By Huw Jones | 13 February 2014
(Reuters) – The savings of the European Union’s 500 million citizens could be used to fund long-term investments to boost the economy and help plug the gap left by banks since the financial crisis, an EU document says.
The EU is looking for ways to wean the 28-country bloc from its heavy reliance on bank financing and find other means of funding small companies, infrastructure projects and other investment.
“The economic and financial crisis has impaired the ability of the financial sector to channel funds to the real economy, in particular long-term investment,” said the document, seen by Reuters.
The Commission will ask the bloc’s insurance watchdog in the second half of this year for advice on a possible draft law “to mobilize more personal pension savings for long-term financing”, the document said.
Banks have complained they are hindered from lending to the economy by post-crisis rules forcing them to hold much larger safety cushions of capital and liquidity.
The document said the “appropriateness” of the EU capital and liquidity rules for long-term financing will be reviewed over the next two years, a process likely to be scrutinized in the United States and elsewhere to head off any risk of EU banks gaining an unfair advantage.
The EU executive will also complete a study by the end of this year on the feasibility of introducing an EU savings account, open to individuals whose funds could be pooled and invested in small companies.
The Commission also plans to study this year whether changes are needed to help fund small businesses by creating a liquid and transparent secondary market for trading corporate bonds in the EU.
It is also seeking to revive the securitization market, which pools loans like mortgages intobonds that banks can sell to raise funding for themselves or companies. The market was tarnished by the financial crisis when bonds linked to U.S. home loans began defaulting in 2007, sparking the broader global markets meltdown over the ensuing two years.
The document says the Commission will “take into account possible future increases in the liquidity of a number of securitization products” when it comes to finalizing a new rule on what assets banks can place in their new liquidity buffers. This signals a possible loosening of the definition of eligible assets from the bloc’s banking watchdog.
The Commission will also “review” how EU rules treat covered bonds by the end of this year, the document says, a step that will be welcomed by Denmark with its large market in bonds used by banks to finance home loans.
Other steps to boost financing in the EU include possible steps to aid crowdfunding, where many people contribute relatively small amounts of money to create a sizeable funding pool.
The document said investors and asset managers also have a role and it will propose a revision of EU rules on shareholder rights to “ensure better disclosure of institutional investors’ engagement and voting policies”.
More controversially, the Commission will consider whether the use of fair value or pricing assets at the going rate in a new globally agreed accounting rule “is appropriate, in particular regarding long-term investing business models”.
(Editing by Ruth Pitchford)