Bail-in: Are my savings secure?

The multiple bank failures that took place during the 2008 financial crisis familiarised us with the concept of a bailout, a mechanism whereby a government uses public money to rescue financial institutions. However, there is another, less well-known option where shareholders, creditors, and depositors can take over the losses.

 

Big banks have become used to playing Russian roulette with money that is not theirs. If business is good, they keep the profits, while if it goes badly, the losses are socialised at the taxpayer’s expense. This is a globalised phenomenon that has been repeated over time and became evident with the multiple bank bailouts and financial sector restructuring that took place during the 2008 financial crisis.

Thus, to avoid the collapse of the banking system, the first option for many countries was to bail out ailing institutions or, in other words, use taxpayer’s money to cover the red numbers caused by the irresponsible financial management of the bankrupt institutions’ management teams.

In the case of Spain, major international organisations estimate the costs of the bank bailout at 6% of GDP. More than 64 billion euros in public money was injected into the banks, much of which has already been written off after the banks have only returned a tiny amount to taxpayers.

 

External bailout vs. internal recapitalisation

The two basic models currently used by the financial system to help struggling banks are the bailout or external rescue and the bail-in or internal recapitalisation. While in a bailout the state, i.e. the public as a whole, bears the cost of recapitalisation, in the case of a bail-in the losses are borne by shareholders, creditors and ultimately depositors, as happened in Cyprus in 2013. The concept of bail-in is based on the notion that if the bank needs to rebalance its balance sheet, it must first use its own capital.

Since January 2016, a bail-in system has been in force in the European Union. According to this resolution mechanism, shareholders receive the first blow. If this does not stabilise the bank, subordinated creditors take over. Next in line are the holders of senior bonds and, finally, uninsured depositors, i.e. those with more than 100,000 euros in their accounts, with preference given to the deposits of large companies over those of households and SMEs, while small depositors remain unaffected.

It is therefore a mechanism designed to minimise the possibility that the costs of resolving a non-viable institution will be borne by taxpayers, while at the same time ensuring that systemically important institutions are resolved without endangering financial stability.

 

Can the bank or the State take my savings in case of bail-in or bankruptcy?

Yes, if you have more than €100,000. If you have less than €100,000, you will be excluded from the bail-in and will be covered by the Deposit Guarantee Fund in case of bankruptcy. This body guarantees the return of money from savings accounts, current accounts and fixed-term deposits.

Let us remember that the FGD guarantees 100,000 euros per depositor and institution. Therefore, to insure higher amounts, it is advisable to have the capital distributed among different entities, without exceeding 100,000 euros in any one of them. Alternatively, if an account with 200,000 euros is shared by two people, each of them would have 100,000 euros insured.

Another option is to open a current account with a fintech such as 11Onze, which operates through an Electronic Money Institution (EMI) and is required by law to insure 100% of its customers’ deposits in the event of bankruptcy, regardless of the amount.

 

Are there any real examples of bail-in?

In Spain, on 7 June 2017, Banco Popular was the first Spanish bank to be bailed-in under the European Union’s new framework for bank resolution. Shareholders and subordinated debt holders lost their investment, and the bank was sold for one euro to Banco Santander, thus avoiding the use of public money. In this case, depositors, even if they had more than 100,000 euros in savings, did not lose their money.

The bank bailout in Greece in 2012 led to the liquidation of Laiki Bank and the restructuring of the Bank of Cyprus through a bail-in. In this case, customers with up to €100,000 in savings did not lose their money, but big depositors lost a large part of their savings or, in some cases, this money was converted into shares.

 

If you want to discover the best option to protect your savings, enter Preciosos 11Onze. We will help you buy at the best price the safe-haven asset par excellence: physical gold.

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