Financial System Stability Assessment, including Reports on the Observance of Standards and Codes on the following topics: Banking Supervision, Securities Regulation, and Insurance Regulation

Portugal’s financial system is sound, well-managed and competitive, with shorter-term risks and vulnerabilities well contained, and with the system buttressed by a strong financial policy framework. Portuguese banks’ profitability, asset quality, and solvency have held up well in recent years, despite a difficult operating environment. Nevertheless, household debt levels are well above the EU average, and corporate debt levels are also high, although bank credit to firms has been growing moderately in recent years. The government should continue to carefully monitor the key risk areas.


Portugal’s financial system is sound, well-managed and competitive, with shorter-term risks and vulnerabilities well contained, and with the system buttressed by a strong financial policy framework. Portuguese banks’ profitability, asset quality, and solvency have held up well in recent years, despite a difficult operating environment. Nevertheless, household debt levels are well above the EU average, and corporate debt levels are also high, although bank credit to firms has been growing moderately in recent years. The government should continue to carefully monitor the key risk areas.

I. Financial System Features

1. Financial intermediation in Portugal is dominated by the banking sector. While Portugal’s financial market depth is somewhat lower than the euro-area average, bank loans represent a larger source of financing for the private sector (Figure 1). Portuguese banks hold strategic stakes in other sectors of the economy, including the insurance sector. Foreign bank participation is relatively high as is state ownership through the Caixa Geral de Depósitos (CGD).

Figure 1.
Figure 1.

Portugal: Key Features of the Financial System

Citation: IMF Staff Country Reports 2006, 378; 10.5089/9781451832211.002.A001

Sources: Portuguese authorities, Bank for International Settlements, ECB, Eurostat, World Bank, and IMF staff estimates.

2. Although the banking market is somewhat concentrated, competitive conditions are robust. Financial liberalization and deregulation, and the creation of the European Monetary Union (EMU), helped bolster consolidation in the banking industry in Portugal. As a result, market concentration has increased, as measured by the usual market-structure indicators (Table 1). Nevertheless, a number of empirical studies suggest that competitive conditions in the Portuguese banking have remained strong.1

Table 1.

Portugal: Market Concentration Indicators in Selected Euro-Area Countries (1997–2004) 1/

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Sources: European Central Bank, “EU Banking Structures,” October, 2004 and 2005.

Based on a solo data. The Herfindahl Index is the sum of squares of the markets shares of all firms in a sector. When the index is between 1,000 and 1,800, the market structure is somewhat concentrated; when it assumes values above 1,800, the market is highly concentrated.

II. Potential Sources of Risk

A. Macroeconomic Environment

3. The macroeconomic environment has been challenging for the Portuguese financial system. In the last few years, the Portuguese economy has been one of the weaker performers in Europe, mainly due to disappointing productivity growth and waning external competitiveness. Since 2001, the economy has been virtually stagnant; domestic investment has collapsed; public finances have significantly deteriorated triggering two consecutive EU excessive-deficit procedures; the current account deficit has widened to more than 9 percent of GDP in 2005; and the negative net international investment position has worsened to almost 66 percent of GDP, reflecting significant government and bank borrowing from abroad (Figure 2).

Figure 2.
Figure 2.

Portugal: Selected Economic Indicators; 2000–05

Citation: IMF Staff Country Reports 2006, 378; 10.5089/9781451832211.002.A001

Sources: Banco de Portugal; and IMF staff estimates.1/ Structural balances are calculated using the staff’s estimates of potential output. Asset sales, including UMTS receipts, the transfer of pension funds, and securitization are netted out for purposes of calculating structural balances.

4. The near term economic outlook is for growth to remain relatively slow and if there were to be any significant dampening of economic recovery prospects, it could significantly affect banks’ asset quality and earnings capacity. In the period ahead, slow employment growth, poor external competitiveness, fiscal consolidation, and the need for household and firms to work off their high indebtedness will weigh on banks’ operating environment. Further risks may arise from deterioration in the external environment. A more-rapid-than-expected increase in Euro area interest rates, or strengthening of the Euro exchange rate, for example, would likely further depress domestic demand and economic activity, requiring still further fiscal adjustment to achieve the Stability and Growth Pact targets. If substantial concerns about fiscal policy were to develop, this could translate into higher risk premia for Portuguese borrowers in general.2

B. Main Counterparties

5. Household borrowing has grown robustly, despite the weak economic performance, and high household indebtedness is an important source of potential risk for banks. Since mid-1990s, favorable monetary conditions have fostered household borrowing, mainly for mortgages, which has significantly outpaced household disposable income growth (Figure 3). As a result, in less than 10 years, household debt has more than tripled, reaching around 120 percent of disposable income in 2005, the second highest figure in the euro area. Debt service remains moderate given low euro-area interest rates. However, since household mortgages are typically floating rate loans, interest rate risk is shifted to the household sector, which in turn generates greater credit risk for banks, other things being equal. Intensified competition in the mortgage market has also resulted in some easing of credit standards over time, new types of contracts delaying principal repayments, and higher loan-to-value ratios (LTVs).

