Agius warns EU rules could hurt recovery

MARCUS Agius, the chairman of the British Bankers’ Association and Barclays, has warned the government that regulators could hinder the recovery by adopting new banking rules more quickly than other countries.

In a letter to chancellor George Osborne, Agius argued the UK  risks tipping the playing field of global commerce in favour of rival financial centres.

He said: “This is most notable when the UK applies additional requirements to the agreed standards; when it implements them earlier than others; and when it does not use the flexibility the standards permit or not in a manner reflected elsewhere.”

Agius added: “These are not just issues for banks; they have a direct impact on the provision and pricing of finance in the economy.”

The letter was accompanied by two reports from law firm Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer which show the UK is implementing G20 agreements on banking reform more quickly than other countries. The letter comes as several top UK banks are said to have raised concerns with the Financial Services Authority (FSA) over the payment of retention bonuses, amid concerns that international rivals could poach key staff.

Barclays, HSBC and Standard Chartered are among the banks said to have concerns over the rules, which prevent them from matching guaranteed bonuses made by competitors, Sky News reported.

Published in December, the retention bonus rules acknowledged concerns posed by banks at the time.

However, the FSA said banks which wish to offer retention awards must now make a “strong case” to it in order to do so, with the ultimate decision being decided on an individual basis. An FSA spokesperson added: “We always consult with industry and stakeholders and introduce changes at an appropriate time.”