Banking: Iceland

House of Lords written question – answered on 15th July 2008.

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Photo of Lord Oakeshott of Seagrove Bay Lord Oakeshott of Seagrove Bay Spokesperson in the Lords, Treasury, Spokesperson in the Lords, Work & Pensions

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What steps the United Kingdom financial authorities have taken to satisfy themselves, independently of the Icelandic financial authorities, of the solvency and stability of Icelandic banks taking deposits in the United Kingdom; and of that of the Icelandic Deposit Guarantees and Investor-Compensation Scheme behind which the United Kingdom Financial Services Compensation Scheme stands as guarantor of last resort.

Photo of Lord Davies of Oldham Lord Davies of Oldham Deputy Chief Whip (House of Lords), HM Household, Captain of the Queen's Bodyguard of the Yeomen of the Guard (HM Household) (Deputy Chief Whip, House of Lords)

Overseas firms operate in the UK through a mixture of branches and subsidiaries. With regard to subsidiaries, a UK-incorporated subsidiary of an Icelandic bank is a British bank and is authorised by the Financial Services Authority (FSA) like other British banks. All subsidiaries are required to comply with FSA rules on capital, liquidity, complaints and the FSCS. All UK-incorporated subsidiaries of Icelandic banks regulated by the Financial Services Authority continue to meet threshold conditions.

With regards to branches, firms from an EEA state are permitted to passport a branch into the UK under EU legislation and are authorised by their home state regulator. The FSA is responsible for the supervision of conduct of business, financial crime and liquidity in respect of these EEA firms' UK branch business. The home state regulator is the prudential supervisor. However all EEA banks are required to meet the capital requirements implemented in their member states under the Banking Consolidation Directive and the Capital Adequacy Directive. And the FSA has a regular dialogue with overseas regulators and firms where the firms passport into the UK, to share information about the firms and specifically their UK operations.

With regard to the Icelandic Deposit Guarantees and Investor-Compensation Scheme, the UK Financial Services Compensation Scheme maintains contact with schemes in other member states. There are currently two major Icelandic players in the UK: Landsbanki provides its Icesave product through a UK branch while Kaupthing's Edge product is provided through a UK-incorporated subsidiary. As Kaupthing Edge's deposits are collected through a UK-incorporated subsidiary, they are covered exclusively by the UK's FSCS in the same way as savers with other British banks.

As Icesave is provided through a UK branch, its home state compensation scheme will apply. Where there is a gap between the coverage of the home state scheme and the UK maximum, where an EEA firm opts to contribute to the FSCS the deposit will be protected up to the UK maximum. This is the case with Icesave: it has "topped up" into the FSCS; the first €20,887 (around £16,700) of savers' money falls within the scope of the Icelandic deposit guarantee scheme while the remaining amount of the claim up to £35,000 is covered by the FSCS. Therefore, savers with up to £35,000 in an Icesave account would be protected against any losses in a similar way as if their savings were in a British bank.

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