Figure 3.
Figure 3.

Portugal: Household and Corporate Sector Debt and Debt Service; 2000–05

Citation: IMF Staff Country Reports 2006, 378; 10.5089/9781451832211.002.A001

Sources: Banco de Portugal; Cardoso, F. and Cunha, V. (2005), “Household wealth in Portugal: 1980-2004,” Banco de Portugal Working Paper No 4, June; and IMF staff estimates.1/ Interest cost to financial debt ratio.

6. Nevertheless, there are a number of potentially mitigating factors:

  • Contrary to other European countries’ experience, Portugal has not suffered a significant boom in real estate prices (Figure 4). House prices have slowed quite significantly after 2000–01 and have been almost flat in nominal terms in recent years (and negative in real terms), reflecting, inter alia, some gradual correction of the earlier upswing and some increase in the supply side.3

  • Net household wealth appears broadly comfortable, with net financial wealth still in excess of the growing household debt levels. Nevertheless, beneath the aggregate picture, household wealth remains highly concentrated, and the debt-to-asset ratio is markedly higher for the age group of less than thirty years old, which makes this group more vulnerable to interest rate and unemployment shocks.4 It will be important to monitor whether there are any concentrations of lending to such more vulnerable borrowers.

  • LTV ratios are broadly in line with other EU countries (Table 2). The average LTV ratio on new mortgages has risen to about 85 percent on average—and can be up to 100 percent in specific cases—but remains broadly in line with other EU countries.

Figure 4.
Figure 4.

Portugal: Property Prices; 2000—2004

Citation: IMF Staff Country Reports 2006, 378; 10.5089/9781451832211.002.A001

Sources: Ministry of Finance; and IMF staff estimates.
Table 2.

Portugal: Contract Features in Selected Mortgage System 1/

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Sources: Banco de Portugal; European Mortgage Federation; ECB; Eurostat.

Most recent information.

7. Although corporate lending has sharply decelerated since the late 1990s, mainly reflecting weak domestic and foreign direct investment, concentration across sectors and borrowers may represent an important risk for banks (Figure 5). Corporate lending has recovered somewhat recently, thus providing banks with some diversification from household lending. However, corporate debt has reached 97 percent of GDP in 2005, which is one of the highest levels amongst EU countries. Despite weak economic activity, corporate nonperforming loans (NPLs) have remained low but this situation might suddenly change if the economy continues to perform poorly and/or interest rates rise substantially. Two issues deserve particular attention:

Figure 5.
Figure 5.

Portugal: Credit Growth; 2000—06

Citation: IMF Staff Country Reports 2006, 378; 10.5089/9781451832211.002.A001

Source: Banco de Portugal.
  • Significant exposure to real estate-related activities (Figure 6). Taking into account loans to construction, rental service, households’ mortgage loans on the banks’ books and property-related securitization activity, total exposure of the banking sector to the real estate sector is more than half of total loans originally granted to the non-financial private sector. This makes the banking sector particularly vulnerable to developments in this sector.

  • Significant concentration in a few large corporate borrowers. In recent years, almost half of corporate lending was concentrated in a few large non-financial corporations (some 0.5 percent of total borrowers, by number), mainly in the service sector.5 While the sum of these exposures was equivalent to almost twice the regulatory capital of the banking system as a whole, they are closely supervised and within the prudential limits.6 Although these large borrowers are mainly in the nontradable sector, and hence not directly exposed to harsh international competition, uncertainties surrounding the domestic economic outlook may nevertheless make these exposures more risky.

Figure 6.
Figure 6.

Portugal: Bank Lending by Sectors; 2005

Citation: IMF Staff Country Reports 2006, 378; 10.5089/9781451832211.002.A001

Sources: Banco de Portugal; and IMF staff estimates.

