October 29, 2014

Martin Wolf, it is not Europe’s banks which are too feeble to spur growth. It is their regulators who are.

Sir, I refer to Martin Wolf’s “Europe’s banks are too feeble to spur growth” October 29.

Wolf writes: “High leverage impairs the ability to finance growth. A responsibly managed yet highly leveraged institutions would seek to… hold highly rated assets. This is likely to militate against the productive investments the Eurozone needs”.

Indeed… but why is it so Mr. Wolf? Could it possibly be (as I have so mono-thematically explained to you for soon a decade) because feeble bank regulators decided, for no good reason at all, banks needed to hold more capital/equity against highly rated assets than against more “risky” productive assets?

Mr. Wolf, tell us, what responsibly managed bank should not responsibly look to obtain the largest risk adjusted returns on its equity?

Of course some bankers might have lobbied strongly for some ultra-low capital requirements, but it was the regulators who approved these… and so stop blaming the banks so much, and join me in blaming those who are most to be blamed.

Of course Europe’s banks have “too little capital”, and that is mostly because too little capital was required of them when lending to what was officially perceived as safe. But it is not the too little capital that mostly hinders banks from helping the real economy… it is the distortion produced by the credit-risk-weighted equity requirements.

If Europe does not rid itself of those feeble bank regulators, very fast, it could soon be game over for Europe.