Europe's banks lobby for greater control of ECB's Target2-Securities system

Europe's banks have come out in support of the European Central Bank's (ECB) controversial plans to implement an integrated securities settlement system in the euro zone, but only if they have more control over the project.

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Europe's banks lobby for greater control of ECB's Target2-Securities system

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The pan-European system - dubbed Target2-securities (T2S) - would connect all clearing networks in the euro zone into a single platform, extending the payments system used for central bank operations to cover securities settlements. The ECB believes an integrated securities settlement infrastructure in the euro zone could cut settlement costs by up to 90%.

In a statement the European Credit Sector Association (ECSA) - which comprises of The European Banking Federation (EBF), The European Savings Banks Group (ESBG) and The European Association of Co-operative Banks (EACB) - says it strongly supports the project, but its backing is conditional on a number of factors, including the close involvement of banks in the design and implementation of the system.

"In view of their very direct interest in seeing this project succeed, banks would expect to be closely involved in the governance of the project, during both the design and build and during the operational phase," says ECSA in a statement.

ECSA also wants banks to have direct access to T2S - in contrast to the ECB's current plans which suggest that only national settlement companies would have access to the system.

The lobby group also says it would also expect the banking industry to be represented in a tri-partite steering group and have direct access to the governing council of the ECB. Currently it is thought that a governing council would be responsible for high-level decisions regarding the pan-European system and that banks would be represented by an advisory board.

The ECSA's request will add some weight to calls earlier this month by the European Central Securities Depositories Association (ECSDA) - a trade association of 42 settlement bodies - for the ECB to postpone the plans and conduct further study and consultation.

The ECSA agres that further consultation and impact assessment of the project is required, and says this should focus on competition issues (including potential conflicts of interest), governance and user requirements.

Earlier this month EU finance ministers reportedly called for the ECB to undertake another feasibility study and provide a business case for the integrated settlement infrastructure. Finance members in a number of EU member states - the UK, the Netherlands, Belgium and Sweden - reportedly raised fears about the scheme, including concerns that the settlement system could become a public monopoly.

The ECB expects a decision on Target2-securities by its governing council in March.

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