The vestiges of nationalism and monetary sovereignty have not entirely faded from view in the European Union’s (EU) quest for a single market with a single currency, according to a report by TowerGroup. As a result, banking markets continue to vary significantly from one EU nation to another, according to the report, which added that for the consumer, retail banking remains a highly localized state of affairs. The overall trend among the EU15 is toward consolidation and restructuring to purge excess capacity from the banking systems. However, the profit margins of the largest banks in the EU15 have been under heavy pressure, particularly on the wholesale and commercial side, said TowerGroup. Retail banking remains a bright spot among the banks generally. One subject that will have a tremendous influence on the retail banking sector over the foreseeable future is pension plan reform, said the report. State-sponsored pension plans are under enormous pressure as birth rates decline across the EU15 and senior citizens enjoy greater longevity. As government-sponsored pension schemes are reformed and reconstituted, employers and, by default, employees will be required to save and invest for retirement purposes, according to TowerGroup’s findings.
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