StanChart chairman calls for further consolidation in the European banking sector

Finance news

Greater consolidation is needed across the continental European banking sector if it is to thrive again after the financial crisis, according to Standard Chartered chairman Jose Vinals.

Speaking to CNBC’s Hadley Gamble at the Europlace Financial Forum in Paris, Vinals suggested that in light of “tremendous restructuring” in many international and domestic European banks since the financial crisis, there is “a way more to go.”

“I think particularly that is the case in continental Europe, where there are very large banks that are now undertaking very major changes, but also there are many small institutions which give over-capacity to the continental European banking sector,” he said.

“This is something that will need to be sorted out over time, so that only the fittest institutions, those that have the capacity to earn money to cover the cost of capital, and therefore have sustainable business models, prevail. This is a process that could take quite some time.”

His comments come at a time when the European banking sector is struggling to remain profitable. On Monday, Deutsche Bank kickstarted a massive global restructuring program which will see 18,000 jobs cut by 2022 and the closure of its equities sales and trading business.

The German lender had looked set for a merger with domestic rival Commerzbank until talks collapsed in April, with the banks citing the need for extra capital, restructuring costs and execution risks as key reasons why merging would not be in either’s interests.

European banks have struggled to return to profitability since the crisis and have remained unable to compete with the Wall Street giants. Deutsche Bank had led efforts to become a major global challenger, but its decisive action to cut costs and refocus on the domestic market will be seen as a white flag.

Other cross-border suitors for Commerzbank were then mooted, including the likes of Dutch bank ING and Italy’s UniCredit, as the German government sought tie-ups for the lender in which it holds a 15.5% stake.

However, no such deal has since come to pass, after ING CEO Ralph Hamers said in June that there was “limited” logic for cross-border bank mergers within the European Union as long as the bloc’s banking union plan was incomplete.

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