Effective supervision of banking organisations is an essential component of a strong economic environment in that the banking system plays a central role in making payments and mobilising and distributing savings. The task of supervision is to ensure that banks operate in a safe and sound manner and that they hold capital and reserves sufficient to support the risks that arise in their business. Strong and effective banking supervision provides a public good that may not be fully provided in the marketplace and, along with effective macroeconomic policy, is critical to financial stability in any country. While the cost of banking supervision is indeed high, the cost of poor supervision has proved to be even higher.
In drawing up these core principles for effective banking supervision the following precepts are fundamental:
- the key objective of supervision is to maintain stability and confidence in the financial system, thereby reducing the risk of loss to depositors and other creditors;
- supervisors should encourage and pursue market discipline by encouraging good corporate governance (through an appropriate structure and set of responsibilities for a bank's board of directors and senior management) and enhancing market transparency and surveillance;
- in order to carry out its tasks effectively, a supervisor must have operational independence, the means and powers to gather information both on and off site, and the authority to enforce its decisions;
- supervisors must understand the nature of the business undertaken by banks and ensure to the extent possible that the risks incurred by banks are being adequately managed;
- effective banking supervision requires that the risk profile of individual banks be assessed and supervisory resources allocated accordingly;
- supervisors must ensure that banks have resources appropriate to undertake risks, including adequate capital, sound management, and effective control systems and accounting records; and
- close cooperation with other supervisors is essential, particularly where the operations of banking organisations cross national boundaries.
Banking supervision should foster an efficient and competitive banking system that is responsive to the public's need for good quality financial services at a reasonable cost. Generally, it should be recognised that there is a trade-off between the level of protection that supervision provides and the cost of financial intermediation. The lower the tolerance of risk to banks and the financial system, the more intrusive and costly supervision is likely to be, eventually having an adverse effect on innovation and resource allocation.
Supervision cannot, and should not, provide an assurance that banks will not fail. In a market economy, failures are a part of risk-taking. The way in which failures are handled, and their costs borne, is in large part a political matter involving decisions on whether, and the extent to which, public funds should be committed to supporting the banking system. Such matters cannot therefore always be entirely the responsibility of banking supervisors; however, supervisors should have in place adequate arrangements for resolving problem bank situations.
There are certain infrastructure elements that are required to support effective supervision. Where such elements do not exist, supervisors should seek to persuade government to put them in place (and may have a role in designing and developing them). These elements are discussed in Section II.
In some countries responsibility for licensing banks is separate from the process of ongoing supervision. It is clearly essential that, wherever the responsibility lies, the licensing process establishes the same high standards as the process of ongoing supervision which is the main focus of this paper. Section III therefore discusses some principles and issues that should be addressed in the licensing process.
The core principles of banking supervision set out above and expanded in Sections IIIVI of this document will provide the foundation necessary to achieve a sound supervisory system. Local characteristics will need to be taken into account in the specific way in which these standards are implemented. These standards are necessary but may not be sufficient, on their own, in all situations. Supervisory systems should take into account the nature of and risks involved in the local banking market as well as more generally the local infrastructure. Each country should therefore consider to what extent it needs to supplement these standards with additional requirements to address particular risks and general conditions prevailing in its own market. Furthermore, banking supervision is a dynamic function that needs to respond to changes in the marketplace. Consequently supervisors must be prepared to reassess periodically their supervisory policies and practices in the light of new trends or developments. A sufficiently flexible legislative framework is necessary to enable them to do this.