RBA’s new liquidity facility to support Basel-III norms

Basel-III implementations are kicking in and are hitting economies differently.

Take Australia’s case for instance whose regulator started work on getting Basel-III implemented in their banks. Under Basel-III we have two ratios to strengthen liqidity conditions of banks:

 The Liquidity Coverage Ratio requires a bank to hold sufficient high-quality liquid assets to cover its total net cash flows over 30 days;

the Net Stable Funding Ratio requires the available amount of stable funding to exceed the required amount of stable funding over a one-year period of extended stress.

Australia has begun work on this liquidity coverage ratio as it has to be done in a phased manner. The regulator has to start preparing banks for this new ratio in 2011 which is to be implemented by banks in 2015.

Australia faces a unique problem here. As it has a very low government debt, it does not have adequate government bonds which banks can put with the central bank for managing liquidity stress test. Hence, there is a need for a seperate liquidity facility for banks where RBA provides liquidity against collateral which is not accepted in normal times.

Here is RBA press release explaning the things:

The facility, which is required because of the limited amount of government debt in Australia, is designed to ensure that participating authorised deposit-taking institutions (ADIs) have enough access to liquidity to respond to an acute stress scenario, as specified under the liquidity standard.   

The CLF will enable participating ADIs to access a pre-specified amount of liquidity by entering into repurchase agreements of eligible securities outside the Reserve Bank’s normal market operations. To secure the Reserve Bank’s commitment, ADIs will be required to pay ongoing fees. The Reserve Bank’s commitment is contingent on the ADI having positive net worth in the opinion of the Bank, having consulted with APRA.

The facility will be at the discretion of the Reserve Bank. To be eligible for the facility, an ADI must first have received approval from APRA to meet part of its liquidity requirements through this facility. The facility can only be used to meet that part of the liquidity requirement agreed with APRA. APRA may also ask ADIs to confirm as much as 12 months in advance the extent to which they will be relying on a commitment from the Bank to meet their LCR requirement.

The fee will be 15 bps per annum depending on the conditional commitment. Even if the funding is unutilised, banks will have to pay for the whole committed amount. The eligible securities apart from usual government bonds are  certain related-party assets issued by bankruptcy remote vehicles, such as self-securitised residential mortgage-backed securities (RMBS).

There is a speech from RBA Deputy Gov which explains the facility more in details.

The issue in Australia is that there is a marked shortage of high quality liquid assets that are outside the banking sector (that is, not liabilities of the banks). As a result of prudent fiscal policy over a large run of years at both the Commonwealth and state level, the stock of Commonwealth and state government debt is low. At the moment, the gross stock of Commonwealth debt on issue amounts to around 15 per cent of GDP, state government debt (semis) is around 12 per cent of GDP.[1] These amounts fall well short of the liquidity needs of the banking system. To give you some sense of the magnitudes, the banking system in Australia is around 185 per cent of nominal GDP. If we assume that banks’ liquidity needs under the liquidity coverage ratio (LCR) may be in the order of 20 per cent of their balance sheet, then they need to hold liquid assets of nearly 40 per cent of GDP.

In addition to government debt, the Basel standard also includes balances at the central bank in its definition of high-quality liquid assets (level 1 assets in the Basel terminology). That is, the banks’ exchange settlement (ES) balances at the RBA are also a liquid asset. Hence, one possible solution to the shortage of level 1 assets would be for banks to significantly increase the size of their ES balances to meet their liquidity needs. While this is possible, it would mean that the RBA’s balance sheet would increase considerably. The RBA would have to determine what assets it would be willing to hold against the increase in its liabilities, and would be confronted by the same problem of the shortage of assets in Australia outside the banking system. Similarly, the government could increase its debt issuance substantially with the sole purpose of providing a liquid asset for the banking system to hold. Again, it would be confronted with the problem of which assets to buy with the proceeds of its increased debt issuance. Moreover, it would be a perverse outcome for the liquidity standard to be dictating a government’s debt strategy.

However, the Basel Committee acknowledges that there are jurisdictions such as Australia where there is a clear shortage of high quality liquid assets. In such circumstances, the liquidity standard allows for a committed liquidity facility to be provided by the central bank against eligible collateral to enable banks to meet the LCR.

Really an interesting and envious situation for Australia.

In other countries there is no such problem with debt rising several times in the crisis. Infact, the government can actually say that look our rising debt is not a necessary bad. It is a good as well, as it will help our banks meet all these Basel -III ratios (ofcourse they assume that their debt is good collateral).


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