Policy brief

Crisis management for euro-area banks in central Europe

Euro-area bank integration has decreased as post-financial crisis national rules require banks to hold more capital at home. It might be undermined fu

Publishing date
19 November 2019

The deep involvement of a number of euro-area banking groups in central and southeastern Europe has benefitted the host countries and has strengthened the resilience of those banking groups. But this integration has become less close because of post-financial crisis national rules that require banks to hold more capital at home, or other ring-fencing measures. There is a risk integration might be undermined further by bank resolution planning, which is now gathering pace.

Regulators and banks will need to decide between two distinct models for crisis resolution, and this choice will redefine banking networks. Most efficient in terms of preserving capital and the close integration of subsidiary operations would be if the Single Resolution Board – the banking union’s central resolution authority – takes the lead for the entire banking group. However, this will require parent banks to hold the subordinated debts of their subsidiaries. Persistent barriers to intra-group capital mobility – or the option for home or host authorities to impose such restrictions – will ultimately render such schemes unworkable.

The second model would involve independent local intervention schemes, which European Union countries outside the banking union are likely to call for. This will require building capacity in local debt markets, and clarifying creditor hierarchies. Exposure to banking risks will ultimately need to be borne by host-country investors. Bail-in capital issued by subsidiaries to their parents cannot be a substitute because it would expose the home country to financial contagion from the host.

To sustain cross-border linkages, banking groups and their supervisors will need to make bank recovery plans more credible, and to strengthen cooperation in resolution colleges (platforms that bring together all relevant parties in resolution planning and execution). Within the banking union there is no justification for the various ring-fencing measures that have impeded the flow of capital and liquidity within banking groups.

About the authors

  • Alexander Lehmann

    Alexander Lehmann joined Bruegel in 2016 and was a non-resident fellow until 2023. His work at Bruegel focused on EU banking and capital markets, private and sovereign debt issues and sustainable finance.

    Alex also heads a graduate programme at the Frankfurt School of Finance and serves as a member of the consultative group on sustainable finance at the European Securities and Markets Authority (ESMA) in Paris.

    In numerous past and ongoing advisory roles Alex has worked with EU and emerging market policy makers on capital market development, financial stability and crisis recovery. Until 2016, he was the Lead Economist at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) where he led the strategy and economics unit for central Europe and Baltic countries. Previously, Alex was on the staff of the International Monetary Fund and held positions as Adjunct Professor at the Hertie School of Governance (Berlin) and as Affiliate Fellow at the Royal Institute of International Affairs (Chatham House). He holds graduate degrees from the London School of Economics and the College of Europe, and a D.Phil. in Economics from Oxford University.

    His academic, policy and market-related work has generated extensive publications on international finance and regulation. This is regularly presented in teaching, media commentary and industry conferences.

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