Capital requirement

Last updated

A capital requirement (also known as regulatory capital or capital adequacy) is the amount of capital a bank or other financial institution has to have as required by its financial regulator. This is usually expressed as a capital adequacy ratio of equity as a percentage of risk-weighted assets. These requirements are put into place to ensure that these institutions do not take on excess leverage and become insolvent. Capital requirements govern the ratio of equity to debt, recorded on the liabilities and equity side of a firm's balance sheet. They should not be confused with reserve requirements, which govern the assets side of a bank's balance sheet—in particular, the proportion of its assets it must hold in cash or highly-liquid assets. Capital is a source of funds not a use of funds.

Bank financial institution

A bank is a financial institution that accepts deposits from the public and creates credit. Lending activities can be performed either directly or indirectly through capital markets. Due to their importance in the financial stability of a country, banks are highly regulated in most countries. Most nations have institutionalized a system known as fractional reserve banking under which banks hold liquid assets equal to only a portion of their current liabilities. In addition to other regulations intended to ensure liquidity, banks are generally subject to minimum capital requirements based on an international set of capital standards, known as the Basel Accords.

Financial institution institution that provides financial services for its clients or members

Financial institutions, otherwise known as banking institutions, are corporations that provide services as intermediaries of financial markets. Broadly speaking, there are three major types of financial institutions:

  1. Depository institutions – deposit-taking institutions that accept and manage deposits and make loans, including banks, building societies, credit unions, trust companies, and mortgage loan companies;
  2. Contractual institutions – insurance companies and pension funds
  3. Investment institutions – investment banks, underwriters, brokerage firms.

Capital Adequacy Ratio (CAR) is also known as Capital to Risk (Weighted) Assets Ratio (CRAR), is the ratio of a bank's capital to its risk. National regulators track a bank's CAR to ensure that it can absorb a reasonable amount of loss and complies with statutory Capital requirements.



A key part of bank regulation is to make sure that firms operating in the industry are prudently managed. The aim is to protect the firms themselves, their customers, the government (which is liable for the cost of deposit insurance in the event of a bank failure) and the economy, by establishing rules to make sure that these institutions hold enough capital to ensure continuation of a safe and efficient market and able to withstand any foreseeable problems.

Deposit insurance Fondo de garantía de depósitos

Deposit insurance is a measure implemented in many countries to protect bank depositors, in full or in part, from losses caused by a bank's inability to pay its debts when due. Deposit insurance systems are one component of a financial system safety net that promotes financial stability.

The main international effort to establish rules around capital requirements has been the Basel Accords, published by the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision housed at the Bank for International Settlements. This sets a framework on how banks and depository institutions must calculate their capital. After obtaining the capital ratios, the bank capital adequacy can be assessed and regulated. In 1988, the Committee decided to introduce a capital measurement system commonly referred to as Basel I. In June 2004 this framework was replaced by a significantly more complex capital adequacy framework commonly known as Basel II. Following the financial crisis of 2007–08, Basel II was replaced by Basel III, [1] which will be gradually phased in between 2013 and 2019. [2]

The Basel Accords refer to the banking supervision Accords —Basel I, Basel II and Basel III—issued by the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision (BCBS). They are called the Basel Accords as the BCBS maintains its secretariat at the Bank for International Settlements in Basel, Switzerland and the committee normally meets there. The Basel Accords is a set of recommendations for regulations in the banking industry.

Basel Committee on Banking Supervision organization

The Basel Committee on Banking Supervision (BCBS) is a committee of banking supervisory authorities that was established by the central bank governors of the Group of Ten countries in 1974.The committee expanded its membership in 2009 and then again in 2014. In 2019, the BCBS comprise of 45 members from 28 Jurisdictions, consisting of Central Banks and authorities with responsibility of banking regulation. It provides a forum for regular cooperation on banking supervisory matters. Its objective is to enhance understanding of key supervisory issues and improve the quality of banking supervision worldwide. The Committee frames guidelines and standards in different areas – some of the better known among them are the international standards on capital adequacy, the Core Principles for Effective Banking Supervision and the Concordat on cross-border banking supervision. The Committee's Secretariat is located at the Bank for International Settlements (BIS) in Basel, Switzerland. The Bank for International Settlements (BIS) hosts and supports a number of international institutions engaged in standard setting and financial stability, one of which is BCBS. Yet like the other committees, BCBS has its own governance arrangements, reporting lines and agendas, guided by the central bank governors of the Group of Ten countries.