8. Banks have significant foreign borrowing. As bank credit growth has outpaced the expansion in domestic customer deposits, Portuguese banks have increasingly tapped international capital markets, mainly in the euro area, by issuing securities through subsidiaries abroad and to a much lesser extent direct interbank borrowing.7 In recent years, they have succeeded in lengthening the maturity of their borrowings in these markets. While currency risk is small, the banks could be affected by pricing and liquidity risks if market sentiment deteriorated.

9. Banks’ exposures to emerging and developing markets are quite small. Overall, the foreign operations of domestic banking groups are a rather marginal aspect of their balance sheets, although in some cases, foreign activities contribute more to group revenue than to balance sheets.8 While some banks sold off foreign operations to clarify focus, some larger banks currently appear interested in further foreign expansion. However, banks’ vulnerability to adverse developments in those markets appears rather limited, given their size and the diversity amongst banks.

III. Strengths and Vulnerabilities

A. Institutions

Credit institutions

10. Portuguese banks continue to enjoy robust growth and strong profitability despite a difficult operating environment. Against a background of anemic economic growth and narrowing interest margins—albeit still somewhat higher than in other euro-area countries—banks have strengthened alternative sources of income (mainly commissions), rationalized operating costs (notably for personnel), and enhanced credit procedures. Overall, Portuguese banks compare well with the average of euro-area countries (Figure 7).

Figure 7.
Figure 7.

Portugal: Banking System Selected Financial Indicators; 2005

(In percent)

Citation: IMF Staff Country Reports 2006, 378; 10.5089/9781451832211.002.A001

Sources: Banco de Portugal; ECB; and IMF staff estimates.

11. Banks’ liquidity position, asset quality, and solvency ratios have improved. Increasing loan securitization and the capacity to tap the long-term segment of capital markets at declining spreads has helped Portuguese banks to improve their liquidity position. Reflecting, inter alia, improved risk management practices, the burden of NPLs has declined to historical lows, while provision coverage has been strengthened.9 Market-oriented risk indicators such as spreads on credit default swaps, although available for a limited number of banks, compare well with euro-area averages.10 Although affected by changes in the actuarial assumptions for the banks’ pension schemes, the capital adequacy ratio (CAR) for the system is broadly in line with (but a little lower than) the Euro-area average, and is more closely in line for the larger banks.

12. However, several aspects of credit risk will need to be (and are being) closely monitored, as they could become still more important as risk factors in future, if current trends continue. Notwithstanding the mitigating factors outlined above, increased bank competition, especially in the mortgage market, may have contributed to some easing of lending and pricing standards. Portugal’s uncertain economic outlook casts some additional risks on banks’ exposure to large non-financial corporates, including their equity holdings. At the same time, the recent expansion of some banks’ lending to small and medium-sized enterprises, while providing some beneficial diversification, may increase their risk profile in other ways, owing to limited availability of financial information, and less demanding transparency and accounting standards.

13. While liquidity and direct market risks appear to be relatively small, banks are more than usually sensitive to equity price risk. Despite the continued significant reliance on external borrowing, overall banks’ liquidity situation appears adequate and has generally improved in recent years, despite a downturn in some liquidity indicators in the latest year.11 Of particular importance in this regard has been the lengthening of the maturities of external borrowing in recent years, both through a general shift from interbank borrowing to bond issuance (the latest year excepted) and a shift towards longer maturity bonds: in 2005, the share of foreign bonds with maturities over 5 years increased from 29 percent to 37 percent of total debt securities issued by subsidiaries and branches abroad. As noted above, as part of this, mortgage and other securitizations have grown significantly in recent years (Figure 8). With almost all this borrowing being in the euro markets, currency risk is minimal, while the depth of these markets helps to further mitigate liquidity risks. As regards equity price risk, direct equity investment on the banks’ own books represents a relatively small share of banks’ assets, but their employee pension funds are particularly exposed to stock markets.12

Figure 8.
Figure 8.

Portugal: Bank Loan Securitization; 2000—06

Citation: IMF Staff Country Reports 2006, 378; 10.5089/9781451832211.002.A001

Source: Banco de Portugal; European Securitization Forum; and IMF staff estimates.1/ Data for the different sectors/segments refer only to loans securitized and derecognized from banks’ balance sheet. No sectoral/segment breakdown is available for securitized loans nonderecognized from banks’ balance sheet.

14. Employee pension funds may represent a significant challenge for the banks. It is estimated that the implementation of the IFRS principles for evaluating pension and health care liabilities would imply a 9.2 percent fall in the level of banking system regulatory capital. While this impact can be spread over several years under current arrangements, a large burden remains to be borne, as only one-sixth of that impact was absorbed during 2005. Further, these costs are distributed unevenly across banks.

