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Basel III

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Basel III is a comprehensive set of reform measures, developed by the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision, to strengthen the regulation, supervision and risk management of the banking sector. These measures aim to:

  1. improve the banking sector's ability to absorb shocks arising from financial and economic stress, whatever the source
  2. improve risk management and governance
  3. strengthen banks' transparency and disclosures.

The reforms target:

  1. bank-level, or microprudential, regulation, which will help raise the resilience of individual banking institutions to periods of stress.
  2. macroprudential, system wide risks that can build up across the banking sector as well as the procyclical amplification of these risks over time.

Moving from Basel II:s simple “Tier 1 has to be 4%, Tier 2 has to be 8%”, Basel III has a 3×3 matrix with all manner of different minima. It’s a bit more complicated, but it’s also more intelligent, and should be much more effective as well. Possibly the most important thing here is the existence of the first column, setting minimum standards for common equity — which is also known as core Tier 1 capital. Such standards did exist in the past, but they were set extremely low, at just 2%, and so were generally ignored. As of now, common equity is the main thing that matters. No more throwing any old garbage into the Tier 1 bucket and calling it capital: the new standards for common equity are significantly tougher than the old standards for Tier 1 capital in total.

The absolute bare minimum for core Tier 1 capital is 4.5%, and the new minimum for Tier 1 capital in general has now been raised to 6%. The minimum for Tier 2 remains at 8%. On top of that there’s a “conservation buffer” of another 2.5 percentage points.

With the conservation buffer, then, banks need 7% common equity, 8.5% Tier 1 capital, and 10.5% Tier 2 capital.

When credit in an economy is growing faster than the economy itself, a countercyclical capital buffer kicks in, which essentially says that banks need to have more capital in good times. That countercyclical buffer won’t be set by the BIS in Basel; it’ll be left up to national regulators. So when the economy’s booming, banks are going to need 9.5% common equity, 11% Tier 1 capital, and 13% Tier 2 capital.

The Basel Committee issued the Basel III rules text, which presents the details of global regulatory standards on bank capital adequacy and liquidity agreed by the Governors and Heads of Supervision, and endorsed by the G20 Leaders at their November 2010 Seoul summit. The Committee also published the results of its comprehensive quantitative impact study (QIS).

Mr Nout Wellink, Chairman of the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision and President of the Netherlands Bank, described the Basel III Framework as "a landmark achievement that will help protect financial stability and promote sustainable economic growth. The higher levels of capital, combined with a global liquidity framework, will significantly reduce the probability and severity of banking crises in the future." He added that "with these reforms, the Basel Committee has delivered on the banking reform agenda for internationally active banks set out by the G20 Leaders at their Pittsburgh summit in September 2009".

The rules text presents the details of the Basel III Framework, which covers both microprudential and macroprudential elements. The Framework sets out higher and better-quality capital, better risk coverage, the introduction of a leverage ratio as a backstop to the risk-based requirement, measures to promote the build up of capital that can be drawn down in periods of stress, and the introduction of two global liquidity standards. 

Transition and implementation

The Committee has put in place processes to ensure the rigorous and consistent global implementation of the Basel III Framework. The standards will be phased in gradually so that the banking sector can move to the higher capital and liquidity standards while supporting lending to the economy.

With respect to the leverage ratio, the Committee will use the transition period to assess whether its proposed design and calibration is appropriate over a full credit cycle and for different types of business models. Based on the results of a parallel run period, any adjustments would be carried out in the first half of 2017 with a view to migrating to a Pillar 1 treatment on 1 January 2018 based on appropriate review and calibration.  

Both the Liquidity Coverage Ratio (LCR) and the Net Stable Funding Ratio (NSFR) will be subject to an observation period and will include a review clause to address any unintended consequences.

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