EU regulator aims to create bankers database

Picture: Neil Hanna

Picture: Neil Hanna

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The European Union is to start sharing information on how bankers fare in “fitness and probity” tests in member states, making it harder for them to evade regulatory scrutiny by crossing national borders.

Isabel Vaillant, regulation director at the European Banking Authority (EBA), said work will begin on the new database next year, ending the current system of ad hoc sharing between national authorities.

The database will contain details of national supervisors’ assessments of newly appointed bank directors, senior management and divisional heads.

In the wake of the global financial crisis, when bankers such as former Royal Bank of Scotland chief Fred Goodwin were blamed for taking their institutions – and in some cases their national economies – to the brink of collapse, the register is part of a wider effort to standardise the way EU member states decide which bankers are fit and proper for the job.

The EBA lacks the power to compel countries to set the same standards for bankers across the EU, but has brought in new guidelines on how countries should evaluate bankers’ suitability and will “name and shame” countries that do not comply, Vaillant said.

Although the database could not include information obtained from the police, she said it would include details collected by supervisors, including if candidates had received regulatory approval for a role.

All the authorities will have to consult the database when they are assessing candidates who present themselves for new roles which come under that country’s fitness and probity regime, a group that usually includes directors, senior managers and heads of major divisions.

National authorities in the 28 EU member states will have to submit information to the centralised system, but a regulator’s refusal to allow a candidate to take a position in one country will not automatically mean a rejection in another.

Most EU countries have signalled their intention to comply with the guidelines. Vaillant hopes they will be implemented effectively within the next two years.

Though the guidelines are not binding, she said the ability to name and shame was a form of policing. It is not yet clear whether the European Central Bank (ECB) will be able to enforce fitness and probity rules once it takes over supervision of the eurozone’s banks.

Pierre-Henri Conac, an expert in EU banking law with Luxembourg’s university, said the ECB could go further under a clause of the single supervisory mechanism legislation that empowers the central bank to establish adequate corporate governance at the banks it supervises.

He added: “The ECB is entitled to make a new review of fitness and probity, and I think they will do it.”

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