ECB manager: ‘stuffed’ environment requires strong threat management, partnership

European Central Bank Supervisory Board Member Elizabeth McCaul advises banks to be watchful to financial dangers.

Kevin Parise/American Banker

One of Europe’s leading regulators is preaching watchfulness for count on both sides of the Atlantic in the middle of what she views as a “fraught” financial environment.

Bank earnings are high and capital levels are too, however Elizabeth McCaul, a member of the Frankfurt-based European Central Bank’s Supervisory Board, stated the geological fault are clear. Supply chain problems, increasing expenses and raised utilize are damaging the quality of possessions on bank balance sheets. Meanwhile, external dangers to the banking sector, varying from cryptocurrencies to environment modification, require tighter controls, she stated.

“It’s the type of environment I’ve seen a lot in my career, and it’s the type of environment where you have the sense that there can be an accident,” McCaul informed American Banker recently. “You don’t know where that accident will be … So it means that you have to have your institutions very focused on strong risk management practices.”

McCaul understands a thing or more about stuffed financial conditions. 

In 2001, as New York State’s Superindentent of Banks, she assisted prevent a disastrous bank follow the terrorist attacks of September 11 by collaborating with the National Guard to provide money to the banks of Manhattan.

After the U.S. monetary system was pressed to the edge of collapse in 2008, she recommended a few of the world’s most significant reserve banks, consisting of the Federal Reserve and the ECB, as an executive at the prominent consulting company Promontory Financial Group, now owned by IBM.

Today, McCaul rests on the board of the ECB’s Single Supervisory Mechanism, or SSM, the regulative body developed after the international monetary crisis to manage the leading 110 banks in the European Union. In 2019, she ended up being the very first — and so far just — American to sign up with the SSM board, where she sits along with other agents from the reserve bank and delegates from each of the Euro Zone’s nationwide supervisory authorities. 

McCaul signed up with American Banker in our newsroom in Manhattan’s Financial District recently to go over the regulative program in Europe, the state of international monetary stability and the future of international bank guidance.

“The overall risk environment is very much top of mind and the potential effects on asset quality and the institutions is a real priority for us,” she stated. “We have asked banks to be very cautious in their capital trajectory analyses and we’ve asked them to look carefully at their capital planning processes.”

Regulatory actions

The ECB and the European Parliament have actually reacted to existing financial unpredictabilities in a number of methods, McCaul stated.

First, on the utilize front, the SSM has actually asked a number of organizations to increase their capital contributions to alleviate prospective losses. McCaul kept in mind that the European capital structure has some noteworthy distinctions from the U.S. design.

“The U.S. has a very strong stress testing process to make the determinations about, about the capital levels. We have a supervisory process that builds up our view of what the capital levels should be, and it’s aligned with the Basel requirements for Pillar 1 and Pillar 2,” she stated, describing the global requirements for minimum capital and supervisory evaluation. “Then we have a stress testing component that we add into the development of the capital demand that we make from the institutions.”

Managing environment threat is likewise a leading concern for the ECB, McCaul stated. In 2020, the reserve bank asked banks to examine their own environment direct exposures to all sorts of modifications, then followed that up with an evaluation of oversight spaces in the regulative system. This previous summertime, it ran its very first environment tension test. Like the six-bank environment tension test being piloted by the Fed next year, the ECB’s findings will not have a direct influence on capital requirements.

Still, McCaul stated, the concentrate on environment threat has actually motivated banks to consider the subject in a different way.

“We’ve moved the discussion in the banks and maybe the management of this issue in the banks from government affairs offices, regulatory affairs offices as something that’s really a social policy, to bring about the understanding that it belongs in the Risk Management Office and the CFO office, because it’s about balance sheets,” she stated. “This is a traditional risk.”

Another modification on the horizon is digital property guideline. While Congress grapples over how to deal with crypto, European lawmakers have actually settled on a structure called Markets in Crypto-property Regulation, or MiCA. The policies will enter into result next year.

McCaul stated there is much to learn more about the dangers associated presented by the crypto market as an entire in addition to particular companies. Still, she stated, the crucial concepts of MiCA need to deal with a few of the glaring problems in high profile failures in the area, like the collapse of the second-largest crypto exchange FTX last month. 

