Bank Transparency still very low warns Fair Finance Guide in new report

mardi 2 juin 2015

undefinedThe civil society network Fair Finance Guide International and its seven members among which Scan des banques Belgium, today launched a report on Transparency and Accountability in the Financial Sector. The report examines key aspects relating to transparency and accountability, and to reporting about tax related issues, as they apply to 47 banks in the seven countries where FFG is active.

The report assesses and scores the 47 banks on their transparency and accountability by looking at four key aspects: publication of policies and risk management; disclosure of investments; reporting on engagement with companies and voting behaviour; and stakeholder dialogue. The report also scores those banks on their transparency on tax-related issues, including the extent to which they provide detailed, country-by-country information on key indicators on transparency and tax. 

The report is based on a methodology developed by the Fair Finance Guide, in collaboration with research organisation Profundo. Research and analysis was conducted by the Fair Finance Guide members in Belgium, Brazil, France, Indonesia, Japan, the Netherlands and Sweden. In addition to country chapters, the report contains contributions from key experts, presenting a range of perspectives on strengthening transparency and accountability in the financial sector.

“Transparency is the fundamental condition for a financial and banking sector that sees itself accountable to society, not above it” said Ted van Hees, the Chair of the Fair Finance Guide network. “The choice of this theme for the first joint case study produced by the members of FFG aims to improve bank policies at their core, leaving no room for opacity or exemptions”.

The report places assessed banks in three categories: leaders, followers and laggards. Only three banks scored above six out of ten on FFG’s Transparency and Accountability theme, earning their place in the category of leaders: ASN Bank in the Netherlands, which scored 8.1 points, followed by CitiBank (as for Indonesia of this US-based bank, 6.8) and Van Lanschot, which operates in the Netherlands and Belgium (6.1). 

Twenty eight banks, constituting almost 60 percent of the banks included in the research, scored below four points out of ten on this theme. That such a large percentage of banks are laggards in their transparency and accountability reporting is of serious concern. 

A second set of scores presented in the report relate to transparency on taxation. With increasing public demand for combating tax abuses, and moves to tighten international rules in this regard, the Fair Finance Guide highlights how banks are performing in this extremely important area. The scores on taxation transparency are based on the banks’ 2013 Annual Reports, before the first obligations to report country-by-country on tax payments came into effect in Europe in 2014. 

The scores on the theme Taxes and Corruption yield four banks as leaders in this field, with ASN Bank in the Netherlands scoring highest with 9.3 points out of ten. It is joined by SNS Reaal and NIBC in the Netherlands (6.9 and 6.2 points respectively), and by VDK in Belgium (6.8 points).

Thirty six of the banks assessed in the report are laggards in tax transparency, which is a worryingly overwhelming 77 percent of the total.

“The aim of Fair Finance Guide is to promote a race to the top among financial institutions in their policies and practices,” said Imad Sabi, the Methodology and Research Coordinator in FFG. “We want this report on transparency and accountability to highlight where banks are and to set demands and expectations in this regard”. 

 The full report, Transparency and Accountability in the Financial Sector, is available here. 

For more information on the Fair Finance Guide, and this report, please contact: Ted van Hees, Chair of FFGI. - +31 (0)6 53 18 75 97 

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