What Is Basel II and Why Was It Unsuccessful?

What Is Basel II and Why Was It Unsuccessful?

Basel II, the second of three Basel Accords, mandates banks to maintain a minimum capital reserve of 8% of their risk-weighted assets, while also providing guidelines for calculating capital ratios. The second pillar focuses on regulatory supervision, addressing systemic, liquidity, and legal risks. However, during the 2008 subprime mortgage meltdown and Great Recession, Basel II underestimated risks, contributing to an overleveraged and undercapitalized financial system.

Basics

In 2004, the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision introduced Basel II, a set of international banking regulations. This framework is built upon the rules of Basel I, the first regulatory accord, by extending the minimum capital requirements. Additionally, Basel II established a framework for regulatory supervision and introduced new disclosure requirements to assess the capital adequacy of banks.

What Is Basel II?

Basel II, the second of three Basel Accords, focuses on three main pillars: minimum capital requirements, regulatory supervision, and market discipline. It aims to standardize banking regulations across countries and reduce risks in the banking system. The Basel Committee on Banking Supervision, with representatives from various countries, oversees these regulations. While the Committee lacks enforcement authority, it relies on member countries' regulators to implement and enforce the rules, and they may even adopt stricter measures if needed.

Guidelines & Requirements of Basel II

Basel II, building upon Basel I, introduced guidelines for calculating minimum regulatory capital ratios and confirming that banks must maintain a capital reserve of at least 8% of their risk-weighted assets. The eligible regulatory capital is divided into three tiers, with Tier 1 representing the bank's core capital, composed of common stock, disclosed reserves, and certain other assets. Tier 2 consists of supplementary capital, including revaluation reserves, hybrid instruments, and medium- and long-term subordinated loans. Tier 3 comprises lower-quality unsecured, subordinated debt.

An essential aspect of Basel II is the definition of risk-weighted assets, which determines whether a bank meets its capital reserve requirements. This approach discourages banks from taking excessive risks with their holdings. Unlike Basel I, Basel II considers the credit rating of assets in determining their risk weights, with higher credit ratings resulting in lower risk weights. This innovation aims to enhance the accuracy of risk assessment and promote a more secure and stable banking system.

Regulatory Supervision and Market Discipline

The second pillar focuses on regulatory supervision, providing a framework for national regulatory bodies to address systemic risk, liquidity risk, and legal risks. The third pillar is market discipline, which introduces disclosure requirements to enhance transparency in banks' risk exposures, risk assessment processes, and capital adequacy. The overall goal of Basel II is to create a more standardized and transparent banking system, mitigating risks and ensuring sound business practices among banks.

Pros & Cons of Basel II

Pros of Basel II

  1. Clarified and expanded regulations from Basel I, providing a more comprehensive framework for banking supervision.
  2. Addressed financial innovations and new financial products that emerged after Basel I, keeping the regulations up-to-date with evolving market practices.

Cons of Basel II

  1. Considered a "miserable failure" in its central mission of making the financial world safer, as it underestimated the risks involved in current banking practices.
  2. Contributed to an overleveraged and undercapitalized financial system, as evident during the 2008 subprime mortgage meltdown and Great Recession.
  3. Revealed weaknesses in governance, risk management, and incentive structures, leading to mispriced credit and liquidity risks, and excessive credit growth.
  4. Required reforms and supplementation with Basel III due to shortcomings in risk management and supervision, indicating the need for further improvements in banking regulations.

The Need for Basel III

The subprime mortgage meltdown in 2007 and the subsequent global financial crisis revealed the inadequacy of regulations established under Basel I and Basel II in controlling the risks taken by certain banks and the potential threats to the global financial system. In response, Basel III was introduced during the crisis and is currently being implemented to better address these risks.

Conclusion

Basel II, the second of three Basel Accords, aimed to standardize banking regulations across countries and reduce risks in the banking system. However, its underestimation of risks during the 2008 subprime mortgage meltdown and Great Recession contributed to an overleveraged and undercapitalized financial system. While Basel III was introduced to better address these risks, the need for further improvements in banking regulations remains.

Basel II
Basel I
Basel Committee on Banking Supervision (BCBS)
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