration Charges Regulation (SCCR) as new EU legislation to be adopted as a complement of EDIS. The SCCR would add sovereign exposures above a certain threshold (defined as a ratio to Tier-1 capital), weighted by a coefficient (sovereign concentration charge) that increases with the exposure ratio, to risk-weighted assets in the capital ratio’s denominator. The charges for concentrated sovereign exposures to different euro-area countries would add up.

The proposed calibration for the SCCR errs on the side of leniency, to avert any risk of disturbance in sovereign debt markets. Sovereign exposures under 33 percent of Tier-1 capital would be entirely exempted. The marginal capital charges on concentrated exposures would be mild for exposures up to 100 percent of Tier-1 capital, and rise more steeply above that level. Should this calibration turn out to have an insufficient impact, it could be strengthened at a later stage.

The proposed transitional arrangements are also designed to ensure a smooth path towards the new regime even if market conditions become less favourable than currently. The transitional arrangements include extensive consultation with market participants, a gradual phase-in over a long period and grandfathering (i.e. exemption from the concentration charges) of all debt issued before the SCCR’s entry into force.

The SCCR does not require any consideration of a euro-area ‘safe asset’, but can easily accommodate a safe asset if it is introduced and incentivise its use if deemed appropriate.

While the banks’ behavioural response to the new regime is impossible to predict with certainty, it is expected that most banks will respond to the introduction of the SCCR by diversifying their sovereign exposures away from their current home bias, but leaving them largely unchanged in euro-area aggregate. If so, the reform will neither materially impact banks’ prudential ratios nor entail any material costs.

The adoption of the proposed SCCR together with a full EDIS, ideally complemented by other reforms to increase risk-sharing and enhance market discipline in the banking policy framework, would significantly reduce bank-sovereign linkages and thus strengthen the banking union, foster greater EU financial integration, and increase financial stability for each member state and for the European Union as a whole.

View comments
Read article More on this topic More by this author

Blog Post

Support for intra-EU mobility of people is on the rise

Europeans’ enthusiasm for immigration from other EU countries is steadily increasing –two-thirds of the EU population, on average, now support it.

By: Zsolt Darvas Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Date: December 12, 2017
Read article More on this topic More by this author

Blog Post

Sovereign Concentration Charges are the Key to Completing Europe’s Banking Union

The past crisis revealed that most euro-area banks have disproportionate sovereign exposure in their home country. Charging banks for sovereign concentration is one solution to this issue, and would help advance the discussion on banking union.

By: Nicolas Véron Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Date: December 7, 2017
Read article More on this topic More by this author

Blog Post

How the EU has become an immigration area

Natural change of EU28 population (the balance of live births and deaths) has fallen from high positive values in the 1960s to essentially zero recently, while the previous close-to-zero net immigration has turned positive and, since the early 1990s, become a more important source of population growth than natural increase

By: Zsolt Darvas Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Date: December 6, 2017
Read article More on this topic More by this author

Opinion

The European Commission should drop its ill-designed idea of a finance minister

Beyond the opposing ideas of Jean-Claude Juncker and Wolfgang Schäuble for future euro-area governance, Guntram Wolff explores how alternatives such as a reformed Eurogroup might yield more effective fiscal policy-making.

By: Guntram B. Wolff Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Date: December 4, 2017
Read article More by this author

Blog Post

The Bitcoin Bubble

The price of bitcoin has just passed $11,000. A year ago it was worth less than $800. Economists and commentators are thus increasingly concerned that this may be a bubble waiting to burst. We review recent opinions on the topic.

By: Silvia Merler Topic: Finance & Financial Regulation, Global Economics & Governance Date: December 4, 2017
Read article More on this topic More by this author

Opinion

Brexit: When the banks leave

More than a tenth of the City’s business is now bound to go, but how much worse could things get?

By: Nicolas Véron Topic: Finance & Financial Regulation Date: December 1, 2017
Read article More on this topic More by this author

Blog Post

German wages, the Phillips curve and migration in the euro area

This post studies why wages in Germany have not borne strong increases despite a relatively strong labour market. I list four reasons why announcing the death of the Phillips curve – the negative relationship between unemployment and wage growth – is premature in Germany. One of the reasons I report is substantial immigration from the rest of the EU.

By: Guntram B. Wolff Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Date: November 29, 2017
Read article Download PDF

Working Paper

Returns on foreign assets and liabilities: exorbitant privileges and stabilising adjustments

Large stock of foreign assets and liabilities could foster international risk diversification. US, British and Japanese investors earn high yields on FDI assets, which might also relate to tax, intellectual property and financial sophistication issues. Valuation changes on net foreign assets had a stabilising impact.

By: Zsolt Darvas and Pia Hüttl Topic: Finance & Financial Regulation, Global Economics & Governance Date: November 29, 2017
Read article Download PDF More by this author

Policy Brief

Beyond coal: facilitating the transition in Europe

Europe has a dirty energy secret: coal is producing a quarter of the electricity, but three-quarters of the emissions. The EU should propose that its member countries speedily phase out coal and put in place a scheme to guarantee the social welfare of coal miners who stand to lose their jobs, making a better use of the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund (EGF)

By: Simone Tagliapietra Topic: Energy & Climate, European Macroeconomics & Governance Date: November 23, 2017
Read article More by this author

Blog Post

The impact of Brexit on the Irish energy system – pragmatism vs. principles

Brexit promises pain for Ireland that could be cut off from the EU internal market and be left exposed to market instability in the UK. Georg Zachmann assesses the scale of the possible damage for Ireland, and how the UK and EU might use the special energy relations on the Irish island to commit to a pragmatic solution.

By: Georg Zachmann Topic: Energy & Climate, European Macroeconomics & Governance Date: November 21, 2017
Read article More on this topic More by this author

Blog Post

A slightly tighter ECB

The ECB’s recent decision on QE was somewhat on the dovish side. Francesco Papadia gives his view on why it is time to start a discussion about reducing the degree of ease of monetary policy.

By: Francesco Papadia Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Date: November 15, 2017
Read article Download PDF More by this author

External Publication

The economic effects of refugee return and policy implications

This paper looks at the question of returning asylum seekers and refugees from the economic perspective in the advanced countries that receive refugees: is return in their economic interest?

By: Uri Dadush Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance, Global Economics & Governance Date: November 14, 2017
Load more posts