15. The risks of direct contagion and spillover amongst Portuguese financial institutions appear quite low, given the relatively limited interlinkages between them. Although cross-sectoral financial conglomerates are relevant in the Portuguese financial system, the non-banking arms are not yet as significant as in some other countries. Besides, Portuguese bank’s direct interbank exposures to each other are very low (about 3 percent of total assets).

16. The vulnerabilities Portuguese banks are facing have to be assessed against the background of their improving risk management procedures. While currently used internal control and risk management systems differ considerably in terms of sophistication and complexity, Portuguese credit institutions have made considerable investments to update them in preparation for Basel II. According to a recent survey of the BdP, most of the larger Portuguese banks intend to adopt sophisticated methods to calculate capital requirements under Basel II (Table 3).

Table 3.

Portugal: Risk Management Methods for Basel II

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Source: Banco de Portugal.

Insurance sector

17. The financial soundness of the insurance sector has strengthened in recent years, after a dismal performance in 2001-02. Better alignment of premiums to risk in some categories, positive investment yields, slower growth in claims, some rationalization in personnel costs, and continuing market deepening have contributed to improve the performance and solvency of the insurance sector in Portugal.

18. Insurance companies are somewhat vulnerable to various market risks, although their portfolios are fairly well diversified. Following a more conservative approach to equity investment, Portuguese insurance companies have gradually shifted their investment portfolios toward fixed-income securities, mainly issued in other euro-area countries, although the share of variable-yield securities remains sizable. While insurers’ exposure to credit risk through credit derivatives, securitization and special purpose vehicle bonds is reportedly minimal, it remains a potential vulnerability given the relatively large (20 percent) share of investments in non-investment grade and unrated bonds.

Stress testing of banks and insurance companies

19. The results of the stress tests indicate that the larger banks’ shock-absorbing capacity is quite robust. (See Box 2 for more detail on the results and the Appendix for more information on methodology). This message comes through from both the bottom-up and top-down scenario-based exercises, which tested the effect of two internally consistent sets of multiple-variable shocks. Neither the “disruptive unwinding of global imbalances” scenario nor the “significant cyclical asynchrony” scenario seems to cause a substantial impact for the system as a whole. The results suggest that the impact of these shocks on the system-wide capital adequacy ratio has an order of magnitude of only 1 to 2 percentage points.13 However, beneath this aggregate picture, there is some degree of heterogeneity in banks’ ability to absorb different shocks, though none falls below minimum CAR levels.

20. Among the risk factors, credit as well as equity price risk matters for banks. Unsurprisingly, credit risk is important for banks but banks’ capitalization provides a comfortable buffer to withstand even sizeable shocks relatively comfortably. Somewhat unusual, however, is banks’ vulnerability to equity price risk, mainly reflecting the exposure of banks’ employee pension schemes. Actuarial losses in excess of the 10 percent “regulatory corridor” are deducted directly from bank’s Tier 1 own funds, even though the impact on profits can be amortized over several years. As for other risk factors, shocks to the yield curve, the euro-dollar exchange rate, and implied volatility have only limited effects. For those banks particularly exposed to international capital markets, the effect of tightening market conditions on their liquidity position was also assessed as part of the broader stress testing exercise: banks have established quite rigorous contingency procedures to cope with such reversals, and the assessment indicated that liquidity buffers would be adequate to deal with a quite significant market reassessment.

21. Likewise, the insurance sector shows resilience to various financial and insurance-specific shocks. Within this overall result, equity price risk appears to be relevant for both life and non-life sector, but the former is relatively more vulnerable to interest rate risk and the latter to premium and reserves risk. Compared to the banking sector, the results indicate a greater diversity in the resilience of individual institutions. A top-down stress test for catastrophic risk suggests that the financial consequences of an 8.5 Richter magnitude earthquake can be easily absorbed, since the sums insured are rather small.

Summary of Stress Testing Results

Banking sector
  • While projected credit losses are more severe under the cyclical asynchrony scenario, the disruptive adjustment scenario proves to be the more costly in terms of the average CAR. Table 1 shows the three-year cumulative impact of the shocks on the CAR. The solvency ratios in Figure 1 take also into account the accrual of income not directly impacted by the shocks. No bank falls under the minimum regulatory requirement in both scenarios. The same general conclusions hold even in the event that the estimated default probabilities and loss-given-default rates turned out worse than assumed in the main scenarios.

