A prominent global banking figure is calling on banks to continue to hold off on capital distributions such as dividends and share repurchases.
Carolyn Rogers, secretary general of the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision, said in an interview with The Financial Times that she thinks banks should continue to limit distributions until there is less uncertainty.
Rogers told the newspaper:
We are all in this suspended reality. As government support programs expire, some businesses and households will fare better than others, there will be losses and the scale is not clear at this point. There is a long way to go.
The Basel Committee on Banking Supervision is an organization that discusses and suggests global banking regulations related to bank capital and liquidity. The policies and decisions the committee comes up with are not requirements, but more like strong recommendations to central banks and other regulators. The committee has 45 member central banks and bank supervisors from 28 jurisdictions.
Since the coronavirus pandemic struck the economy in March, the large U.S. banks have suspended stock buybacks. After the second quarter, the Federal Reserve made it official, banning stock buybacks for banks with more than $100 billion in assets, and capping dividends.
But since that time, banks, spurred by improving economic conditions and minimal loan losses, have been champing at the bit to restart their buyback plans to boost their depressed stock prices.
Currently, U.S. banks are undergoing a second round of stress testing during which time the Fed will determine if banks have enough capital on hand to survive and continue lending in a series of adverse economic scenarios.
The results of this stress testing, which are expected before the first quarter of 2021, will play a role in determining whether banks can return to stock buybacks and increase their dividends.