Two of the world’s most senior bankers have used a rare public appearance to dismiss concerns about the stability of the global financial sector.
The heads of Barclays Bank and HSBC were speaking as part of the World Economic Forum in Switzerland overnight.
UK-based Barclays Bank has seen its fair share of risk since the beginning of the global financial crisis in 2008 – it was among the big banks that successfully weathered the subprime mortgage meltdown, and has become subject to the wave of regulations that followed.
Barclay’s role in the Libor scandal almost two years ago, in which traders at big banks in London attempted to manipulate a key interest rate, forced the resignation of its then-CEO Bob Diamond.
Barclay’s new chief executive Antony Jenkins believes the balance of risk and regulation in the system now is about right.
“The amounts of capital that banks are carrying, the levels of leverage, the levels of liquidity are all more favourable; the level of supervision is more favourable,” he argued.
He says the full range of regulations aimed at preventing another crisis have not yet been implemented.
“This will not happen until close to the end of this decade and, at that point, we will and should be able to answer the question that we have reached a point where the level of safety and soundness within the system, versus the capacity of the system, is in equilibrium,” he added.
In the meantime, he thinks banks need to be able to fulfil their crucial role in society: to lend money, finance investments and keep cash flowing in the economy.
Paul Singer, who manages one of the biggest investment funds in the United States, was also on the panel.
He believes the banking regulations introduced since the crisis do not go far enough.
“Half steps at the end of which, five years later, still leaves, in my view, the system prone to the next financial crisis,” he responded.
Paul Singer thinks the next crisis may arise from the bond-buying stimulus programs being led by the world’s central banks, including the US Federal Reserve.
“The prices of stocks and bonds have been distorted by that purchase,” he said.
HSBC chairman Douglas Flint used his contribution to debate the focus on the increased safety measures imposed on global banks considered to be ‘too big to fail’.
“In all the major jurisdictions effectively planning for our own demise and how that could be affected,” he said.
“I think there’s virtually no other industry, apart from nuclear power, where the industry has to demonstrate that in the event of something untoward leading to the collapse of the industry, how would it be dealt with.”