According to Dr. Lowe, Australia has not experienced quick development in non-bank advances yet, however any harder regulations would make that much more probable.
The RBA deputy governor Philip Lowe says recent measures from banking regulator, the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA) were having a “positive, albeit modest, effect”.
“In the past couple of weeks you’ve seen a number of banks say they’re requiring larger deposits for investor loans, they’re offering smaller discounts on interest rates and smaller rebates, they’re requiring higher serviceability levels,” Dr Lowe said at yesterday’s Thomson Reuters regulatory summit in Sydney.
But he added that the use of macroprudential tools can only be pushed so far.
“This is an issue that’s very clearly on our radar screen. How far can you push the tighter regulation of the banking system without causing the same volume of loans to be made but just through a different financial intermediary,” Dr Lowe said.
“In the ’70s and the ’60s we had a lot of the tools that are currently in vogue and we ended up getting rid of them was because what happened was that institutions found out ways of getting around the rules.
“Finance is very flexible and people are very good at moving the money from the people who have it to the people who want it.”
He said Australia has not experienced rapid growth in non-bank loans yet, but any tougher regulations would make that far more likely.
Maybe a few more loans are being made through non-bank lenders than through the banking system as a result of the tougher requirements, but it’s very much at the margins,” he said.
“But it’s a margin that we do need to watch very carefully, and history tells us that if you make the incentive too misaligned between the banks and the non-banks then the funding will follow to the non-banks.”
“My conversations with a number of banks around the country [suggest] the various APRA measures are having an effect,” he said.
“The measures so far seem to be having a positive albeit modest effect and it is worthwhile seeing how those play out.
“My subjective assessment would be the level of risk in bank mortgage portfolios has risen over the past couple of years.”
Dr Lowe said the RBA was watching the steps taken in New Zealand.
“We follow these issues very carefully. Of course New Zealand’s not the only country that’s implemented some type of macroprudential regulation,” he said.
“The number of countries that have done that over recent times is very large and so we watch, study the experience of other countries carefully.”
“It is entirely appropriate that (Australian) households are careful as well because the level of risk there, while I don’t think it is extreme, it has picked up and both financial institutions and households need to respond to that,” he told the conference in Sydney.
Household debt is high, property prices are very high, household income growth is slow, the unemployment rate has drifted up – all those things would suggest there has been an increase in the level of risk, particularly as people have bought property for investment purposes.
“In that environment, it is entirely appropriate [the banking regulator] APRA has a very close dialogue with financial institutions about the risks in those portfolios, and makes sure there are plenty of buffers there in case things don’t turn out so well.