Datum 28 September 2005 Finansinspektionen Talare Hans Bäckström Möte Nordic Forum 2005, Grand Hotel, Stockholm

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1 ANFÖRANDE Datum 28 September 2005 Finansinspektionen Talare Hans Bäckström Möte Nordic Forum 2005, Grand Hotel, Stockholm P.O. Box 6750 SE Stockholm [Sveavägen 167] Tel Fax First of all, thanks for inviting me and letting me open up this conference. As far as I can see from the programme it will cover a wide array of aspects of financial market developments and different strategies for working in these markets. So it may be worthwhile for me to briefly discuss some common denominators to all the various issues that the conference will touch upon. When looking at the prospects for the financial sector at large, it s natural to focus both on the macroecomic environment, which sets the framework for market developments in the shorter perspective, and on some structural changes that determines the longer term trends. THE MACROECONOMIC ENVIRONMENT What is happening on the macroeconimc scene is, and has always been, extremely important for the performance of the financial sector, and not least when it comes to financial stability historically, most of the financial crises that have occurred in different countries at different times have been closely connected to macroeconomic developments (and disasters) and to changes in economic policy. The banking crises here in Sweden in the early 1990 s is a good and clear example. So it s necessary for us at FI to follow what s happen- 1(8)

2 ing also on the macroeconomic side, althought we re not in the forecasting business ourselves. Recently, the National Institute for Economic Research (Konjunkturinstitutet), as well as some of the major banks have published their forecasts for the Swedish economy. Concerning the global economy, the IMF published their World Economic Outlook last week, and their Financial Stability Report two weeks ago. For the global economy, the IMF forsee a slightly lower growth for the US economy. The forecast is 3,3 percent in GDP-growth for next year, compared to 3,5 percent this year. For the euro area, the growth is expected to increase somewhat, from a low 1,2 to 1,8 percent. Concerning the inflation and unemployment figures, changes are expected to be marginal. Concerning the financial markets, the IMF sees the situation as basically very healthy, with modest but steady real growth, low and stable inflation, low interest rates, improved profitability and generally stronger balance sheets in both the financial and non-financial sectors. The IMF also notes a trend, that I think is important, towards more stable financial market conditions in the emerging economies. There are of course risks in this picture, as always. The most obvious ones are the increasing current-account imbalances, which at some stage will have repercussions on the currency market, and household sector indebtedness growing very high (especially in the US, but also elsewhere, e.g. in Sweden). But the risk of severe stability problems arising from this is regarded by the IMF as small, at least in a shorter perspective. So, what the IMF says is basically that: a) The risk for market disturbances is small, and b) should they occur, the capacity to withstand shocks is good. 2

3 Turning to the Swedish economy, the picture is broadly the same; after slowing down the first half of this year, growth is picking up, and is expected to do so also during next year. The forecast from National Institute of Economic Reserch, published a couple of weeks ago, forsee a GDP- growth this year around 2,5 percent, increasing to 2,9 percent next year. Inflation is expected to increase slightly as growth picks up, and so will both short-term and long term interst rates. The national institute expects the repo-rate to be 2,25 percent by the end of 2006 (compared to 1,5 percent right now), and a ten year bond rate at 4,3 percent. The financial sector is characterized by stabilty in Sweden also. Especially the banks show good profitability and good capitalisation. Likewise, the outlook is positive. And from a stability perspective which is our prime focus it is hard to see any real problems emerging. In our forthcoming stability report, which will be public on October 18, we will discuss these issues more in depth. So, the overall situation is indeed very good. No severe threats are in sight. Still, disasters that are complete impossible to forsee can always occur like earthquakes, terrorist attacks, computer systems collapsing etc. But looking at the factors that can be monitored and assessed with reasonable accuracy, the prospects are indeed very good. And the generally good profitability and good capitalisation that characterises both financial and non-financial firms, also provides cushions, if things should go wrong. So, in the absense of obvious short-run risks, the structural issues becomes more interesting. 3

4 SOME STRUCTURAL TENDENCIES Turning to a more long-run perspective, its easy to see that financial markets and financials services have gone through drastic structural changes in recent years. There has been a number driving forces behind this, but at least three major ones could be pointed out: changes in demand, technological developments and regulatory changes. Concerning changes in demand we find, for example, demographical changes that affect the demand for pensions and how to organise and fund these systems. We have seen changing needs for financing from the corporate sector. We also have better informed and more demanding customers, both firms and households, creating a growing market for more sophisticated and more diversified financial products and instruments. Concerning technology, financial services is one of the areas most affected by IT in general and by the Internet in particular. As you all know, this have meant new and more efficient ways of producing, distributing and packaging financial services. The third factor, regulatory change, has meant that the financial sector has turned from being a sheltered market with very low degree of competition, to a competitive market. Free trade on global markets is now a fact of life for large and growing segments the financial industry. This has obvious advantages for the consumers and for the economies in general, just like free trade on any other market. I think it s fair to say that the emergence of global, competitive financial markets is one of the most important economic achievements we have witnessed over the last decades. 4

