Is the IMF wrong on banks?

Christine St Anne  |  22/11/2012Text size  Decrease  Increase  |  
Christine St Anne: The International Monetary Fund, or IMF, has recently called for greater controls on Australian Banks. Today I'm joined by Morningstar's David Ellis to discuss whether the IMF's concerns are justified. David welcome.

David Ellis: It's a pleasure, Christine.

St Anne: David, the IMF has called for banks to hold more capital. What is your view?

Ellis: Christine, I've got a very strong view and I think the IMF is wrong. I don't think the Australian Banks necessarily need to hold more capital for the reasons outlined by the IMF. Over the last three or four years, the four major Australian banks have increased their capital level significantly for a number of reasons, but the most important was getting over the global financial crisis particularly in 2008 and then in 2009.

The capital levels now are about 1.5 times higher than they were going into the GFC. The new capital global capital rules, applied from the 1st of January 2013, these are far stricter rules and the four major Australian banks have already exceeded the new minimum requirements and the bank regulator, the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA), has required the four major Australian banks to be fully compliant on the 1 January 2013 rather than a staged process or a staged period running out for three or four years.

St Anne: David, do you think that banks should implement greater stress testing as suggested by the IMF?

Ellis: Well, the banks always, have always and continue to undertake stress tests. They have done this in conjunction with Australian Regulator, APRA, and they have the details of the testing as confidential, however, I would estimate that the stress testing has become tougher and tougher and more robust. So by itself I don't see a need to say that stress testing needs to be done by the Australian banks. They have always done stress testing. They will always continue to stress test their business models.

Of course, there is good reason to continue to make it tougher, this stress testing. So I don't disagree with the need to continue, but it's not something new. They've always done it. APRA is heavily involved in that process. I think it's an evolving concept that they will continue to do more sophisticated stress testing and that ultimately leads to better and stronger banks.

St Anne: The IMF has also suggested that banks share the cost of the government’s guarantee. Is that justified?

Ellis: Well, that's a tough one. I struggle with that. I think in the end, unfortunately, the consumer will pay, no matter whether the government forces a fee or a charge on to the Australia banks for providing the deposits or guarantee. If the Australian government does go down that path and does raise it, a fee, I would imagine that the banks would pass it through to consumers one way or the other. It may not be a specific standalone charge or fee, but the banks will recoup it from their consumers.
St Anne: Finally, David, do you think that the banks are well placed if we do have another market crisis?

Ellis: Well, the four major banks have never been in a stronger position. Never been in a stronger position. As I mentioned earlier, the capital levels are 50 per cent higher than they were pre-GFC. The funding and liquidity levels are significantly higher. The reliance on short-term wholesale funding has decreased.

Wholesale funding has become longer maturity term in wholesale funding. The proportion of customer deposits to total funding has increased. It's running now between 50 per cent and 60 per cent. So capital levels are higher. So obviously, there is no guarantee we won't have another global financial crisis, but the Australian banks are in a far stronger position. We say with increasing confidence and increasing certainty that the Australian banks, the four major banks will actually have a surplus of capital in maybe 12 to 18 months' time, and we believe that the four major banks will be returning surplus capital to shareholders in 12 to 18 months’ time, which is far, far, far different to the IMF’s position that the Australian banks need additional capitals also.

St Anne: David thanks so much for your insights today.

Ellis: It's a pleasure Christine.  

Video Archive...

Earnings season FY17 mixed bag so far
18/08/2017  Aside from a few high-profile earnings guidance misses, large-cap stocks are doing okay as FY17 reporting season passes halfway, says AMP chief economist Shane Oliver.
Rio Tinto posts mixed result for 1H17
10/08/2017  An interim result of US$3.9 billion in net profits after tax for one of the world's largest mining companies was positive but slightly weaker than expected, even alongside a record dividend, explains Morningstar's Mat Hodge.
Kerr Neilson on why global investment exposure is key
07/08/2017  There are two types of investors, regardless of market noise, imputation credits, diversification approaches and market indices, says the managing director of Platinum Asset Management.
Finding fixed income opportunities in new paradigm
02/08/2017  Slowing economic growth in the US and parts of Europe emphasises the need to carefully select credit opportunities, says Vincent Reinhart, chief economist, Standish Mellon Asset Management.
Exclusive: An interview with Westpac CEO, Brian Hartzer - Part 3
20/07/2017  Insights on Australia's housing market, China's effect on domestic banks, and cyber-security readiness, in the final instalment of Brian Hartzer's interview with Morningstar's David Ellis.
Telstra won't be blown away by headwinds
17/07/2017  While it faces what Morningstar equity analyst Brian Han describes as a whirlwind of negatives, he suggests investors shouldn’t hang up on Telstra.
Exclusive: An interview with Westpac CEO, Brian Hartzer - Part 2
13/07/2017  Westpac CEO Brian Hartzer joins Morningstar banking analyst David Ellis to discuss digital disruption, regulatory change and Australian banks' social license.
The home-truths of investing
12/07/2017  Look for companies that sit outside the cycle; heed the lessons of history; and remember the power of compounding, says Bennelong's Neale Goldston-Morris.
Exclusive: An interview with Westpac CEO, Brian Hartzer - Part 1
06/07/2017  Brian Hartzer, CEO, Westpac joins Morningstar senior analyst David Ellis to discuss his role leading Australia's oldest bank, how Westpac can continue to grow value, and its commitment to sustainability.
Self-managed super is not Do-it-yourself
03/07/2017  There are a few common pitfalls in running a self-managed super fund that mean trustees shouldn't go it alone entirely, says BT Financial Group's head of financial literacy, Bryan Ashenden.
Investing to protect on the downside
30/06/2017  There are investment strategies you can adopt to mitigate volatility-linked fear and uncertainty in markets, explains Roy Maslen, chief investment officer – Australian equities, AllianceBernstein.
Don’t overdo benchmark consideration
28/06/2017  Being benchmark agnostic is the most effective approach to fixed income investing, according to Anujeet Sareen, portfolio manager, Brandywine Global.
Factor-based investing using ETFs
26/06/2017  Investors should consider style-exposures--such as value, defensive or yield-- they would like in their portfolios, explains Jonathan Shead, head of portfolio strategists – Asia Pacific, State Street Global Advisors
Volatility plays to active manager strengths
--  The climate of political volatility in the US holds important implications for investors and the funds they invest in, particularly around Donald Trump's ability to pass legislation through Congress, says Pimco's Libby Cantrill.
Is the FTSE 100 Facing Another Market Crash?
16/06/2017  Ten years on from the pre-crisis FTSE 100 high, Morningstar UK's Emma Wall examines how UK stocks have fared
How to guard against retirement threats
16/06/2017  As retirement approaches, even the best-laid plans can go awry, as Tim Steffen tells Christine Benz, Morningstar US.
PIMCO Global Credit Fund
07/06/2017  The PIMCO Global Credit strategy receives a Morningstar Analyst Rating of Silver due to its sizeable and highly capable credit research team.
PIMCO Income Fund
07/06/2017  Morningstar's Tim Wong looks at the strengths and competitive advantages of this Silver-rated strategy.
3 pockets of opportunity in fixed income
07/06/2017  The head of PIMCO Australia portfolio management explains his views on active management in fixed income and outlines where he sees most value in this space.
Trump administration biggest macro threat for investors
05/06/2017  Even as European political volatility subsides, the US Government remains a considerable threat to financial markets, says Colleen Barbeau, director of equity portfolio management, Franklin Templeton.