Bank for International Settlements International financial institution owned by central banks

The Bank for International Settlements (BIS) is an international financial institution owned by central banks which "fosters international monetary and financial cooperation and serves as a bank for central banks". The BIS carries out its work through its meetings, programmes and through the Basel Process – hosting international groups pursuing global financial stability and facilitating their interaction. It also provides banking services, but only to central banks and other international organizations. It is based in Basel, Switzerland, with representative offices in Hong Kong and Mexico City.

Another term commonly used in the context of the frameworks is economic capital , which can be thought of as the capital level bank shareholders would choose in the absence of capital regulation. For a detailed study on the differences between these two definitions of capital, refer to Economic and Regulatory Capital in Banking: What is the Difference.

In finance, mainly for financial services firms, economic capital is the amount of risk capital, assessed on a realistic basis, which a firm requires to cover the risks that it is running or collecting as a going concern, such as market risk, credit risk, legal risk, and operational risk. It is the amount of money which is needed to secure survival in a worst-case scenario. Firms and financial services regulators should then aim to hold risk capital of an amount equal at least to economic capital.

The capital ratio is the percentage of a bank's capital to its risk-weighted assets. Weights are defined by risk-sensitivity ratios whose calculation is dictated under the relevant Accord. Basel II requires that the total capital ratio must be no lower than 8%.

Risk-weighted asset is a bank's assets or off-balance-sheet exposures, weighted according to risk. This sort of asset calculation is used in determining the capital requirement or Capital Adequacy Ratio (CAR) for a financial institution. In the Basel I accord published by the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision, the Committee explains why using a risk-weight approach is the preferred methodology which banks should adopt for capital calculation:

Each national regulator normally has a very slightly different way of calculating bank capital, designed to meet the common requirements within their individual national legal framework.

Most developed countries implement Basel I and II, stipulate lending limits as a multiple of a bank's capital eroded by the yearly inflation rate.

The 5 Cs of Credit - Character, Cash Flow, Collateral, Conditions and Capital- have been replaced by one single criterion. While the international standards of bank capital were established in the 1988 Basel I accord, Basel II makes significant alterations to the interpretation, if not the calculation, of the capital requirement.

Basel I is the round of deliberations by central bankers from around the world, and in 1988, the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision (BCBS) in Basel, Switzerland, published a set of minimum capital requirements for banks. This is also known as the 1988 Basel Accord, and was enforced by law in the Group of Ten (G-10) countries in 1992. A new set of rules known as Basel II was later developed with the intent to supersede the Basel I accords. However they were criticized by some for allowing banks to take on additional types of risk, which was considered part of the cause of the US subprime financial crisis that started in 2008. In fact, bank regulators in the United States took the position of requiring a bank to follow the set of rules giving the more conservative approach for the bank. Because of this it was anticipated that only the few very largest US banks would operate under the Basel II rules, the others being regulated under the Basel I framework. Basel III was developed in response to the financial crisis; it does not supersede either Basel I or II, but focuses on different issues primarily related to the risk of a bank run.

Basel II is the second of the Basel Accords,, which are recommendations on banking laws and regulations issued by the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision.

Examples of national regulators implementing Basel include the FSA in the UK, BaFin in Germany, OSFI in Canada, Banca d'Italia in Italy. In the United States the primary regulators implementing Basel include the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and the Federal Reserve. [3]

In the European Union member states have enacted capital requirements based on the Capital Adequacy Directive CAD1 issued in 1993 and CAD2 issued in 1998.