  • Credit risk has a greater impact in the cyclical asynchrony scenario, since the effects of a domestic output slump are aggravated by a hike in Euro interest rates.

  • The larger CAR reduction in the disruptive scenario mainly reflects banks’ direct and indirect vulnerability to equity price risk. While a 30-percent fall in equity price is estimated to reduce the average CAR by a quarter of percentage point, the impact through employee pension funds is even higher. Beyond that, other risks seem to be of a lesser significance (Table 2).

  • Nevertheless, as expected, profitability takes a significant hit. Top-down stress tests show, for example, that the disruptive adjustment scenario could reduce the return on equity from 16.3 percent initially to 3.8 percent in the year after the shock, before picking up again to 11.3 percent in the third year.

  • For liquidity risk, a qualitative exercise was undertaken to assess banks’ ability to handle a tightening of international market funding conditions. Even in the case of a sovereign ratings downgrade by one or two notches, major banks appear able to avoid major difficulties, although in the latter case at least, not only funding costs but possibly also credit availability might be affected.

Table 1.

Portugal: Banking Scenario Stress Tests; Cumulative Impact on CAR

(In percentage points)

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Source: Banco de Portugal.
Figure 1.
Figure 1.

Portugal: Banking Stress Tests; CAR after Scenario Shocks

Citation: IMF Staff Country Reports 2006, 378; 10.5089/9781451832211.002.A001

Source: Banco de Portugal.
Table 2.

Portugal: Banking Sensitivity Stress Tests; Impact on CAR

(In percentage points; unless otherwise indicated)

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Source: Banco de Portugal.
Insurance sector
  • The most important risk drivers for the sector as a whole are equity price risk, interest rate risk, non-life premium and reserve risk, and credit risk (Table 3). The life sector is most exposed to equity price risk, followed by interest rate. Credit risk and lapse risk are important in individual cases. Biometric risk is not very important. The non-life sector appears most exposed to premium and reserves risks (non-life solvency risk) and equity price risk. Other risks are of limited importance.

Table 3.

Portugal: Insurance Stress Tests; Impact on Free Surplus

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Sources: Instituto de Seguros de Portugal; and IMF staff calculations.

B. Markets and Intermediaries

22. Short term interbank, money and foreign exchange markets are fully integrated with major European markets. Hence, they are very liquid and easily accessible for the main Portuguese financial institutions. Eurolist, which is a cash market, integrates the Lisbon market with those of Amsterdam, Brussels, and Paris, while Liffe, which is a derivative market, includes all these markets and London. MEDIP, which is the market for Portuguese government securities, is connected to the MTS market, which is the main platform for government bonds in Europe. Two other nonregulated cash markets exist but are marginal.

23. The Portuguese securities market plays a limited role as a source of financing for companies (Figure 9). Reflecting the relatively limited number of larger companies, as well as the convenience of listing in other, larger and more liquid stock markets in the region, the number of listed companies is limited. As of end-2005, only 51 companies were listed in the stock market and 46 companies in the bond market. Market capitalization has shown modest growth and it is highly concentrated, with only one company (Banco Santander Central Hispano, S.A.—BSCH) accounting for almost half of the total. Turnover in secondary markets is likewise modest, except for the Portuguese government debt market.

Figure 9.
Figure 9.

Portugal: Selected Stock Market Indicators

Citation: IMF Staff Country Reports 2006, 378; 10.5089/9781451832211.002.A001

Sources: Comissão do Mercado de Valores Mobiliários; World Federation of Exchanges; Investment Company Institute; and IMF staff estimates.1/ Including BSCH S.A.

24. While banks have increasingly used securitization, domestic derivative markets are thin. To mitigate risk and improve liquidity, banks have increased securitized operations, particularly related to mortgage loans. Foreign institutions and investors have been major buyers. In contrast, the importance of domestic derivative markets has declined, reflecting the possibility for market participants to have access to more sophisticated and liquid European markets.

C. Infrastructure

Payments and settlement systems

25. The infrastructure for the settlement of payments and securities transactions in Portugal is highly developed, efficient, technologically advanced and—from a risk management perspective—robust. The legal basis for clearing and settlement is also sound, with a clear definition of finality and irrevocability, recognition of netting and novation, and protection of collateral arrangements. No-zero-hour rule exists and transactions settled with finality cannot be unwound, not even in case of a bankruptcy. The infrastructure for payments ensures a high degree of security and operational reliability. The Portuguese Sistema de Pagamentos de Grandes Transacções is highly liquid and the amount to be settled in the netting of Sistema de Compensação Interbancária is relatively limited, thus reducing risks in this retail payment system. Securities transactions are all settled on a delivery versus payment basis.

