European Supervisory Authorities still playing second fiddle to national financial regulators
The limited resources available to the ESAs, compared to national regulators, remain a barrier to their ability to carry out their responsibilities and act as independent authorities at EU level.
Authors: Willem Pieter de Groen and Klaudia Zielińska
Three European Supervisory Authorities (ESAs) – European Banking Authority (EBA), European Securities and Markets Authority (ESMA) and European Insurance and Occupational Pensions Authority (EIOPA) have been established to contribute to the stability and efficiency of the financial system by coordinating micro-prudential supervision and preparing secondary and tertiary legislation. The effectiveness of these three authorities, however, has been called into question since their inception in 2011. In particular, the operational and financial restrictions do not allow them to operate in an efficient manner. For example, the Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee (ECON) of the European Parliament has repeatedly stressed in its annual opinions that funds for the ESAs are not sufficiently flexible or large enough to allow them to carry out their responsibilities (ECON, 2015a and b, 2017 a and b; Demarigny et al., 2013). The IMF also concluded as early as 2013 that the ESAs’ funds are insufficient to fulfil their statutory responsibilities. The European Court of Auditors (2014) further stressed that neither their staff nor budgets are sufficient to perform the tasks that were assigned to them. To be effective, the ESAs thus need more funds to hire highly-qualified staff to execute their responsibilities.
This contribution compares the financial and human resources available to the ESAs compared with those available to national financial supervisory authorities. The comparison of budgets and staff is a complex exercise. There are large differences in the responsibilities as well as the size and complexity of the financial institutions and markets supervised by the various authorities. The ESAs, for example, focus more on policy-making and coordination than the national supervisors. With the exception of ESMA, which is responsible for credit rating agencies and trade repositories, the ESAs do not perform the more labour-intensive direct supervision, which is the core responsibility of most national supervisors. Moreover, the national supervisors often combine supervisory and non-supervisory activities under the roof of one financial authority. For example, many bank supervisors are part of central banks that are also responsible for monetary policy. In most cases, the figures published by the various authorities also do not allow one to distinguish between supervisory and other activities. Therefore, the total number of employees and operating expenses have been brought together to compare the resources of EU financial supervisory authorities (ESAs, ECB and SRB) with the national members of the ESAs’ boards of supervisors and national macro-prudential authorities associated with the ESRB (see Table A1 in the Annex for details).
Differences in total resources are nevertheless an important indicator of the relative power and independence of authorities. Other important factors include the legally-determined powers and independence of the authorities. The exercise of power and independence is important to allow the ESAs to impose the necessary convergence in national supervisory practices to create true EU single market for financial services, as well as to prevent national supervisors from favouring their own financial institutions and thus fuelling financial instability.
When the staff and budget figures of the ESAs are compared with other EU supervisors and national supervisors, the differences are striking. The three ESAs had in total 532 employees in 2016. Most of the employees worked at ESMA (204 employees), which is slightly larger than EBA (189) and substantially larger than EIOPA (139).
Figure 1. Number of employees in the European supervisory authorities, 2016
Source: Authors’ elaboration based on annual budgets, annual accounts and financial statements (see Table A1 in the Annex for details).
Looking at the other European financial authorities, the ESAs have substantially fewer employees than the European Central Bank (ECB) has available for monetary policy operations and supervision. Of the total of about 3,200 ECB employees, more than 1,000 work for the Single Supervisory Mechanism (SSM). Indeed, the SSM has about twice as many staff members as all the ESAs combined. The Single Resolution Board (SRB), which plays a vital role in the resolution planning and execution of 135 large and cross-border banking groups in the euro area, had only 107 employees. To put this in some perspective, the SRB headcount is lower than that of financial supervisory authorities in countries with small financial sectors such as Latvia or Croatia (both of which have over 150 employees).
Most of the supervisors are still employed at national level. In fact, the supervisory authorities in France, Germany, Italy and the United Kingdom each have more staff than all the European financial authorities combined (i.e. ESAs, SRB and ECB). The total number of employees in these European institutions constitutes merely half of the staff currently employed in the national financial authorities in Germany, Italy or the United Kingdom.