In the United States, depository institutions are subject to risk-based capital guidelines issued by the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (FRB). [4] These guidelines are used to evaluate capital adequacy based primarily on the perceived credit risk associated with balance sheet assets, as well as certain off-balance sheet exposures such as unfunded loan commitments, letters of credit, and derivatives and foreign exchange contracts. The risk-based capital guidelines are supplemented by a leverage ratio requirement. To be adequately capitalized under federal bank regulatory agency definitions, a bank holding company must have a Tier 1 capital ratio of at least 4%, a combined Tier 1 and Tier 2 capital ratio of at least 8%, and a leverage ratio of at least 4%, and not be subject to a directive, order, or written agreement to meet and maintain specific capital levels. To be well-capitalized under federal bank regulatory agency definitions, a bank holding company must have a Tier 1 capital ratio of at least 6%, a combined Tier 1 and Tier 2 capital ratio of at least 10%, and a leverage ratio of at least 5%, and not be subject to a directive, order, or written agreement to meet and maintain specific capital levels. These capital ratios are reported quarterly on the Call Report or Thrift Financial Report. Although Tier 1 capital has traditionally been emphasized, in the Late-2000s recession regulators and investors began to focus on tangible common equity, which is different from Tier 1 capital in that it excludes preferred equity. [5]

Regulatory capital

In the Basel II accord bank capital has been divided into two "tiers" [6] , each with some subdivisions.

Tier 1 capital

Tier 1 capital, the more important of the two, consists largely of shareholders' equity and disclosed reserves. This is the amount paid up to originally purchase the stock (or shares) of the Bank (not the amount those shares are currently trading for on the stock exchange), retained profits subtracting accumulated losses, and other qualifiable Tier 1 capital securities (see below). In simple terms, if the original stockholders contributed $100 to buy their stock and the Bank has made $20 in retained earnings each year since, paid out no dividends, had no other forms of capital and made no losses, after 10 years the Bank's tier one capital would be $300. Shareholders equity and retained earnings are now commonly referred to as "Core" Tier 1 capital, whereas Tier 1 is core Tier 1 together with other qualifying Tier 1 capital securities.

In India, the Tier 1 capital is defined as "'Tier I Capital' means "owned fund" as reduced by investment in shares of other non-banking financial companies and in shares, debentures, bonds, outstanding loans and advances including hire purchase and lease finance made to and deposits with subsidiaries and companies in the same group exceeding, in aggregate, ten per cent of the owned fund; and perpetual debt instruments issued by a systemically important non-deposit taking non-banking financial company in each year to the extent it does not exceed 15% of the aggregate Tier I Capital of such company as on March 31 of the previous accounting year;" (as per Non-Banking Financial (Non-Deposit Accepting or Holding) Companies Prudential Norms (Reserve Bank) Directions, 2007) In the context of NBFCs in India, the Tier I capital is nothing but net owned funds.

Owned funds stand for paid up equity capital, preference shares which are compulsorily convertible into equity, free reserves, balance in share premium account and capital reserves representing surplus arising out of sale proceeds of asset, excluding reserves created by revaluation of asset, as reduced by accumulated loss balance, book value of intangible assets and deferred revenue expenditure, if any.

Tier 2 (supplementary) capital

Tier 2 capital,supplementary capital, comprises undisclosed reserves, revaluation reserves, general provisions, hybrid instruments and subordinated term debt.

Undisclosed reserves

Undisclosed reserves are where a bank has made a profit but this has not appeared in normal retained profits or in general reserves.

Revaluation reserves

A revaluation reserve is a reserve created when a company has an asset revalued and an increase in value is brought to account. A simple example may be where a bank owns the land and building of its headquarters and bought them for $100 a century ago. A current revaluation is very likely to show a large increase in value. The increase would be added to a revaluation reserve.

