Blog Post

A new era for global financial standards

Even as headlines remain dominated by the Eurozone crisis, the financial world is transforming itself along multiple other dimensions. One intriguing but so far little-noticed development is the gradual shift in the role of global financial standard-setters, which are becoming more assertive in looking at how their standards are adopted and implemented around the world...

By: Date: March 12, 2012 Topic: Banking and capital markets

Even as headlines remain dominated by the Eurozone crisis, the financial world is transforming itself along multiple other dimensions. One intriguing but so far little-noticed development is the gradual shift in the role of global financial standard-setters, which are becoming more assertive in looking at how their standards are adopted and implemented around the world.

Global financial standards have emerged since the 1970s as a by-product of global financial integration. While some global bodies set norms for small and arcane corners of finance, two cases stand out for the magnitude of their impact on financial firms’ operations and incentives: the successive agreements reached by the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision, or Basel Accords; and International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS), which govern the preparation and presentation of listed companies’ financial statements and are set by the London-based International Accounting Standards Board (IASB).

Until recently, both the Basel Committee and the IASB, like other global financial standard-setters, felt their role was to publish and update standards of high quality, and to a certain extent to promote their adoption and use, but not to control how they were used. (There was some sharing of experiences among public authorities in the Basel Committee, but no corresponding public disclosures.) This is now changing. The Basel Committee is creating a whole new framework of direct oversight over how its standards are made into law in individual jurisdictions, and how they are being applied by individual financial institutions there. Crucially, the committee has announced that its findings would be made public. In October 2011, it duly released for the first time a table comparing the state of adoption of the Basel II and Basel 2.5 Accords in its member jurisdictions and the European Union (EU).

These are no mere technical matters: the Basel III Accord on capital, leverage and liquidity is expected to result in curbs on banks’ profitability and additional constraints on the largest banks. Its transposition into EU legislation is currently the subject of furious lobbying, and US federal agencies’ proposal for its adoption in America has not yet been published. Stefan Ingves, the Swedish central banker who took the chair of the Basel Committee in June 2011, emphasized the effort by commenting recently that “setting rules without ensuring their implementation is akin to building a lighthouse without ever switching the light on.”

Last month, similar announcements were made regarding accounting standards with the publication by the IFRS Foundation, which hosts the IASB, of a landmark report on its strategy for the next ten years. This text specifies that “the IFRS should seek full disclosure where adoption of IFRS is incomplete or where there is divergence from the full set of IFRS as issued by the IASB,” and that “the IASB will work with a network of securities regulators, audit regulators (…) and other stakeholders to identify where divergence in practice occurs across borders.” This contrasts with the IASB’s previous stance, which claimed no responsibility for its IFRS standards’ actual implementation.

This assumption of new responsibility seems to have been motivated by the fact that inconsistent practice is bound to taint the perception of the standards themselves. The financial crisis has certainly accelerated a shift that was arguably long overdue. It put the spotlight on, among other things, different risk-weighting of similar assets by American and European banks under Basel II, or divergent accounting for writing down Greek sovereign debt among banks inside the EU.

It remains to be seen what exactly will be delivered on the basis of the recent announcements. The national supervisors who are members of the Basel Committee may not welcome external scrutiny of their practices. The IASB may struggle to enlist the cooperation of national public authorities in its monitoring effort. In both cases, the extent of disclosures to the public about potentially embarrassing findings remains largely to be determined.
Furthermore, global financial standard-setters have plenty of other pressing challenges. They need to regularly update their standards. The rapid negotiation of Basel III must be counted as a notable crisis-induced success, but by no means the end of the road. They need all jurisdictions to commit in principle to adopting their standards, which is far from universally the case for IFRS: large outliers still include the US and Japan. They also need to update their governance and management, not least to adapt to the rise of large emerging economies, and in the case of the IFRS Foundation, to find a stable and sustainable funding model, which it still lacks to a large extent.

For all these reasons, it is tempting to be cynical about the pledges to ensure proper implementation of global standards in what remains a very diverse financial world. Nevertheless, these commitments mark the beginning of a new era for the standard-setters, and potentially a step towards stronger governance of the global financial system.


Republishing and referencing

Bruegel considers itself a public good and takes no institutional standpoint. Anyone is free to republish and/or quote this post without prior consent. Please provide a full reference, clearly stating Bruegel and the relevant author as the source, and include a prominent hyperlink to the original post.

Read about event More on this topic
 

Past Event

Past Event

The UK strategy for Green Finance

This members-only event discusses the UK's strategy for greening the financial system.

