Australia financial inquiry supports stronger bank capital buffers

GMT 08:59 2014 Sunday ,07 December

Arab Today, arab today Australia financial inquiry supports stronger bank capital buffers

An inquiry into Australia's financial system
Sydney - AFP

An inquiry into Australia's financial system in a report released Sunday recommended domestic banks hold more capital to be "unquestionably strong on a global basis", while protecting the economy and taxpayers from collapses.
The inquiry, the first major investigation into the sector since 1997, drew on the lessons of the global economic crisis and set out a "blueprint to guide the financial system over the next decade", its chairman David Murray said.
"Our charge is to do what is right to strengthen the Australian economy and ensure that the financial system is as robust as it can be," said Treasurer (finance minister) Joe Hockey.
"Now we have got to weigh up carefully the implications for financial services providers. But I want to emphasise we need to prepare now for the challenges that may lie ahead."
The 350-page report made 44 recommendations, including higher reserve requirements for banks, lower fees for the growing Aus$1.8 trillion ($1.7 trillion) superannuation -- or pension -- sector, and caps on credit card surcharges and fees.
The push to raise capital buffers has been echoed by international regulators and aims to address weaknesses that emerged during the 2007-2008 financial crisis.
The report also recommended that banks lift their "risk weights" for mortgage lending, which would require them to set aside higher sums against home loans. Higher risk weights already apply to smaller lenders.
Australian banks have previously warned against tighter requirements, citing higher costs, but Murray said the changes were needed to keep in line with international peers.
"Given Australia's position in the world, bank capital needs to be unquestionably strong on a global basis. This means the top 25 percent in the world," Murray said.
The inquiry found that Australian banks currently had capital ratios of between 10.0 to 11.6 percent, compared to 12.2 percent for financial institutions in the top quarter.
"We need to do this to strengthen our capacity to manage bank failures and reduce taxpayer exposure to the cost of bank recapitalisation, particularly in a crisis," said Murray, the former chief executive of Australia's largest bank, the Commonwealth Bank.
Hockey said his government would carefully consider the report and consult stakeholders, with written submissions accepted until next March.


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