General provisions

A general provision is created when a company is aware that a loss has occurred, but is not certain of the exact nature of that loss. Under pre-IFRS accounting standards, general provisions were commonly created to provide for losses that were expected in the future. As these did not represent incurred losses, regulators tended to allow them to be counted as capital.

Hybrid debt capital instruments

They consist of instruments which combine certain characteristics of equity as well as debt. They can be included in supplementary capital if they are able to support losses on an ongoing basis without triggering liquidation.

Sometimes, it includes instruments which are initially issued with interest obligation (e.g. debentures) but the same can later be converted into capital.

Subordinated-term debt

Subordinated debt is classed as Lower Tier 2 debt, usually has a maturity of a minimum of 10 years and ranks senior to Tier 1 debt, but subordinate to senior debt. To ensure that the amount of capital outstanding doesn't fall sharply once a Lower Tier 2 issue matures and, for example, not be replaced, the regulator demands that the amount that is qualifiable as Tier 2 capital amortises (i.e. reduces) on a straight line basis from maturity minus 5 years (e.g. a 1bn issue would only count as worth 800m in capital 4 years before maturity). The remainder qualifies as senior issuance. For this reason many Lower Tier 2 instruments were issued as 10 year non-call 5 year issues (i.e. final maturity after 10 years but callable after 5 years). If not called, issue has a large step - similar to Tier 1 - thereby making the call more likely.

Different international implementations

Regulators in each country have some discretion on how they implement capital requirements in their jurisdiction.

For example, it has been reported [7] that Australia's Commonwealth Bank is measured as having 7.6% Tier 1 capital under the rules of the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority, but this would be measured as 10.1% if the bank was under the jurisdiction of the UK's Prudential Regulation Authority. This demonstrates that international differences in implementation of the rule can vary considerably in their level of strictness.

European Union

In the EU countries the capital requirements as set out by Basel III agreement have been implemented by the so-called CRD IV package which commonly refers to both the EU Directive 2013/36/EU and the EU Regulation 575/2013.

Common capital ratios

See also

Related Research Articles

Operational risk is "the risk of a change in value caused by the fact that actual losses, incurred for inadequate or failed internal processes, people and systems, or from external events, differ from the expected losses". This definition, adopted by the European Solvency II Directive for insurers, is a variation from that adopted in the Basel II regulations for banks. In October 2014, the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision proposed a revision to its operational risk capital framework that sets out a new standardized approach to replace the basic indicator approach and the standardized approach for calculating operational risk capital.

Bank regulation is a form of government regulation which subjects banks to certain requirements, restrictions and guidelines, designed to create market transparency between banking institutions and the individuals and corporations with whom they conduct business, among other things. As regulation focusing on key actors in the financial markets, it forms one of the three components of financial law, the other two being case law and self-regulating market practices.

In finance, leverage is any technique involving the use of debt rather than fresh equity in the purchase of an asset, with the expectation that the after-tax profit to equity holders from the transaction will exceed the borrowing cost, frequently by several multiples⁠ ⁠— hence the provenance of the word from the effect of a lever in physics, a simple machine which amplifies the application of a comparatively small input force into a correspondingly greater output force. Normally, the lender will set a limit on how much risk it is prepared to take and will set a limit on how much leverage it will permit, and would require the acquired asset to be provided as collateral security for the loan. For example, for a residential property the finance provider may lend up to, say, 80% of the property's market value, for a commercial property it may be 70%, while on shares it may lend up to, say, 60% or none at all on certain volatile shares.

The debt-to-equity ratio (D/E) is a financial ratio indicating the relative proportion of shareholders' equity and debt used to finance a company's assets. Closely related to leveraging, the ratio is also known as risk, gearing or leverage. The two components are often taken from the firm's balance sheet or statement of financial position, but the ratio may also be calculated using market values for both, if the company's debt and equity are publicly traded, or using a combination of book value for debt and market value for equity financially.

