EBA sees high NPL levels and low profitability as the main risks for EU banks

02 December 2016

The European Banking Authority (EBA) published today its ninth report on risks and vulnerabilities in the EU banking sector. The report is accompanied by the EBA's 2016 transparency exercise, which provides essential data, in a comparable and accessible format, for 131 banks across the EU. Overall, banks have further strengthened their capital position, allowing them to continue the process of repair. The report identifies as the key challenges in that process the remaining high levels of non-performing loans (NPLs) and sustained low profitability. Operational risks also appear to be on the rise and volatility in funding markets remains high.

 CET1 ratio

 NPL ratio

 Coverage ratio






(data as of Q2 2016)

The strengthening of European banks' solvency, initiated in 2011, has continued. The common equity tier 1 (CET1) ratio, computed on a transitional basis, increased by 80bp between June 2015 and June 2016, to 13.6 %. The fully loaded CET1 ratio was 12.1 % in June 2015 and 13.2 % in June this year. The continuous increase in common equity is the main driver for the improvement in banks' capital position. Supervisory restrictions on dividends have also boosted retained earnings, despite the low profitability environment.

The NPL ratio decreased to 5.4% in the second half of 2016 from 6.5% at the end of 2014. While there are signs of potential improvements, asset quality is still weak compared to historical figures and other regions. Material differences persist in asset quality across countries, with more than one third of EU jurisdictions showing NPL ratios above 10%. Further gradual improvements in asset quality are expected by banks and market analysts, but they will strongly depend on how successfully the impediments of NPL resolution will be addressed. Action on NPLs is needed, including supervisory actions, structural reforms and development of secondary markets.

EU banks reported an average return on equity (RoE) of 5.7% as of June 2016, down by more than 100 basis points (bp) compared to June 2015, albeit it has improved compared to 2015 and 2014 end-of-year data. The decline in profitability was driven by a drop of total operating income by 8.8%. Profitability remains a source of concern in the EU banking system which is confirmed by the fact that the RoE remains below banks' cost of equity (CoE).

Information and communication technology related risks are increasing whilst litigation and conduct risk-related concerns remain. Cyber-attacks are on the rise and banks are struggling to demonstrate their ability to cope. In this context, supervisors are focusing on IT-related risks including measures to fix rigid and outdated legacy IT systems, IT resilience and governance and outsourcing. The entry of FinTech competitors is also seen as a challenge and opportunity. The report shows that banks expect compensation and redress payments to remain high.

Whilst funding costs have been kept low by accommodative monetary policy stances, including central banks' asset purchase programmes, overall issuances of unsecured debt were reduced in the first three quarters of 2016 compared to 2015. Volume reductions in the issuance of subordinated debt were particularly pronounced. Going forward, banks will also have to take into account in their funding plans the need to meet the global standard on total loss absorbing capacity (TLAC) and the bank recovery and resolution Directive (BRRD).

Notes to the editors

  • The EBA has been conducting transparency exercises at EU-wide level on an annual basis since 2011. Unlike stress tests, transparency exercises are purely disclosure exercises where only bank-by-bank data are published and no shocks are applied to the actual data.

  • This time the EBA is disclosing, in parallel with its annual Risk Assessment Report, bank-by-bank data for two reference dates, December 2015 and June 2016. The transparency exercise is part of the EBA's ongoing efforts to foster transparency and market discipline in the EU internal market for financial services, and complements banks' own Pillar 3 disclosures, as laid down in the EU's capital requirements directive (CRD).

  • The sample in the 2016 transparency exercise includes 131 banks at the highest level of consolidation in the EU, from 24 EEA countries. Similar to the Risk Assessment Report, the transparency exercise fully relies on supervisory reporting data.


Press contacts:

Franca Rosa Congiu

E-mail: press@eba.europa.eu - Tel: +44 (0) 207 382 1772