WASHINGTON — The regulations added in the wake of the financial crisis have made the system safer, but it's time to pause on new rules and find ways to improve what's been put in place already, according to the top executives at some of the largest banks.
Speaking at a conference Friday, they argued that the global economy is moving at a snail's pace and blamed financial regulation at least in part for the fact that U.S. GDP grew less than 2% in the first half of the year.
"It is clear … that Japan, China, Europe kind of want to stop, digest, not add to capital, liquidity" requirements; they "want to modify some things to make sure it is helping the economy and the United States still wants to push for more here," JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon said during a panel discussion at an Institute of International Institute Finance conference.
Speaking alongside Dimon, Morgan Stanley CEO James Gorman said that "what I would like to see [is] more international harmony and let's stop and pause and digest and let's just see what we got for a minute."
"We have more belts and suspenders, and that is probably a good thing for building that confidence in the financially system, but the lack of harmony around the jurisdictions around the world is sort of the next phase of the problem," Gorman said.
Dimon pointed to an old rule of thumb that money would multiply five times as it went from a deposit and was lent out to finance the production of goods and services. He said the rate at which money is multiplied now is much lower "because of all these new requirements." He pointed to $2.5 trillion in excess reserves held by banks in the Federal Reserve System.
"I don't think the system is functioning the same. Nor do I think the system is coordinated," said Dimon, who estimated that rules and regulations have slowed U.S. economic growth to 2% instead of potentially 3.5%
Negative Interest Rates
Several CEOs are concerned about the possibility of negative interest rates, which has already happened in parts of Europe and Asia. Fears are mounting that negative rates could become more prevalent, which would present a significant problem for the bank business model.
Citigroup CEO Michael Corbat warned that banks may not be able to lend if rates are negative.
"In some cases it is actually illegal to pass on negative interest rates," Corbat said. "Many institutions don't actually have a system to process negative interest rates today" and likened it the problem to "Y2K" in 2000 when some antiquated computer systems were not equipped to handle the calendar-year change.
The Impact of 'Brexit' on Banking
The shocking decision by the United Kingdom to leave the European Union caught many off guard, including banks that have major business operations in London. The decision will change the laws dictating the banking business in the U.K. and elsewhere in Europe.
"I think the big winner from Brexit, if you are going to call a winner, is going to be New York and the U.S.," Gorman said. "I think you are going to see more business moving to New York."
Corbat also pointed to the political mood that led to the U.K.'s decision to leave. He noted that some see parallels between the Brexit movement and the rise of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, who has run on an anti-immigration platform.
"What we are seeing is in these elections is rather than people voting for things, they are voting against things and that is different from where we have been historically," said Corbat, who added that it's harder to predict the outcome of these votes.
"It weighs on the economies because when you surprise the population around these votes, it undermines the confidence of investment, undermines the confidence of inbound money flows, people willing to spend, people willing to hire," Corbat added.
Dimon said that the eurozone might not last much longer.
Brexit "made the chance of the eurozone not surviving a decade from now five times higher," he said.
He also pointed to the partisan political atmosphere in the U.S. and said he hopes the next president "drops the rhetoric about Democrat and Republican" and, instead of making political appointments to top regulatory positions, puts "people in those jobs who are deeply experienced in those matters."