Bank of England pushes for more ABS transparency

Britain's central bank proposed these changes in March 2010 and aims to begin a phased introduction of the new criteria in 2011. There will be no grandfathering.

“The feedback is supportive in principle,” said Sarah Breeden, head of special projects, markets at the Bank. “There were some particular issues including concerns about consistency with other initiatives,” she told a conference in London.

“Our intention is to be complementary not competing.”

The bank has been accepting asset-backed securities (ABS) as collateral in its efforts to provide banks with liquidity during and after the crisis.

Now it wants to improve the transparency of these assets as part of its own risk management, but also to help enhance the resilience of the ABS markets.

Breeden said the bank had become one of the largest investors in ABS in just a few years and had learned a lot about what makes for a more transparent and robust market.

The ABS markets seized up during the credit crisis and have only partially reopened. Banks have continued to securitise mortgages and credit cards but have used these assets as collateral to get liquidity from the Bank of England and the ECB.

Banks have deposited about £290bn ($429.9bn) of assets with the Bank of England, which set up a Special Liquidity Scheme in 2008 to help ease liquidity strains caused by the crisis.

This scheme is due to end in 2011. But the bank has introduced a window banks can use instead if they need liquidity.

“The SLS will close as planned,” Breeden said, adding that she was aware of “chatter” in the market about a possible extension.

The proposed changes to ABS eligibility criteria include standardised documentation that is to be publicly available and more detailed and transparent information about the assets via so-called loan-level data in a standardised format.

Breeden said the Bank would undertake more “constructive engagement” with the industry and aimed to respond soon to the feedback it had received via the consultation process.

The next step will be to make an announcement of the final plans, she said.

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