26. Nevertheless, the system would benefit from a few technical refinements in specific areas. In particular, Interbolsa might strengthen its security policy, especially with respect to preventing data losses in case of a major operational problem. Cooperation between the BdP and the CMVM on the oversight of Interbolsa could be buttressed by more formal arrangements. Business continuity planning on the industry level could be further strengthened, for instance with respect to coordination and simultaneous testing of the emergency procedures of all system providers as well as with respect to coordination and upgrading of business continuity plans of financial institutions and system providers in order to deal with wide-area disasters and serious lack of staff, including due to an avian flu pandemic.

Legal framework

27. Priority should be given to improving the legal framework for debt recovery, especially speeding up the court system. Although debt recovery and foreclosures currently work quite satisfactorily, de facto, this is mostly through bilateral (re)negotiations, with the judicial system being the fallback, serving largely as a final threat. However, where the judicial route is used, it is reportedly a lengthy process. If there were to be a more widespread problem of mortgage or other loan defaults, more recourse to the judicial route might be needed, and the legal system could become an important bottleneck in the system. This issue is expected to be covered in a wider-ranging review of the legal system just announced by the Government.

IV. Structural Issues

28. The state continues to hold significant ownership in the banking sector (Figure 10), although it is not generally perceived as a factor distorting the market. Financial deregulation and integration have somewhat eroded its dominant position, but CGD remains a leading institution in a number of sectors (namely, retail deposits, mortgage lending and insurance), and also has significant participation in other state-owned enterprises.

Figure 10.
Figure 10.

Portugal: Share of Banking Sector Assets in Majority State-Controlled Banks in Selected Countries; 2003

Citation: IMF Staff Country Reports 2006, 378; 10.5089/9781451832211.002.A001

Source: G. Caprio, J.L. Fiechter, R.E. Litan, and M. Pomerleano (eds.) The Future of State-Owned Financial Institutions, Brookings Institution Press, Washington, D.C., United States, 2004.

29. CGD is overseen in a prudent and market-oriented way, and it is subject to the same (high) standards of prudential supervision as other banks. It therefore enjoys a strong franchise and a high international rating. Especially given its market position, it will be important that the arms-length relationship between governments and CGD continues to be maintained in future, and that the commercial autonomy and accountability arrangements for CGD continue to help ensure prudent management and equitable competition in the financial sector in future. From a longer term perspective, ongoing financial market globalization, consolidation trends and active international competition raise the issue of whether state ownership—or at least, full ownership—will continue to be the best way of achieving the government’s policy objectives. (The Staff Report notes the authorities’ views on this point.)

V. The Financial Stability Policy Framework

30. It will be important to continue to monitor closely the key potential risk sources, both at the macroprudential surveillance level (financial stability analysis), and the micro (institution-specific) supervision level. As discussed above, these include especially household debt and property market developments; corporate borrowing and exposure concentration; and bank borrowing trends, including pricing and liquidity risk in major markets. In addition, the authorities should be prepared to use the room for discretion under Pillar 2 of Basel II to raise capital requirements, if the risk outlook warrants it (e.g., if debt levels continue growing strongly). Relatedly, to the extent that the current mortgage lending growth may reflect expectations of reduced capital requirements under Basel II (Pillar 1), BdP should consider whether some offset to this, through, e.g., an increase in capital requirements for such lending, would be desirable. The BdP’s macroprudential surveillance analysis, meanwhile, should (as planned) attach priority to improving property price indicators. It would also benefit from more use of extensive (bottom-up) stress testing to supplement the current top down analysis.

Regulation and supervision

31. Supervision of financial institutions is active, professional, well organized, and highly compliant with international standards. The supervision framework is organized as a combination of a traditional sectoral approach with a partially integrated functional approach. Prudential supervision is entrusted to the BdP (credit institutions, investment firms and other financial companies) and to the ISP (insurance and pension funds), while cross-sectoral supervision of rules of conduct in securities market rests with the CMVM. The coordination of these institutions’ activity is the task of an overarching high-level committee, the Conselho Nacional de Supervisores Financeiros (CNSF), and is underpinned by bilateral memoranda of understanding (MoUs).14 This framework has worked well in general, and it will be important that in coming periods there is no distraction from the key tasks of implementing major supervisory initiatives such as Basel II and Solvency II. In the longer run and with the benefit of more experience locally and internationally, the authorities may wish to revisit the institutional structure and examine whether ongoing financial sector and regulatory developments warrant further refinements of one form or another.