Speakers: Adam Lyons, Fayyaz Muneer and Nicolas Véron Topic: Banking and capital markets Location: Bruegel, Rue de la Charité 33, 1210 Brussels Date: November 22, 2021
Read about event More on this topic
 

Upcoming Event

Dec
9
14:00

How to deal with small banks: consolidation, tailoring and the fintech challenge

Small banks face multiple challenges. What structural changes are needed to tackle these pressures?

Speakers: Alexander Lehmann, Nicolas Véron, Xavier Vives, Anne Fröhling and Philip Evans Topic: Banking and capital markets
Read article Download PDF
 

Policy Contribution

European governance

Next Generation EU borrowing: a first assessment

The Next Generation EU programme is radically changing the way the EU finances itself and interacts with financial markets. This paper assesses the first design decisions made by the European Commission and the issuances that have taken place so far. It also outlines the potential risks and opportunities linked to this upgrading of the EU borrowing.

By: Rebecca Christie, Grégory Claeys and Pauline Weil Topic: Banking and capital markets, European governance, Macroeconomic policy Date: November 10, 2021
Read article
 

External Publication

European Parliament

Don't let up - The EU needs to maintain high standards for its banking sector as the European economy emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic

In-depth analysis prepared for the European Parliament's Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs (ECON).

By: Rebecca Christie and Monika Grzegorczyk Topic: Banking and capital markets, European Parliament Date: October 21, 2021
Read article More on this topic More by this author
 

Blog Post

Better sustainability data is still needed to accelerate the low-carbon transition in capital markets

Investors need more trustworthy sustainability data. Regulators should leave space for better products to emerge, while remaining alert to well-known patterns of misconduct in capital markets.

By: Alexander Lehmann Topic: Banking and capital markets Date: October 18, 2021
Read article
 

External Publication

European Parliament

Tailoring prudential policy to bank size: the application of proportionality in the US and euro area

In-depth analysis prepared for the European Parliament's Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs (ECON).

By: Alexander Lehmann and Nicolas Véron Topic: Banking and capital markets, European Parliament, Macroeconomic policy Date: October 14, 2021
Read about event More on this topic
 

Past Event

Past Event

What is the link between biodiversity loss and financial instability?

Biodiversity loss impacts financial stability. How big is the risk of biodiversity loss for financial institutions?

Speakers: Sylvie Goulard, Romain Svartzman, Guntram B. Wolff and Michael Wilkins Topic: Banking and capital markets Date: October 5, 2021
Read article More on this topic More by this author
 

External Publication

Brexit and European finance: Prolonged limbo

It will take longer than many had anticipated for the dust to settle on the post-Brexit financial landscape and its respective implications for the EU and the UK.

By: Nicolas Véron Topic: Banking and capital markets Date: September 24, 2021
Read about event More on this topic
 

Past Event

Past Event

Setting up the EU as a new benchmark borrower

At this closed-door event Siegfried Ruhl, Counselor to the Director-General for Budget at the European Commission will discuss the EU's borrowing program.

Speakers: Rebecca Christie and Siegfried Ruhl Topic: Banking and capital markets Location: Bruegel, Rue de la Charité 33, 1210 Brussels Date: September 16, 2021
Read article More on this topic More by this author
 

Opinion

El Salvador’s great crypto experiment

Can bitcoin surpass the dollar in popularity and make El Salvador the first state to operate entirely with a private currency?

By: Maria Demertzis Topic: Banking and capital markets Date: September 14, 2021
Read about event
 

Past Event

Past Event

Sustainable finance

Bruegel Annual Meetings, Day 3 - In this session on the final day of the Meetings, our panelists will discuss the future of finance and its sustainability.

Speakers: Maria Demertzis, Alberto De Paoli, Pierre Heilbronn and Alexandra Jour-Schroeder Topic: Banking and capital markets, Green economy Location: Palais des Académies, Rue Ducale 1, Brussels Date: September 3, 2021
Read about event More on this topic
 

Past Event

Past Event

Monetary and macroeconomic policies at the crossroads

Bruegel Annual Meetings, Day 2- In this session we would like to discuss monetary and macroeconomic policies after Covid-19.

Speakers: Grégory Claeys, Per Callesen, Gita Gopinath, Jorge Sicilia Serrano and Lawrence H. Summers Topic: Banking and capital markets Location: PALAIS DES ACADEMIES, RUE DUCALE 1 Date: September 2, 2021
Load more posts