“There are components of MiCA that call for strong governance, strong internal controls, segregation of assets would be required,” she stated. “From what we can read about FTX now, we can understand that some of those basic governance, internal controls, segregation of assets, things are not in place.”

A united front

One of the most significant strengths of MiCA, McCaul stated, is that it offers a single regulator system for all of Europe. When handling activities that provide a systemic threat — particularly ones like crypto that can move effortlessly throughout borders — it is very important for regulators to share typical requirements. 

“Everytime that I have seen a loss, some type of a loss in a marketplace, we’ve been able to identify a gap in oversight, and where you have gaps in oversight, that’s where risk increases and that’s where accidents can happen,” she stated. “One area that I also have regularly seen as contributing to higher levels of risk is the crossborder activity, where you don’t have harmonization of rules. That can lead to gaps.”

To close those spaces, McCaul stated, it is very important that the U.S. and other nations enact comparable requirements to what has actually been authorized in Europe.

“It’s extremely important that there be oversight and supervision of crypto assets that doesn’t lead to regulatory arbitrage on both sides of the Atlantic,” she stated. “Where there isn’t oversight, this is where risk develops and financial stability itself can be threatened.”

Crypto is not the only crossborder threat that requires a unified regulative front, McCaul stated. Operational strength and infotech security are regular subjects of discussions amongst international bank managers, she stated, including that cybersecurity has actually been an intense focus given that the Russian intrusion of Ukraine in February. While cyber attacks have actually not ticked up as drastically as anticipated, she stated they stay raised.

Another shared issue European regulators show their American equivalents is the migration of loaning activity — and, consequently, threat — outside the conventional banking sector. 

The so-called shadow banking sector is smaller sized and less established in Europe than the U.S., where upwards of 60% of credit to the economy is supplied by insurer, personal equity, hedge funds, government-sponsored entities and other nonbank banks. Still, McCaul stated the previous 5 years have actually seen a rapid boost in this kind of activity in Europe, with much of it featuring less covenants than conventional bank offerings.

McCaul stated there are chances for the ECB to learn more about nonbank management from American bank regulators, in addition to circumstances where the groups can collaborate to determine dangers and bring them into the regulative boundary

“We really need to make sure that we are cognizant of this risk, that we get a line of sight and data about the developments in that risk, and that we understand the interconnectedness back to the industry that we do have oversight of, the banking Industry,” she stated.

Overall, as monetary markets worldwide end up being more complex and more linked, McCaul stated, the most crucial thing for regulators to partner on is enhancing openness.

“Opacity is never our friend when we think about the potential for systemic risk or for losses to occur,” she stated. “Continuing to promote transparency about interconnectedness in the system, about the construct of products that are being developed, this is very important.”

The tools for the task

A New York native, McCaul’s resume consists of a years at Goldman Sachs and 6 years as New York State Superintendent of Banks. Before signing up with the ECB, she invested 16 years at Promontory, where she opened the company’s New York workplace and later on went on to lead its European department.

Her interest in European financing goes back to her college days. As an economics and government trainee at Boston University, she invested a year studying the European Common Market on scholarship from the German federal government, ending up being thinking about “the European project.” 

As Promontory’s CEO of Europe, McCaul assisted craft the structure for the SSM, which was embraced in 2013 and made reliable the list below year. She explained signing up with the board in 2019 as the “greatest honor” of her life.

One of her leading tasks at the ECB is managing what is referred to as the “digital agenda,” that includes tracking cybersecurity, resolving unique obstacles presented by monetary innovation companies and embracing innovation to improve guidance, both in Europe and internationally. 

All 3 obligations share a typical goal McCaul stated, one that will be crucial to bank guidance the world over progressing: utilizing information.

“Supervision is, by its nature, backward looking. We rely on historical information. We ask for financial and statistical information from institutions that is dated, and the world is moving so much faster now,” she stated. “There’s a lot of opportunity to increase our ability to harness that data, mine the data, understand the data and to do that we need to develop tools.”


A news media journalist always on the go, I've been published in major publications including VICE, The Atlantic, and TIME.

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