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World's bankers meet, pressing for clarity on regulatory change

HSBC Group Chairman Douglas Flint attends a news conference after an informal meeting of local shareholders in Hong Kong May 21, 2012. REUTE
HSBC Group Chairman Douglas Flint attends a news conference after an informal meeting of local shareholders in Hong Kong May 21, 2012. REUTE

By Steve Slater and Laura Noonan

PARIS (Reuters) - Top bankers and policymakers from around the world will search for ways to kick-start Europe's economy and seek clarity on regulatory changes at this week's conference of the financial industry's global trade body.

More than 1,000 bankers, politicians, regulators and investors meet in Paris on Tuesday and Wednesday for a conference of the Institute of International Finance (IIF), which lobbies on behalf of banks over regulatory, financial and economic issues.

The meeting comes against a jittery backdrop after investors were rattled in the past week by concerns about how the global economy will cope with an end to massive central bank impetus measures and a slowdown in China's growth. That has halted a strong run by bank shares, and reignited discussion about how to boost growth.

Douglas Flint, chairman of both HSBC - Europe's biggest bank - and the IIF, said banks wanted to get clarity on "defining the end point" for regulatory change so they can adapt to that framework.

"Regulation is always going to be a continuum, but the scale of the change that's taking place at the moment is unprecedented and it would be extremely helpful to everyone if there was settled framework," he told Reuters on Monday in Paris.

Banks are on a firmer footing than two years ago after regulators forced them to increase their capital and liquidity strength, but there remains uncertainty about whether banks can be deemed too big, the details of a euro zone banking union and the structure to deal with banks that fail.

Euro zone ministers failed over the weekend to agree how to handle bank collapses or set a blueprint for how bondholders would share losses for bailing out banks, showing the reform program is still far from complete.

Flint said a lack of regulatory clarity for banks was holding back economic growth.

"If you want to get the economies growing again - and credit supply is part of that - then it's important the system is stable. At the moment there are still some fairly fundamental debates still going on," he said.

He said China's slowing growth needed to be closely watched, but European issues still dominated the global stage: "The eurozone is still the most immediate issue."

The IIF represents more than 450 banks and other financial firms and prides itself on getting bankers together with politicians, regulators and central bankers.

It represented creditors of Greece's debt in the biggest and most complex sovereign restructuring ever and has spent much of its recent past leading calls for better coordination of regulatory change.

Bank bosses including Flint, UBS's Axel Weber, BNP Paribas's Baudouin Prot and Societe Generale's Frederic Oudea will be joined by the European Central Bank's Jorg Asmussen, French central bank governor Christian Noyer and officials from the New York Fed, IMF and big investors such as Pimco.

Finance ministers from France and Chile are also due to attend, as well as EU competition chief Joaquin Almunia and the European Banking Authority watchdog.

There remains skepticism regarding the quality of assets in Europe's banks, where critics say banks and regulators have been too slow to recognize losses on many loans and lax in how they assess their riskiness.

The EBA wants to draw a line under those concerns with a review of the assets of euro zone banks later this year, which will lay the groundwork for another "stress test" of Europe's banks next year.

An IIF panel on Tuesday will assess how Europe's much-criticized past tests have compared to those in the United States.

(Reporting by Steve Slater; Editing by Peter Graff)

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