5 This doesn t mean that this development is free from problems and drawbacks. For example, financial risks and the management of those risks do become more complicated in certain respects, not least from a supervisory perspective. Regulators and supervisors usually performs as professional pessimists, but I think it is important to state that the development towards more competetive and globalised financial markets is basically something good that we should welcome, not something bad to be depressed and worried about. So regulatory changes has been an important generator for structural change. But here we may take one step back and ask why we have financial regulation and supervision in the first place what s so special about financial activity that justifies this special treatment? Some may say that its because financial activity is risky or that it is very important, or both. In a sense this is true, but neither riskiness, nor importance is something unique to the financial sector. So there is need for something more to provide a sufficient motive for us being in business. And here we find two issues that maked the case for public intervetion: the issue of systemic risk and the issue of protecting the consumer. Obviously, financial firms have good incentives for managing risk in fact, risk-management, in the wide sense, is basically what financial services is all about. But still there are systemic risks where firms do not have neither the incentives, nor the possibilities to act adequately to secure a well-functioning market. In other words, we have a case of market failure that needs to be addressed by public authorities in some fashion. 5

6 Turning to consumer protection, we face another kind of market failure. The complexity of many financial products tends to put the consumer in a weak position versus the producer, that may affect consumers negatively in various ways. This in turn may erode consumer s confidence towards the industry. And eroding confidence may affect both efficiency and stability in the financial markets in a negative way. So, fostering of systemic stability and consumer protection is the starting point for most public activity towards the financial sector, of which regulation and supervision are crucial parts. But the risks to the system and to the consumer are not something static, but constantly changing. Consequently, the supervisory response must change as well. And this is what we see today big changes in the regulatory frameworks surrounding all financial subsectors such as banks, insurance companies, investment firms etc. Moreover, and equally important, most changes is part of a European, and sometimes also global, process. THE REGULATORY AGENDA The reshaping of the regulatory frameworks has several drivers. One is to increase financial stability, another is to improve consumer protection, still another is to foster financial market integration by harmonising regulatory and supervisory standards within Europe. On the Swedish national level a number of regulatory changes have been made recently, for exampel the new banking legislation that was implemented last year. On the insurance side a number of regulatory measures have be taken, partly as a response to the problems in that sector that surfaced a few years ago, and there is more to come. 6

7 For banks and investment firms the introduction of the so called Basel II, effective from 2007 on, will hopefully imply both better transparency and a better and more effcient mangement of risks. It will also provide incentive for a more riskbased pricing of credit. Ultimately, it aims to reduce systemic risks and increase stability In the insurance field a similar process is under way within the EU through the work on the so called Solvency II -directive, which will later on materialize in new legislation. For the securities market, a number of directives have been issued and implemented for example the directive on prospectuses and on market abuse. Another important regulatory complex is the new directive on investment services, the so called MiFID, will come on stream next year, with numerous implications for all firms active in this area. And on top of that, new acoounting standards, the IAS or IFRS, have been implemented from this year on, with direct implications for all public companies, both financial and non-financial. Basically all this activity can be seen as a response to changes in the markets and in institutional settings that have taken place over the last years. Regulation must of course response to changes, and most of these changes do represent important steps forward. But regulation and changes in regulation also poses problems and risks. There are mainly two kinds of risks that we have to keep an eye on. 1. Overregulation : Regulation always implies costs. And to justify regulation one must be convinced that the benefits to society by in- 7

8 troducing a regulation are higher than these costs. It is not always easy to make well founded judgements here, and there are indeed often a risk that costs will be underestimated. Moreover, on an international level, for example within the EUframework, the process of negotiating on an harmonised regulation, often means that its easier, not least politically, to add a paragraph than to delete one when harmonising and integrating different national regulations. So this is an additional source of risk regarding overregulation. 2. Simultaneuos changes in a large number of regulatory fields - which we do see right now - can produce inconsistencies, unforseen cross-effects and uncertainity in markets. It is very hard to know, for us or for anyone, what the interaction would look like and what the cross-effects will be of, for example, the new accounting rules and Basle II. What we do know is that we have to keep a close eye on this. So, to conclude, one may say that the financial sector is going through an intense period of regulatory change, in response to years of changes in the markets.. This process will create opportunities but of course also some problems. Both supervisors and market participants need to follow this closely. But hopefully we can all find some comfort in the fact that these changes are taking place in a financially stable environment. 8

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