UK banks get three months to detail plans

Britain has given its banks three months to show how they plan to protect their retail customers from riskier parts of their operations.

The Bank of England is forcing lenders to set up a boundary around their high street operations in an effort to protect taxpayers from any repetition of the multi- billion pound bailouts of investment banking operations that occurred during the financial crisis.

The changes, which will come into effect by 2019, mean that banks must submit preliminary plans by January 6, 2015, the Bank of England said yesterday.

But it did not clarify a point that banks had been worrying about — whether they needed to hold more capital in the ring-fenced domestic bank, or whether leverage ratios would be different. Those details will come later, it said.

The BoE, whose Prudential Regulation Authority arm regulates banks and insurers, also published consultation papers for other safeguards that were stricter than European Union rules in some cases.

It is also proposing that if a bank goes bust, its accounts should be transferred to another lender within a day so that customers could continue to withdraw their money and use their cards without interruption instead of having to wait for compensation.

The change is expected some time in 2016.

The aim is to prevent a repeat of the chaos seen when Northern Rock hit trouble in 2007 at the start of a global financial crisis, triggering the first run on a British bank in over a century as customers queued to withdraw their money.

The BoE’s proposals move towards the US model for speedy resolutions of troubled banks, and go further than European Union rules that give customers an automatic right to have all their money up to £85,000 refunded within seven working days from January 2024.

The BoE also said it would protect depositors for up to £1m if they temporarily had higher savings, such as while they were moving house or getting compensation for a personal injury. Savers would be covered for the extra cash for six months.

And it said holders of insurance policies for annuities, protection against accidental death or injury, and incapacity and professional indemnity should receive 100% compensation from July 2015, up from 90% now.

Britain’s government wants retail banking operations separated so they can survive any problems in another part of a bank, and allow any bank that hits trouble to be dismantled more easily. Other countries, including the United States and Singapore, are also attempting to better shield domestic units.


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