Tier 1 capital is the core measure of a bank's financial strength from a regulator's point of view. It is composed of core capital, which consists primarily of common stock and disclosed reserves, but may also include non-redeemable non-cumulative preferred stock. The Basel Committee also observed that banks have used innovative instruments over the years to generate Tier 1 capital; these are subject to stringent conditions and are limited to a maximum of 15% of total Tier 1 capital. This part of the Tier 1 capital will be phased out during the implementation of Basel III.

Tier 2 capital, or supplementary capital, includes a number of important and legitimate constituents of a bank's capital requirement. These forms of banking capital were largely standardized in the Basel I accord, issued by the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision and left untouched by the Basel II accord. National regulators of most countries around the world have implemented these standards in local legislation. In the calculation of regulatory capital, Tier 2 is limited to 100% of Tier 1 capital.

In the context of operational risk, the standardized approach or standardised approach is a set of operational risk measurement techniques proposed under Basel II capital adequacy rules for banking institutions.

Exposure at default or (EAD) is a parameter used in the calculation of economic capital or regulatory capital under Basel II for a banking institution. It can be defined as the gross exposure under a facility upon default of an obligor.

Asset and liability management is the practice of managing financial risks that arise due to mismatches between the assets and liabilities as part of an investment strategy in financial accounting.

Basel III is a global, voluntary regulatory framework on bank capital adequacy, stress testing, and market liquidity risk. This third installment of the Basel Accords was developed in response to the deficiencies in financial regulation revealed by the financial crisis of 2007–08. It is intended to strengthen bank capital requirements by increasing bank liquidity and decreasing bank leverage.

During the financial crisis of 2007–2008, several banks, including the UK's Northern Rock and the U.S. investment banks Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers, suffered a liquidity crisis, due to their over-reliance on short-term wholesale funding from the interbank lending market. As a result, the G20 launched an overhaul of banking regulation known as Basel III. In addition to changes in capital requirements, Basel III also contains two entirely new liquidity requirements: the net stable funding ratio (NSFR) and the liquidity coverage ratio (LCR). On October 31, 2014, the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision issued its final Net Stable Funding Ratio.

A systemically important financial institution (SIFI) or systemically important bank (SIB) is a bank, insurance company, or other financial institution whose failure might trigger a financial crisis. They are colloquially referred to as "too big to fail".

Under the Basel II guidelines, banks are allowed to use their own estimated risk parameters for the purpose of calculating regulatory capital. This is known as the internal ratings-based (IRB) approach to capital requirements for credit risk. Only banks meeting certain minimum conditions, disclosure requirements and approval from their national supervisor are allowed to use this approach in estimating capital for various exposures.

Basel IV is a contested term for the changes agreed in 2016 and 2017 to the international banking standards known as the Basel Accords. Regulators argue that these changes are simply completing the Basel III reforms, agreed in principle in 2010–11, although most of the Basel III reforms were agreed in detail at that time. The Basel Committee (BCBS) itself calls them simply "finalised reforms". Critics of the reform, in particular those from the banking industry, argue that Basel IV require a significant increase in capital and should be treated as a distinct round of reforms.

The Capital Requirements Regulation(EU) No. 575/2013 is an EU law that aims to decrease the likelihood that banks go insolvent. With the Credit Institutions Directive 2013 the Capital Requirements Regulation 2013 reflects Basel III rules on capital measurement and capital standards.


  1. Page 27, Basel III:A global regulatory framework for more resilient banks and banking systems
  2. Basel III phase-in arrangements
  3. "Basel leverage ratio: No cover for US banks" (PDF). PwC Financial Services Regulatory Practice, January, 2014.
  4. FDIC:Capital measures and capital category definition
  5. Stress Test for Banks Exposes Rift on Wall St.. NYTimes.
  6. "International Convergence of Capital Measurement and Capital Standards:A Revised Framework:Comprehensive Version" (PDF). Pg 14: Basel Committee on Banking Supervision. 2006.
  7. Boyd, Tony, "A Capital Idea", 21 October 2008