Lloyds Banking Group seeks key ringfencing rule exemption

Lloyds Banking Group is seeking an exemption to one of the key measures of the UK's new ringfencing regime, as the country's big banks take radically different approaches to rules aimed at protecting taxpayers from future financial crises.

The Bank of England has given the banks until Tuesday to submit initial proposals for how they will restructure themselves to comply with rules forcing the separation of high street branch operations from investment banking activities by 2019.

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Lloyds' 150 ­page submission will seek a waiver on the requirement for its ringfenced entity to have a different board of directors to that of its parent group, said two people familiar with the situation.

The UK's largest bank by deposits argues that more than 90 per cent of its operations will be inside the new entity, making a separate board unnecessary.

The BoE requires any bank with more than £25bn of deposits to put its retail unit at arm's length from riskier operations. The separated operations must have different boards of directors, discrete funding and not be reliant on each other for vital services.

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But the regulator has left some room for flexibility, saying it will take a "proportionate" approach, which Lloyds hopes to capitalise on.

The big banks will outline contrasting structures to comply with the new rules.

Barclays and HSBC plan to put as little as possible into their ringfenced entities to boost the size of their remaining operations and lower their cost of funding. Barclays plans to keep its Barclaycard credit card unit and much of its corporate finance activities outside the new structure, said a person familiar with its proposal.

In contrast, Lloyds and Royal Bank of Scotland — the most UK ­focused lenders — are expected to present plans for a ringfence that is as broad as possible. All the banks declined to comment.

Both Lloyds and RBS are planning to keep IT and other vital services inside their ringfenced entities, arguing that the operations outside of them will not be systemically important enough to require access to the services on a standalone basis.

But Barclays and HSBC plan to set up separate subsidiaries to provide shared services that are vital to their operations both inside and outside the ringfence, such as IT systems and office management, said people familiar with their proposals. Santander UK is expected to rely on a subsidiary of its Spanish parent for IT services.

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The ringfence is being brought into force following recommendations in a report by Sir John Vickers in 2011 aimed at ensuring big retail banks are simpler in their make­up and easier to wind up in times of trouble.

The US and Europe are also considering structural reforms to prevent a repeat of the multibillion­-pound bailouts needed during the financial crisis six years ago.

Some banks, such as HSBC, have said the ringfencing requirements should be delayed as they clash with other regulatory actions, such as the UK Competition and Market Authority's review into current accounts and small business banking.

Omar Ali, UK head of banking and capital markets at EY, said: "2019 may seem a long way away, but unravelling decades of infrastructure, systems, processes and governance is complex, time­-consuming and expensive. Some are likely to need waivers to meet the timetable."

Douglas Flint, HSBC chairman, told the House of Lords' European economic and financial affairs subcommittee in October that he expected the UK ringfencing requirement to cost the bank £1bn- £2bn.

The Treasury said in July that it expected the reforms to cost all banks £1.8bn-­£3.9bn each year with an additional one-­off cost of £500m-­£3bn. Standard & Poor's, a credit-­rating agency, has warned that lenders could pass on the extra costs of the new rules to customers.