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ECB says six banks short of capital, phases out pandemic waiver

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Workers maintain the huge Euro logo in front of the headquarters of the European Central Bank (ECB) in Frankfurt, December 6, 2011. REUTERS/Ralph Orlowski

FRANKFURT (Reuters) – The European Central Bank is telling euro zone banks zone to step up their defences against cyber attacks, also in the context of geopolitical tensions such as the stand-off between Russia and Ukraine, the ECB’s top supervisor said on Thursday.

Andrea Enria was presenting the results of the ECB’s annual review of banks, which he said showed the industry had coped well with the coronavirus pandemic and capital relief measures could be allowed to expire at the end of this year.

But the euro zone’s top banking supervisor warned of rising risk from cyber attacks, with a surge in hacks since 2020.

“We are asking (banks) to strengthen their cyber regime measures and look at a potential increase in attacks and the danger of these attacks going forward,” Enria told a news conference.

Specifically, the ECB was telling banks to train staff so they could tackle this threat and look for weak spots in services they outsource. The central bank has also been running simulated hacks for years.

Reuters was first to report on Wednesday that ECB was preparing banks for a possible Russian-sponsored cyber attack.

Asked about such risk, Enria said the ECB would draw “the attention of banks in relation to the potential worsening of global tensions that could indeed trigger more attacks.”

CAPITAL

Enria said six euro zone banks out of the 115 it supervises had fallen short of ECB’s capital demands at the end of September 2021, down from nine a year earlier, but this was due to structural issues such as low profits, rather than the pandemic.

He did not name the six banks, but said two had already filled the shortfall and expressed satisfaction at how banks performed during the pandemic, with most exceeding the minimum requirements despite piles of bad loans in some industries.

“We are broadly satisfied with the way that banks have operated so far during the pandemic,” he said. “Banks need to remain aware of the possible consequences for their balance sheets and strengthen their risk control and governance frameworks in particular.”

Enria added a waiver allowing banks to use some of their capital buffers, introduced at the onset of the pandemic in 2020, would be scrapped at the end of this year, as widely expected.

ECB tells banks to step up defences against hacks

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