Each of the financial authorities in almost all of the 28 EU member states, except Estonia, Finland and Slovenia, have more employees than all the ESAs combined. Overall, the ESAs employ only around 0.7% of all staff of national and European financial authorities.
Financial resources, measured by operating expenses, show a similar picture. The total sum of the operating expenses of the ESAs in 2016 was €97 million. The EBA and ESMA have a similar level of operating expenses of close to €40 million. EIOPA’s expenditures are the lowest at €22 million. At the same time the total operating expenses of the ECB (€954 million) amounted to around ten times that of the three ESAs combined, whereas the SRB’s operational expenditure (€34 million) fell between EIOPA and the EBA/ESMA.
Figure 2. Operating expenses of European financial authorities, 2016 (€ millions)
Source: Authors’ elaboration of annual budgets, annual accounts and financial statements (see Table 1 in the Annex for details).
Turning to the national financial authorities, the highest total operational expenditures are reported in Germany, France and Italy. The financial authorities in each of these countries have operating expenditures above €2 billion. Indeed, the financial authorities in each of these three countries have more than 20 times the financial resources available to the three ESAs combined and about twice the financial resources of all the EU financial authorities combined (ESAs, ECB and SRB). There are only three countries in which the national financial authorities have operating expenses lower than those of the ESAs – Latvia, Lithuania and Slovenia – and these have in general a very small domestic financial sector and/or substantially lower price levels. Overall, the ESAs have about 0.7% of the financial resources available to national and European financial authorities combined.
The Commission’s proposal
The EU budget and member states currently contribute the lion’s share of the ESAs’ budget, supplemented by some industry contributions for ESMA’s direct supervision. In 2016, the budget of the ESAs amounted to €97 million, of which almost €33 million came from the European budget and €52 million came from the national authorities (European Commission, 2017b). A substantially higher budget is needed to ensure the effectiveness of these institutions and their independence from national authorities.
Following the results of a public consultation on the European Commission’s proposal, there seems to be a broad recognition of the ESAs’ shortage of resources. The proposal seeks to address this issue somewhat. Instead of relying on the EU budget and national contributions, the Commission suggests introducing contributions from the financial industry, replacing the contributions from the national competent authorities. This should ease the expansion of the ESAs’ budgets.
It remains questionable, however, whether the change in the contributors as well as the proposals for empowering the chairpersons of the ESAs will receive the necessary support from the member states in the Council. Moreover, even if the member states support the proposal, the immediate budget growth is likely to be limited and unlikely to fundamentally change the current balance of power. The ESAs therefore seem fated to continue to play second fiddle to the dominant national financial authorities for the time being. This will remain an obstacle to the creation of a true EU single market for financial services with the same rules, implementation and enforcement in all member states.
Demarigny, F., J. McMahon, and N. Robert (2013), “Review of the New European System of Financial Supervision. Part 1: The work of the European Supervisory Authorities (EBA, EIOPA and ESMA)”, European Parliament’s Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs, European Union, Brussels, October.
European Commission (2017a), Communication on integrated supervision to strengthen capital Markets Union and financial integration in a changing environment, COM (2017) 542 final, Brussels, 20.9.2017.
European Commission (2017b), Commission Staff Working Document. Impact Assessment. Accompanying the document proposal for a Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council amending Regulation (EU) No 1093/2010 establishing a European Supervisory Authority (European Banking Authority); Regulation (EU) No 1094/2010 establishing a European Supervisory Authority (European Insurance and Occupational Pensions Authority); Regulation (EU) No 1095/2010 establishing a European Supervisory Authority (European Securities and Markets Authority); Regulation (EU) No 345/2013 on European venture capital funds; Regulation (EU) No 346/2013 on European social entrepreneurship funds; Regulation (EU) No 600/2014 on markets in financial instruments; Regulation (EU) 2015/760 on European long-term investment funds; Regulation (EU) 2016/1011 on indices used as benchmarks in financial instruments and financial contracts or to measure the performance of investment funds; and Regulation (EU) 2017/1129 on the prospectus to be published when securities are offered to the public or admitted to trading on a regulated market, SWD (2017) 308 final, Brussels, 20.9.2017.
