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International Convergence of Capital Measurement and Capital Standards


1. This report presents the outcome of the Committee's work over several years to secure international convergence of supervisory regulations governing the capital adequacy of international banks. Following the publication of the Committee's proposals in December 1987, a consultative process was set in train in all G-10 countries and the proposals were also circulated to supervisory authorities worldwide. As a result of those consultations some changes were made to the original proposals. The present paper is now a statement of the Committee agreed by all its members. It sets out the details of the agreed framework for measuring capital adequacy and the minimum standard to be achieved which the national supervisory authorities represented on the Committee intend to implement in their respective countries. The framework and this standard have been endorsed by the Group of Ten central­bank Governors.

2. With a view to implementation as soon as possible, it is intended that national authorities should now prepare papers setting out their views on the timetable and the manner in which this accord will be implemented in their respective countries. This document is being circulated to supervisory authorities worldwide with a view to encouraging the adoption of this framework in countries outside the G-10 in respect of banks conducting significant international business.

3. Two fundamental objectives lie at the heart of the Committee's work on regulatory convergence. These are, firstly, that the new framework should serve to strengthen the soundness and stability of the international banking system; and secondly that the framework should be in fair and have a high degree of consistency in its application to banks in different countries with a view to diminishing an existing source of competitive inequality among international banks. The Committee notes that, in responding to the invitation to comment on its original proposals, banks have welcomed the general shape and rationale of the framework and have expressed support for the view that it should be applied as uniformly as possible at the national level.

4. Throughout the recent consultations, close contact has been maintained between the Committee in Basle and the authorities of the European Community in Brussels who are pursuing a parallel initiative to develop a common solvency ratio to be applied to credit institutions in the Community. The aim has been to ensure the maximum degree of consistency between the framework agreed in Basle and the framework to be applied in the Community. It is the Committee's hope and expectation that this consistency can be achieved, although it should be noted that regulations in the European Community are designed to apply to credit institutions generally, whereas the Committee's framework is directed more specifically with banks undertaking international business in mind.

5. In developing the framework described in this document the Committee has sought to arrive at a set of principles which are conceptually sound and at the same time pay due regard to particular features of the present supervisory and accounting systems in individual member countries. It believes that this objective has been achieved. The framework provides for a transitional period so that the existing circumstances in different countries can be reflected in flexible arrangements that allow time for adjustment.

6. In certain very limited respects (notably as regards some of the risk weightings) the framework allows for a degree of national discretion in the way in which it is applied. The impact of such discrepancies on the overall ratios is likely to be negligible and it is not considered that they will compromise the basic objectives. Nevertheless, the Committee intends to monitor and review the application of the framework in the period ahead with a view to achieving even greater consistency.

7. It should be stressed that the agreed framework is designed to establish minimum levels of capital for internationally active banks. National authorities will be free to adopt arrangements that set higher levels.

8. It should also be emphasised that capital adequacy as measured by the present framework, though important, is one of a number of factors to be taken into account when assessing the strength of banks. The framework in this document is mainly directed towards assessing capital in relation to credit risk (the risk of counterparty failure) but other risks, notably interest rate risk and the investment risk on securities, need to be taken into account by supervisors in assessing overall capital adequacy. The Committee is examining possible approaches in relation to these risks. Furthermore, and more generally, capital ratios, judged in isolation, may provide a misleading guide to relative strength. Much also depends on the quality of a bank's assets and, importantly, the level of provisions a bank may be holding outside its capital against assets of doubtful value. Recognising the close relationship between capital and provisions, the Committee will continue to monitor provisioning policies by banks in member countries and will seek to promote convergence of policies in this field as in other regulatory matters. In assessing progress by banks in member countries towards meeting the agreed capital standards, the Committee will therefore take careful account of any differences in existing policies and procedures for setting the level of provisions among countries' banks and in the form in which such provisions are constituted.

9. The Committee is aware that differences between countries in the fiscal treatment and accounting presentation for tax purposes of certain classes of provisions for losses and of capital reserves derived from retained earnings may to some extent distort the comparability of the real or apparent capital positions of international banks. Convergence in tax regimes, though desirable, lies outside the competence of the Committee and tax considerations are not addressed in this paper. However, the Committee wishes to keep these tax and accounting matters under review to the extent that they affect the comparability of the capital adequacy of different countries' banking systems.

10. This agreement is intended to be applied to banks on a consolidated basis, including subsidiaries undertaking banking and financial business. At the same time, the Committee recognises that ownership structures and the position of banks within financial conglomerate groups are undergoing significant changes. The Committee will be concerned to ensure that ownership structures should not be such as to weaken the capital position of the bank or expose it to risks stemming from other parts of the group. The Committee will continue to keep these developments under review in the light of the particular regulations in member countries, in order to ensure that the integrity of the capital of banks is maintained. In the case of several of the subjects for further work mentioned above, notably investment risk and the consolidated supervision of financial groups, the European Community has undertaken or is undertaking work with similar objectives and close liaison will be maintained.

11. This document is divided into four sections. The first two describe the framework: Section I the constituents of capital and Section II the risk weighting system. Section III deals with the target standard ratio; and Section IV with transitional and implementing arrangements.


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