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RBA joins global bank-to-bank watchdog

RBA joins global bank-to-bank watchdog

Canberra Times          Gareth Hutchens          August 31, 2013

The Reserve Bank of Australia will form part of a high-level steering group of regulators and central banks that will review bank-to-bank lending practices in the wake of a series of rate-rigging scandals in Britain and Singapore.

The Swiss-based Financial Stability Board (FSB) has set up a steering group of central banks and global regulators to examine the ways in which key interest rate benchmarks - used by banks to lend money to each other - are set by banks in the financial markets.

Steering group members include representatives from the Reserve Bank of Australia, the US Federal Reserve, the Bank of England, the European Central Bank, and the Bank of Japan.

RBA assistant governor Dr Guy Debelle will represent Australia.

A smaller taskforce, comprised mostly of private sector banks, has also been established to see if current benchmarks are still fit for purpose.

Australia's representative on that taskforce is National Australia Bank's John Feeney, who is head of rates and credit at NAB's wholesale banking arm.

The news follows rate-rigging scandals that have rocked global money markets in the past year, with trillions of dollars in loans affected between banks and their customers.

Barclays, UBS and the Royal Bank of Scotland have been hit with fines totalling $2.5 billion for manipulating the London interbank offered rate, or Libor.

In June, Singapore's bank regulator censured 20 banks, including ANZ and Macquarie Bank, for trying to manipulate the country's interbank offered rate, called Sibor. Australia's bank bill swap rate (BBSW), the local equivalent of Libor, has already been affected by the fallout from the scandals.

Earlier this year, global investment banks with Australian satellites - such as Citigroup and HSBC - pulled out of the panel that sets the BBSW, forcing the Australian Financial Markets Association to change the way it is set.

In March AFMA confirmed the BBSW would no longer be set manually by a panel of bank representatives, but would be set automatically using electronic data drawn from financial markets.

The two systems are running in parallel at the moment, but if things go well, AFMA intends to switch completely to the new electronic system by the end of September.

The BBSW is the benchmark rate at which banks lend to each other. It is used to calculate rates that affect hundreds of billions of loans, from mortgages to business loans.

The FSB said on Friday that measures proposed by national regulators, international standard-setting bodies and central banks to restore oversight processes of benchmark rates ''need to be implemented with high priority and urgency''.

It will focus on interest rate benchmarks that are considered to play the most fundamental role in the global financial system.

The small taskforce - called the Market Participants Group - has been asked to submit a report that proposes options for ''robust'' reference interest rates that could serve as potential alternatives to existing Libor, Euribor, and Tibor benchmark rates.

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