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IN Depth
Financial regulation
The issues
External Resources

Capital requirements

Ensuring that banks hold enough capital to withstand a moderate crisis is a critical part of macroprudential policy and was a key response to the 2008 crash.

In 2010 the Basel III regulatory reforms allowed regulators to require banks to increase capital held during financial upswings and reduce it during downturns.

Some argue that the time is right for loosening capital requirements to encourage financial institutions to keep lending, although there are warnings that this will increase the risk of a future crisis.

Profit distribution

Excessive risk-taking in the financial industry could be disincentivised and how much people are paid and the way profits are distributed can play an important role.

Goldman Sachs made headlines by taking the decision to retain its dividends payout despite the Federal Reserve’s guidance against doing so. The UK’s Prudential Regulatory Authority has already requested that banks scrap dividends distributions throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, as have many other national regulators.

Some proposals go further, arguing that after anti-banker sentiment following the financial crash, the current crisis is the time for regulators to require that ethical banking become the norm.

Shadow banking

While the 2008 financial crisis centred on the banking sector, the Covid-19 crisis has shown that there are huge vulnerabilities in other parts of the financial system – often referred to as the shadow banking system. Shadow banking entities offer services that are similar to those provided by commercial banks but are not regulated in the same way. They include some investment banks, mortgage companies and firms that deal with securities.

This lack of regulation means that shadow banking contains the most immediate risks to financial stability as a result of the economic downturn, as a result of poor regulation for the last decade. Some argue that particularly systemically important non-bank financial institutions – such as insurance companies or other institutions that might be seen as too big to fail – must also be protected and regulated to protect the integrity of the financial system as a whole.

Macroprudential reform

Over the long term, there are proposals for the better use of macroprudential tools, financial policies that aim to ensure the stability of the system as a whole, to strengthen the resilience of the finance sector and equip it to better deliver on wider social objectives, such as building a net zero economy.

This includes rehabilitating credit guidance – rules on how credit should flow to particular parts of the economy, such as green investments.

Navigate the debate

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