The threat of breaking up banks should be retained by the government, a top Bank of England official said on Wednesday, as he outlined proposed changes to the ringfencing idea recommended by the Independent Commission on Banking (ICB).
Andy Haldane, responsible for financial stability at the Bank, told MPs and peers on the banking standards commission that banks should not be given flexibility on what parts of their business should lie inside the ringfence put up between their high street and investment banking arms.
Haldane picked up on a idea floated by Andrew Tyrie, the Conservative MP who chairs the committee, to put legislation in place allow a full break-up of banks if the ringfence is not implemented properly.
It is "an idea worth thinking about", Haldane said. "From an incentive perspective, what it makes clear is if for whatever reason the ringfence doesn't work as planned the next step is not to remove it entirely but to go the logical next step," he said.
The only reason banks would complain is "if they planned to work round or game the ringfence".
After the committee meeting, Tyrie said: "The ringfence wherever it is placed and whatever its height will need vigorously to be patrolled to ensure full implementation in spirit as well as the letter. The committee will want to explore whether that may require some future statutory support".
Haldane, who recently lent his support to the Occupy protesters, said there needed to be "full and faithful" implementation of the recommendations set out by the ICB, which was chaired by Sir John Vickers. But he called for a tougher approach to be taken on what activities should be placed inside the ringfence, listing lending to small businesses and trade finance as a business line that should be inside the ringfence.
Haldane also raised the idea of a central database being created for current accountsin an attempt to bolster competition, where it notoriously difficult to move between banks.
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