LONDON, July 8 The European Central Bank (ECB) is considering hiring separate consultants to test the quality of banks' assets in each of the 17 eurozone countries, along with a project manager to co-ordinate the effort from Frankfurt, sources familiar with the matter told Reuters.
The consultants are being brought on board because the ECB does not yet have the internal resources to carry out all the work itself, one of the sources said. The ECB declined to comment.
ECB governing council member Yves Mersch said on June 26 that the central bank would hire more than 1,000 staff when it takes over supervisory powers for the eurozone's banks next year.
But the ECB's "asset quality review" will be carried out before the central bank assumes its supervisory powers and before the majority of the staff are hired. Mersch also said consultants would do some of the work.
A source told Reuters that the ECB was considering using separate consultants in each of the eurozone countries, with all of the consultants channelling their information to a hub in Frankfurt.
The ECB is also considering hiring consultants to help manage the project from Frankfurt, another source said. Final decisions on the consultancy tenders may not be made until the ECB appoints a supervisory board for the single eurozone regulator, which may not happen until September.
The project, which encompasses 150 banks, is seen as being too large for a single consultant to take on, since the work will have to be completed in a matter of months.
The outcome of the ECB asset quality reviews will feed into the next round of pan-European banking stress tests, which will be carried out by the European Banking Authority in mid 2014 for all 27 EU countries.
The latest contracts will mark a boon for a consultancy industry that has already been paid tens of millions of euros for carrying out reviews of troubled banking sectors across Spain, Greece, Cyprus and Ireland.
Consultants who have already worked on European banking sector reviews include U.S.-based BlackRock, which carried out stress tests in Ireland and Greece, Pimco, which did due diligence work on the portfolios of Cyprus's banks, and Oliver Wyman, which carried out stress tests in Spain.