WSBI Board Meeting in Washington, D.C., October 2014
On the occasion of the Annual Meeting of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank, WSBI organised a range of meetings in Washington, D.C., including the annual WSBI-ESBG Cocktail Reception, WSBI Board meetings, encounters with political stakeholders, participation in IMF and World Bank discussions, and much more.
The events in Washington, D.C., started off with a gathering of WSBI members on 10 October for their Board of Directors meeting. Members discussed important regulatory issues and emphasised how a higher leverage ratio than the Basel Committee’s currently recommended 3% limit would exert negative effects. They also made strategic choices on 2015 WSBI activities: WSBI will focus on further representing the voice of savings and retail banks at international level by actively contributing towards shaping international political debates. Also, new regional activities and conferences will be organised to promote the exchange on opportunities and challenges for retail banking, such as in the field of innovation and digital banking. A major event will be the World Congress, which will take place on 24-25 September in Washington, D.C., to the theme “Main Street Banking in a Digitised World”. Finally, WSBI will continue to pursue its commitment via the Marrakech Declaration towards financial inclusion by advancing financial access with an affordable and quality product and service offer that meets the needs of the underserved and unbanked.
A highlight of the WSBI Board meeting was the participation of Maria Contreras-Sweet, Administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), who shared her insights on challenges and possibilities of financing SMEs and the real economy in the long term. Indeed, the SBA plays an important role in providing loans, grants and assistance to US small businesses and consequently has been raised to cabinet level. Ms. Contreras-Sweet stressed that a two-tiered banking system is vital and proportionality should apply to local and community banks. She further highlighted the importance of “ownership” for SMEs, making bank finance an essential and reliable partner which cannot be fully substituted by capital market based financing.
IIn the evening, members and other representatives of the financial and policy sector were invited to the WSBI-ESBG Cocktail Reception. With around 200 people present, the W Hotel provided an excellent view over Washington, D.C., and allowed for interesting discussions and networking opportunities.
On 13 October, a WSBI delegation led by WSBI President Heinrich Haasis was received by IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde and José Viñals, Financial Counsellor and Director of the Monetary and Capital Markets Department. Ms Lagarde and Mr Viñals listened with interest to the positions and presentations of WSBI and supported the idea that savings and retail banks play a vital role as the backbone of regional economies. Indeed, President Haasis stressed that savings and retail banks finance an important part of the real economy and this role should not be harmed by “one size fits all” regulations.
Finally, WSBI gained interesting insights from participating in the Annual IMF and World Bank Meeting, which clearly showed the current global focus on finding solutions to fuel economic growth and enable inclusive growth reforms. Another big challenge is finding answers to how the role of banks is changing and how the future of finance will look. This is especially important in view of developments such as an expanding role of non-bank players, rapid technological change and digitisation, high regulatory demands, a low interest rate environment and the need to regain customer trust – to name only a few.
The next Annual meeting of the IMF and World Bank will be held on 9-11 October 2015 in Lima, Peru.