32. Some technical refinements in a few areas could further enhance banking supervision. In particular, credit and financial institutions should further strengthen their systems to accurately measure, monitor, and adequately control market risks. Likewise, the BdP should step up its expertise and operational capability in this area. The BdP should also enhance risk-oriented supervision by fully implementing the recently established risk rating system.

33. A few aspects of the securities market and insurance supervision could also be improved. The financial autonomy of CMVM and ISP should be more formally enhanced to remove the possibility that their fee-based revenues or surpluses can be frozen or appropriated by the government. The CMVM should also persist in its recent efforts to implement a more vigorous enforcement policy. The ISP should shed its management functions of the Motor Third Party guarantee and worker compensation funds to other organizations. The insurance supervision framework should be further enhanced by better determining fit and proper criteria for external auditors and senior management; strengthening corporate governance arrangements; and establishing rules or guidelines on market conduct, particularly regarding fraud.

Safety nets and crisis management

34. The crisis management framework is comprehensive and well developed, although a few improvements might be beneficial. While the BdP can take a wide range of corrective measures against problem financial institutions to restore them to health, its full discretion might be somewhat tempered, for example by establishing internal guidelines, mainly with the aim of minimizing potential costs for the deposit insurance. Although the BdP has established specific procedures to deal with crises of a systemic nature, coordination mechanisms amongst different institutions could be further formalized by creating a full-fledged, high level crisis management committee, chaired by the Minister of Finance, who is finally accountable publicly for the management and resolution of a systemic crisis, and including the current members of the CNSF.

35. The Portuguese deposit insurance schemes provide an appropriate level of protection and are well managed under BdP oversight.15 However, the transparency of the framework could be further enhanced by explicitly referring to the “least cost” principle in guiding deposit insurance involvement in a bank’s restructuring process and clearly identifying an adequate target level for the deposit insurance resources.

36. In performing its role of lender of last resort, the BdP follows a policy of “constructive ambiguity” without prejudice to the requirements derived from its participation in the European System of Central Banks (ESCB). While the terms and conditions of the provision of emergency liquidity assistance are not publicly disclosed, the BdP has a policy of presumed ex post disclosure.

Anti-Money Laundering/Combating Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT)16

37. The Portuguese legal framework for combating money laundering and terrorist financing is comprehensive, although a relatively small number of cases have been successfully prosecuted. The money laundering offence is broadly defined. The terrorist financing provisions are generally satisfactory, but do not appear to sanction the financing of an individual terrorist. Portuguese authorities have broad powers to confiscate, freeze and seize proceeds of crimes, but there are some limitations on the scope and length of time for freezing terrorist-related funds (i.e., some freezes are only in effect for the duration of the inquiry and judicial proceedings). The statistics that are maintained are not comprehensive in all areas, making a full assessment of the effectiveness of these regimes difficult.

38. A broad range of financial and non-financial institutions are required by law and by supervisory implementing regulations to conduct customer due diligence (CDD), report suspicions of money-laundering and terrorist financing, and meet other AML/CFT obligations. These laws and regulations are generally complete, but the CFT legislation does not explicitly extend CDD to the risk associated with terrorist financing, and the mechanisms for determining the beneficial owner do not fully meet the FATF requirements. Suspicious transactions are reported to the Attorney General’s office, which then immediately forwards the reports to the financial intelligence unit (FIU). The FIU thus receives its suspicious transaction reports and cash transaction reports indirectly and it uses both types of reports for developing cases that are forwarded to the public prosecutor for action against money laundering. The FIU is generally effective in its functions. The national authorities have adequate legal powers for gathering evidence and compelling the production of documents, as well as a broad range of special investigative techniques. Portugal has a generally clear and complete framework for providing international co-operation.

Annex—Observance of Financial Sector Standards and Codes: Summary Assessments

The annex contains summary assessments of three international standards and codes relevant for the financial sector. The assessments have helped to identify the extent to which the supervisory and regulatory framework is adequate to address the potential risks in the financial system.

