UK watchdog to 'ramp up' checks on how banks assess risks

FILE PHOTO: A person walks alongside the River Thames during sunrise in London

By Huw Jones

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain's financial watchdog told banks on Friday it would "ramp up" checks on whether they were properly assessing and managing risks from large customers to avoid any liquidity crunch in stressed markets.

Failure to properly appreciate the risks from customers can affect a bank's ability to have enough liquidity in challenging markets, as recent events have shown, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) said in a letter to chief executives of wholesale banks which was made public.

It did not specify the events, but liquidity in markets has become a key issue since the turmoil in bond markets following former Prime Minister Liz Truss' 'mini budget' last September forced the Bank of England to intervene to improve liquidity.

"We will carry out supervisory testing on the embeddedness of improvements in risk management by looking at the process through which new products and some transactions are produced," Simon Walls, FCA director for wholesale sell-side, said in the letter.

"For example, we have noted instances of poor management of client relationships, including inadequate knowledge of clients’ business profiles," he said.

"We are ramping up our testing programme to look at how banks are controlling these risks, including more in person supervisory assessments."

Many UK-based trading banks have opened hubs in the European Union to avoid disruption to business after the City was largely cut off from the bloc by Brexit.

Under pressure from the European Central Bank, bankers have moved from London to staff these hubs, raising questions about sufficient staff in UK units.

"While there are various booking and organisational arrangements underpinning these activities, there should be appropriate oversight for any business booked into the UK," Walls said.

The FCA said it may also check how banks deal with non-financial misconduct, such as sexual harrasment.

"Within 2 months, we expect all CEOs to have discussed this letter with their fellow directors and/or Board and to have agreed actions and/or next steps," Walls said.

(Reporting by Huw Jones; Editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise)