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Canada banks to follow Basel leverage guideline -regulator

Tuesday, 14 Jan 2014 | 1:26 PM ET

TORONTO, Jan 14 (Reuters) - Canada's bank regulator will force the country's lenders to adopt a global leverage standard put in place by the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision, but will not follow the lead of the United States by requiring the banks to go above the Basel requirement.

The adoption of the Basel Committee's leverage ratio requirement - which forces a bank to hold capital equivalent to 3 percent of its assets - will replace the previous Canadian measure, known as the asset-capital multiple requirement, Mark Zelmer, Canada's Deputy Superintendent of Financial Institutions, said at a conference Tuesday.

The standard is the latest of several being put in place by the Basel Committee in the wake of the financial crisis.

However, Zelmer said OSFI will not follow the lead of the United States and other jurisdictions, which are aiming for a standard higher than the 3 percent Basel minimum.

"There are some fundamental differences between Canadian and foreign banking systems, notably in mortgage finance, which argue for lower leverage requirements for Canadian banks," Zelmer told the RBC Capital Markets Canadian Bank CEO Conference in Toronto.

Canada's big banks escaped the financial crisis relatively unscathed due in part to generally conservative lending practices, and industry players argue the high proportion of government-guaranteed mortgages in the system help offset risks.

OSFI will implement the new standards in 2015, and guidelines will be issued later this year, Zelmer said.