Dutch bank ING warns against further ECB money printing

(Reuters) - The head of one of Europe’s largest banks, ING, has warned of the perils of central bank money printing, saying there is already enough cheap money available and that injecting more will do little to bolster weak confidence.

FILE PHOTO: The logo of ING bank is pictured at the entrance of the group's main office in Brussels, Belgium September 5, 2017. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir

Ralph Hamers made his plea as central banks redouble efforts to keep the cost of borrowing at historic lows to buoy the economy, a policy that weighs on bank profits and makes it costly to hold deposits.

“I don’t think QE is a recipe to support an uncertain environment,” Hamers told journalists, referring to so-called quantitative easing to print fresh money. “There is no shortage of money in the market.”

Although bankers have previously made similar complaints, Hamers’ blunt comments carry weight because his bank is one of Europe’s largest, with 38 million customers.

ING INGA.AS, the largest Dutch bank, cautioned on Thursday that rock-bottom interest rates would pressure future earnings, as it announced a 1.4 billion euro (£1.28 billion) net profit in the second quarter of the year.

“Looking ahead, we expect that persistently low interest rates will put pressure on net interest income,” Hamers said, referring to the bank’s chief earnings pillar from activities such as lending.

European Central Bank President Mario Draghi has all but pledged to loosen monetary policy further amid a continued economic deterioration of Europe’s euro currency bloc, still grappling with the aftermath of a debt crisis.

Officials recently told Reuters that an interest rate cut in September appeared certain, while government bond buys were also likely. Draghi recently said the outlook looked bleak as a global trade war hit Europe’s manufacturers.

Earlier this week, U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell cited signs of a global slowdown and U.S. trade tensions in explaining the central bank’s decision to lower borrowing costs for the first time since 2008.

ING also announced that it was bolstering its staff and systems to tackle money laundering, a factor that increased costs.

Hamers said these measures had led to the closure of some customer accounts and that the bank was using machine learning and artificial intelligence to prevent money laundering.

Last year, ING admitted criminals had laundered money through its accounts and the bank agreed to pay a 775 million euro penalty.

Dutch prosecutors had highlighted a series of lapses that they said followed years in which ING put profit ahead of controls, leaving the compliance department understaffed and able only to investigate the “tip of the iceberg”.

Reporting by John O’Donnell; Editing by Sherry Jacob-Phillips, David Holmes and Dale Hudson