The former CEO of the NTMA and now Government-nominee to the board of AIB, Michael Somers made headlines a fortnight ago when he claimed that increased regulation was leading to international banks to hand back their licenses and exit from Ireland, taking their business and contribution to the economy with them. The comments were interpreted by a cartoonist in one newspaper with a helicopter emblazoned with “Goldman Sachs” taking off from the IFSC building beside Bus Aras bus station, with the Famine memorial in the foreground and some choice words about bankers and their pay, which was also cited by Michael as a reason for deterring recruitment and activity in state-owned banks.
But is there any truth to the claim?
This week in the Dail, the Sinn Fein finance spokesperson Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Finance Michael Noonan to give detail on the number of banking licenses that had been given back. In terms of wholesale banking operations of the type we would associate solely with the IFSC, the number has declined from 30 in 2010 to 22 today, a decline of 8 or 27%.
Alas, Michael Somers didn’t provide detail on the regulation which IFSC banks found unpalatable, and there might be other reasons for the exodus, but it seems undeniable that there has been a steady decline in wholesale banks since 2010.
The parliamentary question and response are here:
Deputy Pearse Doherty: To ask the Minister for Finance if he will confirm by year for each of end of 2010, end of 2011, end of 2012 and currently, the number of extant banking licenses issued to banks operating in the International Financial Services Centre; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
Minister for Finance, Michael Noonan: The total number of credit institutions registered in Ireland is 437. A full list of authorised credit institutions is available on the Central Bank website at http://registers.centralbank.ie/DownloadsPage.aspx.
It is difficult to clearly demarcate which banks participate in international financial services activity based solely on location in the International Financial Services Centre. The Central Bank has identified the key international financing operations which it considers to be IFSC type banking activities i.e. wholesale institutions carrying out non-retail banking activity. The number of wholesale institutions licensed for non-retail banking activities on 31 December 2010 was 30; on 31 December 2011 there were 26; and on 31 December 2012 there were 24. The current number of wholesale institutions licensed for non-retail banking activities is 22.