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Financial Planning > Tax Planning

Basel III: The Mystery

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Basel III seems to be so important and all-encompassing that it could affect anything, and everything, but insurance policy watchers are still pondering the implications.

The “group of governors and heads of supervision,” the body that oversees the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision, Basel, Switzerland, announced Sunday that it has endorsed the bank capital standards it released in July.

The full text of the standards approved by the Basel Committee board does not yet appear to be available, according to the Basel III Compliance Professionals Association, Washington.

But the Basel Committee board has increased the minimum ratio of common equity to risk-adjusted assets to 7%, from 2% today. The total will include an increase in the ratio of “core tier 1 capital,” or “common equity after deductions,” to risk-adjusted assets to 4.5%, from 2%, and the addition of a new 2.5% “capital conservation buffer.”

In countries where credit bubbles appear to be forming, banks will have to hold an additional “countercyclical buffer” of up to 2.5%, and “systemically important banks” are supposed to have extra loss-absorbing capacity, officials say.

World regulators are supposed to phase in the new capital requirements over a 2-year period starting Jan. 1, 2013.

The new capital standards could affect insurers by reducing access to bank capital and creating opportunities for insurers to compete against banks as a source of financing.

The new standards also could affect the acquisition value of large insurers, because the new standards are supposed to keep banks from letting more than 15% of the common equity included in official capital-to-asset ratios come from deferred tax assets, mortgage servicing rights and investments in financial institutions. World regulators are supposed to complete phasing in the 15% limit by January 2018.

The International Association of Insurance Supervisors, Basel, which is a member of the 17-month-old world Financial Stability Board, Basel, along with the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision and other groups, is developing the Common Assessment Framework for Internationally Active Insurance Groups, or ComFrame. The Basel III effort could affect the ComFrame project.

The Financial Services Roundtable, Washington, a group that represents large financial institutions, including large insurers, says regulators should weigh efforts to increase capital requirements against the importance of lending.

“Every dollar of capital is one less dollar working in the economy,” the group says.

U.S. banks will face requirements imposed by the new Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act as well as the new Basel III requirements, the group says.


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