Monday 9 December 2019

Action, not words, needed on banks

THE new head of Financial Regulation, Mathew Elderfield, talks a great fight. He says the banks need to believe in the threat of enforcement and he is going to set up a special investigations unit to police the sector.

You can't referee a Premier League match with one linesman and no red card in your pocket, he said. Given past delinquencies by banks, a more relevant metaphor might have involved Elliot Ness and machine guns.

But we know what he means and we hope he can deliver.

Mr Elderfield said the immediate priority was the recapitalisation of the banks. It would take "some time" for the institutions to rebalance the books and move on from the need for government funding.

There are still many unknown parameters as the banks prepare to begin transferring property loans to the National Asset Management Agency; it will be years before we know the true cost to the taxpayer of that process.

We will be better informed when the Central Bank Governor, Professor Patrick Honohan, delivers his report on the collapse of the financial sector and former IMF deputy director Max Watson and the German economist Klaus Regling publish their findings on the regulatory and banking side of the crisis.

In the meantime, we can only politely echo Mr Elderfield's own advice in the event of his having to impose his office's more prudent strategy on some wayward management: "Just do it".

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