Europe > Finland

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Jeroen Brinkhoff and Mr. Juan Sole
European life insurance companies are important bond investors and had traditionally played a stabilizing role in financial markets by pursuing “buy-and-hold” investment strategies. However, since the onset of the ultra-low interest rates era in 2008, observers noted a decline in the credit quality of insurers’ bond portfolios. The commonly-held explanation for this deterioration is that low returns pushed insurers to become more risk-taking. We argue that other factors—such as surging rating downgrades, bond revaluations, and regulatory changes—also played a key role. We estimate that rating changes, revaluations, and search for yield each account for about one-third each of the total deterioration in credit quality. This result has important policy implications as it reestablishes the view that insurers’ investment behavior tends to be passive through the cycle—rather than risk-seeking.
International Monetary Fund. Monetary and Capital Markets Department
Much of the work of the Financial Sector Assessment Program (FSAP) was conducted prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. Given the FSAP’s focus on medium-term challenges and vulnerabilities, however, many of its findings and recommendations for strengthening policy and institutional frameworks remain pertinent. This report reflects key developments and policy changes since the FSAP mission work was completed, and includes illustrative scenarios to quantify the possible implications of the COVID-19 shock on the solvency of systemically important financial institutions (SIFIs). Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Danish authorities had taken important steps to improve financial system resilience. The authorities had actively used macroprudential tools to bolster the robustness of the financial system. The supervision of the banking and insurance sectors had improved. Likewise, recent legislation has strengthened anti-money laundering and combating the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT) supervision. Major reforms such as a new bank resolution framework had also considerably improved Denmark’s financial safety net and crisis management frameworks.
International Monetary Fund. European Dept.
This Selected Issues paper examines Finland’s sectoral balance sheets and how they have evolved since the global financial crisis; the analysis reveals that financial vulnerabilities have risen in most sectors. Indebtedness has increased for nonfinancial corporations (NFCs), households, and the government, increasing their financial fragility and vulnerability to shocks. Also, cross-border financial exposures have risen on both sides of Finland’s balance sheet. Specifically, banks’ balance sheets have grown considerably, largely owing to a rise in foreign liabilities. NFCs and the government have also relied in part on foreign investors to finance their debt increases.
International Monetary Fund. Monetary and Capital Markets Department
This paper discusses key findings of the Financial System Stability Assessment concerning Finland. It reveals that Finland’s banking system remains well capitalized and profitable. Although low interest rates have squeezed net interest income, banks have increased income from trading and insurance and reduced cost-income ratios, helping to maintain profitability. Nonperforming loans have remained low and capitalization ratios are well above requirements, though buffers may be exaggerated by the aggressive use of risk weights. The Net Stable Funding Ratio suggests that vulnerabilities from maturity mismatches are limited in aggregate. Nevertheless, previously identified vulnerabilities remain, and some have increased.
Mr. Dirk V Muir
Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Sweden form a tightly integrated region which has strong ties with the euro area as well as some exposure to Russia. Using the IMF’s Global Integrated Monetary and Fiscal model (GIMF), we examine spillovers the region could face, focusing on possible scenarios from the rest of the euro area and Russia, and the fall in global oil prices. We show that the spillovers from these scenarios differ in magnitude and impact, regardless of the high degree of integration among the four Nordic economies. These differences are driven by the fact that Denmark and Finland have no independent monetary policy, and Denmark and Norway are net energy exporters while Finland and Sweden are energy importers. We infer lessons for policy from the outcomes.
International Monetary Fund. European Dept.
This 2014 Article IV Consultation highlights that in 2013, Estonia’s recovery from the crisis continued but at a slower pace. Real GDP growth was 0.8 percent, with private consumption providing the main support, although net exports made a negative contribution. Inflation declined to about 3½ percent, but stayed above the euro average. Public finances remained strong, with a fiscal deficit of 0.2 percent of GDP and a gross public debt of 10 percent of GDP. Real GDP growth is projected at 2.4 percent in 2014, rising toward expected potential growth of 3 to 3.5 percent in the medium term.
Mr. Damiano Sandri and Mr. Ashoka Mody
We use the rise and dispersion of sovereign spreads to tell the story of the emergence and escalation of financial tensions within the eurozone. This process evolved through three stages. Following the onset of the Subprime crisis in July 2007, spreads rose but mainly due to common global factors. The rescue of Bear Stearns in March 2008 marked the start of a distinctively European banking crisis. During this key phase, sovereign spreads tended to rise with the growing demand for support by weakening domestic financial sectors, especially in countries with lower growth prospects and higher debt burdens. As the constraint of continued fiscal commitments became clearer, and coinciding with the nationalization of Anglo Irish in January 2009, the separation between the sovereign and the financial sector disappeared.
International Monetary Fund
This paper is a detailed assessment of NOMX DM, undertaken in the context of the IMF Financial Sector Assessment Program (FSAP) Update for Sweden in 2011. NOMX DM, the only Central Counter-parties (CCP) in Sweden, has provided clearing services for equity, fixed income derivatives, and repo transactions since 2010. Even though NOMX DM has a comprehensive risk management framework, relevant points were brought up in the assessment related to governance and risk management. Swedish authorities have taken necessary measures to improve the system.
Thomas Elkjaer, Jannick Damgaard, and Emmanuel O. Kumah
This paper analyzes the seven valuation methods for unlisted direct investment equity included in the recently adopted IMF Balance of Payments and International Investment Position Manual, Sixth Edition (BPM6). Based on publicly available Danish data, we test the three methods that are generally applicable and find that the choice of valuation method and estimation technique can have a highly significant impact on the international investment position, pointing to the need for further harmonization. The results show that the price-to-book value method generates more robust market value estimates than the price-to-earnings method. This finding suggests that the valuation basis for the forthcoming Coordinated Direct Investment Survey - own funds at book value -will provide useful information for compiling the international investment position.
François Haas
The Markets in Financial Instruments Directive (MiFID) which comes to life on November 1, 2007, represents a major step toward the creation of a single, more competitive, cross-border securities market in Europe. Together with other components of the European Commission's Financial Services Action Plan, MiFID has the potential to significantly transform the provision of financial services and the functioning of capital markets in Europe. This paper assesses the directive and the dynamics it creates from a broad perspective, focusing on those aspects that carry relatively higher transformation potential, and on the appropriate supervisory arrangements for European securities markets once MiFID is operational.