With LEI's in train, banks could soon go the way of record labels says senior BofE exec

With LEI's in train, banks could soon go the way of record labels says senior BofE exec

The introduction of a common global language for financial counterparties and products could ultimately lower barriers to market entry and make some bank functions surplus to requirements, a senior Bank of England policy maker says.

Speaking in New York, Andy Haldane, executive director of financial stability at the Bank of England, says industry initiatives to develop a common code for identifying financial counterparties and products will bring big improvements in risk management standards at firms, but may also erode the value of banks as middle-men in many common financial transactions.

The introduction of Legal Entity Identifiers aligned with a similar set of codes to describe financial products has the potential to create a new financial syntax, or "HTML for finance", says Haldane. Although some way off, the adoption of a common language could deliver huge improvements in system resilience and productivity, in much the same way as similar standards have boosted productivity in retail supply chains and on the World Wide Web.

Haldane cites four key benefits that are likely emerge.

First, there could be improvements in risk management in firms. He points to the fragmentation of data infrastructure that has exposed systems to human error and complicated the process of risk aggregation, highlighted in particular around the failure of Lehman Brothers. He says: "Missing inventories and mistaken counterparties could be all but eliminated if financial firms' information systems spoke in a common tongue."

Systemic risks could also be measured and monitored with more accuracy. As Haldane observes: "Complete counterparty data, collected according to common standards, would enable a much more accurate calibration of the financial interconnectivity of key financial nodes."

Third, mapping of the financial network could be comprehensively improved, both in terms of granularity but also timeliness. Just like meteorologists, he suggests, regulators could use a resulting risk map to issue warnings or stress-test the impact of extreme financial events.

Finally, he says a common financial language could help lower barriers to market entry in banking and "…might even begin to erode the too-big-to-fail problem through market forces." He describes how some musicians have successfully by‑passed record labels by selling their works directly to the public via the internet. Haldane suggests innovations in commercial peer-to-peer lending, again using the web as a conduit, could make some bank functions surplus to requirements.

"The banking middle men may in time become the surplus links in the chain," he says. "An information web, linked by a common language, makes that disintermediated model of finance a more realistic possibility."

Read the full speech:Download the document now 94.8 kb (PDF File)

Comments: (5)

Gary Wright
Gary Wright 15 March, 2012, 14:52Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

Yes pretty much on the button here but along with this a more mundane industry wide STP that brings together buy and sell side accross the industry and STP through their agents. The possibilties are huge and go beyond just risk and regulatory benefits

A Finextra member
A Finextra member 15 March, 2012, 15:381 like 1 like

I was on the first XML working group back in 1998 because I embraced exactly the case that Andy Haldane makes here.  I was too optimistic then, and I expect he is too optimistic now. 

The reality is that the IT investments on the scale required for full implementation of LEI, FpML, XBRL and other reforms are easier for larger incumbents to justify, as they will benefit from more efficient operations globally long before their smaller, regional competitors manage any return.  The result is a self-reinforcing scale bias favouring TBTF banks and reinforcing the moral hazard Mr Haldane would like to see diminished. 

As with most reforms being introduced now under conditions of stress and regulatory fatigue, the burdens and expenditures become almost unsupportable long before any prospective benefit can be envisioned.  I admire and share his vision for better standards and infrastructure, but after 14 years of waiting for XML to level the playing field, I'm going to be more cautious in my expectations.


Gary Wright
Gary Wright 15 March, 2012, 15:54Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

I am still a bit of dreamer Kathleen and see the huge potential but your right history tells us it just aint easy

A Finextra member
A Finextra member 15 March, 2012, 16:12Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

Without wanting to underestimate the scale of the task associated with creating/implementing a common language I would like to suggest that Andy Haldane's comments carry a more general warning. One that should be recognised across the globe and business sectors. It was best said by Clay Shirky:

“It is easier to understand that you face competition than obsolescence”


AH has illustrated on more than one occasion - not least of all his work with Lord May (http://wp.me/p16h8c-Cm) - that he has a thorough understanding of complex [non-linear] systems and FS would do well to listen...or risk extinction!



Gary Wright
Gary Wright 15 March, 2012, 16:21Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

Yup listen and think and innovate would be my mantra