More Action Needed on European Bank Profitability

By John Caparusso, Rohit Goel and Will Kerry

August 30, 2017

Versions in Español (Spanish), Deutsche (German), Français (French)

A woman withdraws money from an automated teller machine in Italy: Some European banks have too many branches relative to assets (photo: Martin Moxter imageBROKER/Newscom)

European banking has made considerable progress in the past few years: Banks have built up capital, regulation is stronger and supervision has been enhanced. But profitability remains weak, posing risks for financial stability.

In a sample of more than 170 large European lenders with combined assets of $35 trillion, roughly half generated a weak return on equity in 2016, and banks representing only 15 percent of assets generated a healthy return on equity, defined as more than 10 percent. Weak profitability is also shown in a low return on assets for domestic banks in many European countries. The drivers of these weak returns reflect varying combinations of low income, high costs, or provisions needed to build buffers against non-performing assets.

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Gaining Currency: The Rise of the Renminbi

By IMFBlog

August 4, 2017

Eswar Prasad at an IMF conference (photo: Staff/IMF)

 
As China’s economy catches up in size with that of the United States, some economists predict that the renminbi will soon challenge the dollar’s dominance in international finance.

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Stepping up the Fight Against Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing

By Christine Lagarde

July 26, 2017

Versions in ربي (Arabic),  中文 (Chinese), Français (French), Русский (Russian), and Español (Spanish)

Money laundering and terrorist financing threaten economic stability. International cooperation is vital in the fight against misuse of the financial system (photo: CraigRJD/iStock by Getty Images)


Corrupt officials, tax cheats, and the financial backers of terrorism have one thing in common: they often exploit vulnerabilities in financial systems to facilitate their crimes.

Money laundering and terrorist financing can threaten a country’s economic and financial stability while funding violent and illegal acts. That is why many governments have stepped up the fight against such practices, helped by international institutions such as the IMF.

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Banking On the Go

By IMFBlog

June 23, 2017

Tayo Oviosu at IMF lecture (photo: Ryan Rayburn/IMF staff)

Worldwide, more than two billion people are without bank accounts, and only one in three adults in sub-Saharan Africa has access to any type of financial services. In this podcast, Tayo Oviosu, founder and CEO of Nigeria's leading mobile payment platform, Paga, reveals how his company is rapidly bringing millions of unbanked Nigerians into the banking fold. Continue reading “Banking On the Go” »

Why Talk of Bank Capital ‘Floors’ Is Raising the Roof

By Tobias Adrian and Aditya Narain

June 8, 2017

The headquarters of the Bank for International Settlements in Basel, Switzerland, which houses the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision (photo: Christian Hartmann/Reuters/Newscom)

Calculating how much capital banks should have is often a bone of contention between regulators and banks. While there has been considerable progress on reaching consensus on an international standard, one key issue remains unresolved. This is a proposal to establish a “floor,” or minimum, for the level of capital the largest banks must maintain.

Some financial institutions and national authorities question the need for a “floor,’’ arguing either that differences in business models or other elements of the global regulatory framework—notably limits on the amount of leverage banks may take on—make them redundant. We disagree. The floor reduces the chances that banks can game the system to reduce their capital buffers to levels that aren’t aligned with their risks. It is an essential element of global efforts to create a level playing field for banks operating across countries by strengthening common standards for regulation, supervision and risk management.

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Chart of the Week: Brexit and The City

By IMFBlog

May 29, 2017

It seems likely that Brexit will alter the relationship that UK-based financial firms have with the European Union—even though negotiations are just beginning.

For an idea of how much is at stake for the United Kingdom’s financial services industry, take a look at our Chart of the Week, drawn from the IMF’s latest Global Financial Stability Report. The chart illustrates the linkages that might be affected by the country’s withdrawal from the EU. One example: of the over-the-counter trading in foreign exchange derivatives in the United Kingdom, Germany and France, the UK share comes to 89 percent. Continue reading “Chart of the Week: Brexit and The City” »

Democratizing the Money Market

By IMFBlog

May 26, 2017

Just as technology is changing the way we live and work, it also affects the way we use and move our money. In this podcast, lawyer and bitcoin expert Patrick Murck of Harvard University tells us that financial technology, or fintech, is poised to revolutionize the way the world does business.

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How an Extended Period of Low Growth Could Reshape the Financial Industry

By Gaston Gelos and Jay Surti

Versions in  عربي (Arabic), Français (French), Русский (Russian), and Español (Spanish)

What happens if advanced economies remain stuck in a long-lasting funk marked by tepid growth, low interest rates, aging populations and stagnant productivity? Japan offers an example of the impact on banks, and our analysis suggests that there could also be far-reaching consequences for insurance companies, pension funds, and asset-management firms.

Continue reading “How an Extended Period of Low Growth Could Reshape the Financial Industry” »

With Global Financial Markets, How Much Control Do Countries Have Over Economic Policies?

By Selim Ali Elekdag and Gaston Gelos

Versions in عربي (Arabic), Français (French), Русский (Russian), and Español (Spanish)

The outlook for further interest-rate increases by the US Federal Reserve revives interest in a compelling question: In an increasingly integrated global financial system, how much control do countries outside of the US retain over their economic policies?

  Continue reading “With Global Financial Markets, How Much Control Do Countries Have Over Economic Policies?” »

Why International Financial Cooperation Remains Essential

By Tobias Adrian and Maurice Obstfeld

Versions in: عربي (Arabic), 中文 (Chinese), Français (French), Русский (Russian), and Español (Spanish)

Economic growth appears to be strengthening across the large economies, but that does not mean financial-sector regulation can now be relaxed. On the contrary, it remains more necessary than ever, as does international cooperation to ensure the safety and resilience of global capital markets. That is why the Group of Twenty (G20) finance ministers and central bank governors reiterated their support for continuing financial-sector reform at their meeting in Baden-Baden last week. Continue reading “Why International Financial Cooperation Remains Essential” »

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