Exclusive: EU proposes a phasing in of some bank capital rules - document

LONDON (Reuters) - Banks in the European Union will get more time to adjust to new rules aimed at making sure that banks hold enough of a capital cushion against risky lending on their trading books, an EU document showed on Wednesday.

Dark clouds are seen over the skyline with its bank towers in Frankfurt, Germany, October 23, 2016. REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach

Earlier this year the Basel Committee of global banking regulators published final standards for their overhaul of capital requirements to cover market-related risks in trading books.

The EU is due to propose next month a law to implement this and other changes to capital requirements made by Basel.

But instead of accepting Basel’s “big bang” start date in 2019 for the trading book rules, the bloc’s executive European Commission is proposing a phase-in, a draft of the EU law seen by Reuters said.

“Own funds requirements for market risk... will be phased-in,” the document said.

Transitional arrangements will come as a relief to the banking sector.

It is the latest sign of how the EU is willing to deviate from global standards to ease pressure on lenders, some of which, like Monte dei Paschi di Siena BMPS.MI and Deutsche Bank DBKGn.DE, are struggling to convince investors that they hold enough capital.

Other changes to Basel’s standards include the easier treatment of covered bonds to “prevent a potential significant increase in the capital requirements” and maintain lower funding costs for mortgage loans for housing and non-residential property.

Capital requirements for sovereign debt held in the trading book could also be lower than required by Basel, a banking official said.

The draft law injects more flexibility into the so-called net stable funding ratio (NSFR) or buffer of high-quality bonds banks must hold from 2018 to help them weather market shocks without eating into their core capital buffers.

Banks won’t have to set aside specific funding to cover government bonds included in the NSFR, unlike Basel which requires funding equivalent to 5 percent of the bonds’ value.

The use of repurchase agreements or repos in the NSFR is also treated more leniently than under Basel.

However, the NSFR rules would over time be aligned with Basel unless EU banking regulators advised against this, the document said.

“It’s a pragmatic approach given the need for Europe to get off its knees and avoid damaging market liquidity,” a banker said. “They are trying to create a bit more breathing room in liquidity.”

Other standouts include allowing banks to account for initial margin or cash collected from customers to cover derivatives positions in a way that does not increase leverage and hence attract capital requirements.

Editing by Greg Mahlich