SWIFT Sets Out Six Essentials for Financial Stability

A paper issued by the SWIFT Institute outlines six basic criteria the financial industry should embrace to achieve financial stability in a geographically integrated financial market.

Based on a theory of optimal financial areas (OFA), Professors Erik Jones and Geoffrey Underhill, revisit the European economic crisis and explain how such a crisis could be avoided in other integrated financial markets.

Drawing on lessons from the European crisis and from the experience of financial market integration within the UK, the US and Canada, the paper highlights the six criteria in the theory of ‘optimal’ financial areas and then explains the consequences of choosing to ignore or reject specific recommendations.

The six criteria include:

  1. A common risk-free asset (currency and debt instruments) to use as collateral for liquidity access and clearing as well as a refuge for capital ‘fleeing to quality’ in times of distress.
  2. A central system of sovereign debt management.
  3. Centralised counterparties such as exchanges, clearing agents, and depositories.
  4. A common framework for prudential oversight.
  5. Emergency liquidity provision that includes lender-of-last-resort facilities for the financial system and the sovereign.
  6. Common procedures and orderly resolution mechanisms for financial institutions and public entities.

“This list of institutional arrangements is not exhaustive but it does represent the greatest points of overlap between the national cases that we examine in the research,” said Professor Jones, of The Johns Hopkins University SAIS and Nuffield College.

“Based on the research, each criterion is a necessary ingredient of stability, and the synergetic combination of all six may be considered sufficient to provide stability.”

The first three criteria relate to the technical substructure of markets and serves as an ex ante underpinning for confidence in the financial system. The last three criteria relate to the challenge of preventing instability and active market stabilisation in times of distress.

According to the authors, the value-add of this framework is that it concentrates the debate on the political economy of finance, which focuses the attention on how the financial industry should be brought into the conversation in order to share best practice and to strengthen institutional design.

“What is true for Europe is true elsewhere as well,” said Professor Underhill, University of Amsterdam and SAIS Europe. “A theory of OFA could be applied to other parts of the globe where national policymakers seek to integrate financial markets either within or across national boundaries.

“This research offers the opportunity to help those policymakers engage in a transparent debate about the institutional preconditions for stable financial market integration. It offers a checklist of best practices and a cautionary note about the costs of non-compliance.”

A summary of the paper may be accessed here and a detailed copy is available from pressoffice@swift.com

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