European Court of Auditors (2014), “European banking supervision taking shape – EBA and its changing context”, Special Report No. 5, Luxembourg.
ECON (2015a), Opinion of the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs for the Committee on Budgetary Control on discharge in respect of the implementation of the budget of the European Insurance and Occupational Pension Authority for the financial year 2013 (2014/2121(DEC)), European Parliament, February.
ECON (2015b), Opinion of the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs for the Committee on Budgetary Control on discharge in respect of the implementation of the budget of the European Securities and Market Authority for the financial year 2013 (2014/2122(DEC)), European Parliament, February.
ECON (2017a), Opinion of the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs for the Committee on Budgetary Control on discharge in respect of the implementation of the budget of the European Securities and Market Authority for the financial year 2015 (2016/2188(DEC)), European Parliament, March.
ECON (2017b), Opinion of the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs for the Committee on Budgetary Control on discharge in respect of the implementation of the budget of the European Banking Authority for the financial year 2015 (2016/2186(DEC)), European Parliament, March.
International Monetary Fund (2013), “European Union: Publication of Financial Sector Assessment Program Documentation-Technical Note on Issues in Transparency and Accountability”, IMF Country Report No. 13/65, Washington, D.C., March.
Regulation (EU) No 1093/2010 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 24 November 2010 establishing a European Supervisory Authority (European Banking Authority), amending Decision No 716/2009/EC and repealing Commission Decision 2009/78/EC, OJ L 331/12, 15.12.2010.
Regulation (EU) No 1094/2010 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 24 November 2010 establishing a European Supervisory Authority (European Insurance and Occupational Pensions Authority), amending Decision No 716/2009/EC and repealing Commission Decision 2009/79/EC, OJ L 331/48, 15.12.2010.
Regulation (EU) No 1095/2010 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 24 November 2010 establishing a European Supervisory Authority (European Securities and Markets Authority), amending Decision No 716/2009/EC and repealing Commission Decision 2009/77/EC, OJ L 331/84, 15.12.2010.
Willem Pieter de Groen is Research Fellow and Head of the Financial Markets and Institutions Unit and Klaudia Zielińska is an Intern at CEPS.
CEPS Commentaries offer concise, policy-oriented insights into topical issues in European affairs. As an institution, CEPS takes no official position on questions of EU policy. The views expressed are attributable only to the authors and not to any institution with which they are associated.
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Appendix Table A1. Resources available to European financial authorities, 2016
Notes: The data are taken from the annual reports, financial statements and budgets of each authority for 2016, when available. The data for the Croatian Hrvatska agencija za nadzor financijskih usluga (HANFA), Portuguese Autoridade de Supervisao de Seguros e de Fundos de Pensoes (ASF) and Romanian Autoritatea de Supraveghere Financiară (ASF) are based on the budget figures for 2015. Moreover, data collected for the English Financial Policy Committee is based on the budget from 2016-17 and the number of employees for the Bank of Greece comes from May 2017. It should be pointed out that the data for the Comissão do mercado de valores mobiliários (CMVM) come from the budget plan for 2016. Unfortunately, no relevant data were available for many Greek and Cypriot supervisory agencies.
* The figures not expressed in EUR have been converted into EUR using the respective exchange rate.
** FTE - full-time equivalent HC- Headcount EoY - End of Year, AVG Annual average
 Moreover, the data are not fully comparable due to the application of different definitions. For example, human resources data are provided either in terms of end-of-year headcount or average yearly full-time equivalents.
 The number of employees given for the Single Resolution Board is taken from 2015.
 Regulation (EU) No 1093/2010, No 1094/2010, No 1095/2010.
 COM(2017) 536 final.