What is the 'Basel Accord'

The Basel Accords are three series of banking regulations (Basel I, II and III) set by the Basel Committee on Bank Supervision (BCBS), which provides recommendations on banking regulations in regards to capital risk, market risk and operational risk. The purpose of the accords is to ensure that financial institutions have enough capital on account to meet obligations and absorb unexpected losses.

BREAKING DOWN 'Basel Accord'

The Basel Accords were developed over a number of years, starting in the 1980s. The BCBS was founded in 1974 as a forum for regular cooperation between its member countries on banking supervisory matters. The BCBS describes its original aim as the enhancement of "financial stability by improving supervisory knowhow and the quality of banking supervision worldwide." Later on, it turned its attention to monitoring and ensuring the capital adequacy of banks and the banking system.

Basel I

The first Basel Accord, known as Basel I, was issued in 1988 and focuses on the capital adequacy of financial institutions. The capital adequacy risk (the risk that a financial institution will be hurt by an unexpected loss), categorizes the assets of financial institutions into five risk categories (0%, 10%, 20%, 50% and 100%). Under Basel I, banks that operate internationally are required to have a risk weight of 8% or less.

Basel II

The second Basel Accord, called Revised Capital Framework but better known as Basel II, served as an update of the original accord. It focuses on three main areas: minimum capital requirements, supervisory review of an institution's capital adequacy and internal assessment process, and effective use of disclosure as a lever to strengthen market discipline and encourage sound banking practices including supervisory review. Together, these areas of focus are known as the three pillars.

Basel III

In the wake of the Lehman Brothers collapse of 2008 and the ensuing financial crisis, the BCBS decided to update and strengthen the Accords. It saw poor governance and risk management, inappropriate incentive structures and an overleveraged banking industry as reasons for the collapse. In July 2010, an agreement was reached regarding the overall design of the capital and liquidity reform package. This agreement is now known as Basel III.

Basel III is a continuation of the three pillars, along with additional requirements and safeguards, including requiring banks to have minimum amount of common equity and a minimum liquidity ratio. Basel III also includes additional requirements for what the Accord calls "systemically important banks," or those financial institutions that are colloquially called "too big to fail."

The implementation of Basel III has been gradual and began in January 2013. It is expected to be completed by Jan. 1, 2019.

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