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May 2016

Transparency

The global fight for tax transparency and against money laundering has achieved some decisive gains in recent years. The fight against tax evasion is one of the G20's top priorities. National governments alone have the legitimacy necessary for drawing up lists of non-cooperative territories and determining which ones constitute tax havens. Not only do French banks share this objective, they are actively helping to achieve it.

First of all, as far back as 2009 they made a firm commitment to close all their subsidiaries and branches in tax havens that, as of March 2010, were on the OECD's grey list and had not signed a tax convention with France. The French state publishes a list of these countries, based mainly on information provided by international organisations such as the OECD and FATF. This list is therefore the sole undeniable reference.

Since the 2013 banking law was passed, French banks have released comprehensive lists of their foreign locations, including employees and income. All this information is on the table, quantified and verifiable.

From 1 January 2016, French banks have been decidedly steadfast to the automated exchange of information. Their role consists in passing on to their respective tax authorities information on accounts held directly or indirectly by residents of a country that has joined this new procedure initiated by the OECD. This is the foundation of the international fight against tax evasion and fraud, through transparency on assets held in foreign jurisdictions.

Lastly, French banks have set up thorough know-your-customer mechanisms, which also allow them to take part in fighting against money-laundering and the financing of terrorism, as well as against the laundering of tax fraud. The figures speak for themselves: 80% of suspicions reported to Tracfin, the French finance ministry's investigative arm, are by banks, and have doubled in number since 2011.

No, banks are neither accomplices nor participants in tax evasion. On the contrary, they are an essential and inevitable link in the fight against international tax evasion just as we have been reminded by the Board of the European Banking Federation (Press release EBF at 20 may 2016).

Marie-Anne Barbat-Layani
Chief Executive Officer of the French Banking Federation

Tweeter : Twitter

Our Positions

Social responsibility and professional integration: French banks are doing their part
In addition to the key role they play in economic life, banks are also big players in the social fabric, particularly in favour of underprivileged persons. French banks, for example, have long been involved in social integration, diversify and citizenship initiatives. It is the FBF's role to better publicise such initiatives. The "Banque et quartiers" ("Banks and communities") publication is a document that details the diversity of these very concrete initiatives to promote entrepreneurship, professional integration, and financial and budget education at grassroots level. Here is just one example of this commitment: French banks have already sponsored more than 6000 young people from underprivileged neighbourhoods and have helped them find jobs.

Regulate less to finance more: Europe fights back!
In terms of banking regulation, the voice of reason without a doubt has a new face - that of Jonathan Hill. In a speech made at a conference in Brussels on 17 May 2016, the European Commissioner for Financial Services spoke clearly about his priorities. He believes that the greatest threat to financial stability is the lack of growth. And to restart growth and investment in Europe, it is essential to foster the conditions that will facilitate their financing. Speaking about the way in which the rules laid down by the Basel Committee will be implemented, he said, "The cumulative impact of legislation could be hampering [banks'] ability to finance the wider economy. If true, it's a concern we can't ignore". These statements provide a strong message of political awareness on this fundamental issue for the future of Europe.

Damage to bank branches: enough is enough!
Since the start of the debate on the new labour law in France, protests have been held across the country and banks have often been the collateral victims of the violence that has ensued as has been the case with the police and public services. The French Banking Federation drew the Interior Minister's attention to this worrying trend in April. The violence perpetrated against bank branches, sometimes while staff are inside, is unacceptable. In fact, by targeting bank branches, these protesters are attacking the staff who work alongside their clients every day. The damage done to ATMs presents problems regarding access to cash for French people. The FBF strongly condemns the comments made by certain individuals in the media that stigmatise our profession by confusing the attacks against bank branches and the action taken by banks: 'To name things wrongly is to add to the misfortune of the world'.

In their own words

François Hollande, President of the French Republic, 3 may 2016

“Since 2012, France has acted to bring about the European Banking Union. Today, savers’ deposits are protected in the event of a new financial crisis. Banks have played their part in ensuring that taxpayers won’t have to shoulder the burden.”

FBF in the media

France Info

5/10/2016

Interview with Marie-Anne Barbat-Layani

Interest rates are currently at an all-time low. Interviewed by the French all-news radio station France Info, Marie-Anne Barbat-Layani said that ECB monetary policy had been effective in boosting lending in the euro zone. In France the effects have been less visible, as “the banking sector has always supported the economy by lending heavily to businesses”. She stressed the opportunity that this low-interest-rate environment offers to companies and individuals: “access to credit is very easy in France. This is the time to invest”. However, low interest rates do pose a challenge to banks’ profitability, and to returns on household savings.


Le Monde

4/24/2016

Requiem for cash

In a special report on the move away from cash, the French daily Le Monde summarised the French government’s arguments as greater security and better traceability of transactions. The government’s objectives, which French banks adhere to, are mainly to develop innovative and alternative non-cash means of payment. Willy Dubost, the FBF’s head of systems, risks, and payments told Le Monde, “Some countries, especially in northern Europe, have gone much further down this path. Cash will not completely go away but banks are already offering other innovative and high-performance means of payment that are coming into common use and are appreciated by customers”. Habits in France will no doubt evolve further. Almost half of all purchases are paid in cash in France, vs. just 20% in Sweden.


TF1’s 1pm news programme

4/18/2016

Switching bank accounts

FBF was interviewed as part of a series of reports by the French television channel TF1 on switching bank accounts. Changing banks is simple, quick and inexpensive. Valérie Ohannessian, deputy executive director of FBF pointed out a key principle of this approach: “The applicable principle is that it must be free of charge to the customer.” All banks offer customer mobility assistance free of charge. Beginning 2017, regulations will make bank switches even easier – it’s the new bank that will handle all the operations for its customer.


Agenda

May
25

Ecofin Council in Brussels: draft directive on tax evasion, VAT, banking union, economic imbalances and structural reform of Member States.

May
28

“Diversity and harmonisation of deposit guarantees” conference of the French Deposit Guarantee and Resolution Fund (FGDR), Paris.

May
30

Place de Paris 2020 committee meeting.

June
1

Publication by the Finance Innovation competitive cluster of the White Paper on the future of the banking sector in the digital age, Paris.

June
8

Paris EUROPLACE conference, Ile-de-France and Paris-Ile de France as an Economic Capital: “The Paris financial market: Welcome to Europe". Speech of Frederic Oudea.

June
9

16th edition of the 2016 Brussels Economic Forum: “Structural reform 2.0 and reorganisation of the Economic and Monetary Union to promote jobs and growth in the European Union” held by the European Commission.

Tweet of the month

Figure of the month

"#Banks have truly become part of the #digital era : developement of hubs #fintech oriented, st up of work & exchange framework" #FTECH16
@FBFFrance

404 million euros: supervisory fees European banks will pay in 2016