The following detailed assessments of financial sector standards were undertaken:

  • ▪ The Basel Core Principles for Effective Banking Supervision (BCP), by Mr. Marcel Maes (Consultant, formerly IMF-MCM and Belgian Banking Commission) and Mr. Alvir Hoffman (IMF-MCM);

  • ▪ IAIS Insurance Core Principles (ICP), by Mr. Henning Gobel (Bafin); and

  • ▪ IOSCO Objectives and Principles of Securities Regulation and Transparency of Securities Regulation, by Ms. Ana Carvajal (IMF-MCM)

The BCP and IOSCO assessments were carried out during the first FSAP mission to Portugal in December 2005, and the IAIS assessment was carried out in January-February 2006. All the assessments were based on the laws, regulations, policies, practices, and data in place at the time the assessments were made.

The assessments were based on several sources including:

  • ▪ Self-assessments by the supervisory authorities;

  • ▪ Reviews of relevant legislation, regulations, policy statements and other documentation;

  • ▪ Detailed interviews with the supervisory authorities;

  • ▪ Meetings with other relevant authorities and independent bodies and with a range of financial sector firms and associations.

In addition, an AML/CFT assessment was conducted by FATF in March 2006, and is expected to be considered by the FATF Plenary in October 2006, after which a ROSC will be prepared.

I. Basel Core Principles for Effective Banking Supervision

Overview of the institutional and macroprudential setting and market structure

39. In Portugal, financial intermediation is dominated by banking institutions, one of which is organized as a financial conglomerate. As of end 2005, there were 61 banks, including 22 branches of institutions authorized in other EU member states, 168 other credit institutions, and 105 financial institutions under the BdP’s supervision. The Portuguese state continues to hold a significant stake in the banking sector through the fully state-owned CGD, one of the two largest banks in the country.

40. Notwithstanding the difficult operating environment of the last few years, marked by slow economic growth and narrowing interest rate margins, Portuguese banks have maintained a solid profitability and strengthened their capital position. As of end-2005, the average CAR has reached 11.3 percent; NPLs have fallen to a historically low level of 1.6 percent of total loans while provisions, applying IFRS, stood at 65 percent of NPLs. However, potential vulnerabilities remain, mainly associated with the high level of household and corporate debt as well as the significant concentration of banks’ exposure across sectors (especially real estate) and borrowers.

41. The supervisory framework is organized as a combination of a traditional sectoral approach with a partially integrated functional approach. While prudential supervision is entrusted to the BdP (in the case of credit institutions, investment firms and other financial companies) and to the ISP (in the case of insurance and re-insurance intermediaries and pension funds), cross sectoral supervision of the market rules of conduct of financial intermediaries in the securities market rests in the hands of the CMVM. The three Portuguese supervisory agencies coordinate their activities within an overarching high-level committee, the CNSF. Bilateral memoranda of understanding provide the framework for day-to-day coordination.

General preconditions for effective banking supervision

42. The BdP, which is an integral part of the ESCB, is a public legal entity with administrative and financial autonomy and its own property. The members of the Board of Directors are nominated for renewable terms of five years, and they can only be removed from office under circumstances envisaged by the ECB statute. As a result, in performing its tasks, including that of supervisory authority, the BdP enjoys a high degree of independence from government institutions or other forms of political influence. Portugal’s framework of laws, accounting, payments, transparency, and financial sector oversight practices is in line with international standards and EU Directives. The law provides a comprehensive and flexible framework to deal with financial institutions in distress and the overall financial safety net is adequate, albeit so far untested.

Main findings

43. Portugal’s regulatory framework is modern and sound, and highly compliant with international standards. The supervision of Portuguese financial institutions by the BdP is active, professional, and well organized. In particular, the supervision of banks’ loan classification and provisioning policies—an area that raised some controversy a few years ago—was assessed to be in full compliance with international best practices, following some regulatory changes in 2002–03. However, there is still room for improvement in the institutions’ risk assessment processes and in supervisory risk management and planning, although important progress has been recently made.

Objectives, Autonomy, Powers, and Resources (CP 1)

44. BdP’s Organic Law (OL) provides a clear framework, objectives, and responsibilities for carrying out the supervision of credit institutions, financial companies and other entities legally subject to the BdP’s regulation. The principle of BdP’s independence is enshrined in the ESCB’s by-laws and OL provisions. The OL also ensures that the BdP has administrative and financial autonomy and its own property, and is not subject to the financial rules governing the public sector. The BdP derives its income basically from its central bank operations with no fees being levied on supervised institutions.

45. The BdP has the exclusive power to authorize, refuse or withdraw banking licenses. In the cases of branches or subsidiaries of banks authorized in non-EU countries, the BdP examines the proposal and submits its recommendation for the approval of the Minister of Finance (MoF). The OL enables the BdP to take appropriate action to ensure compliance with the laws and maintain the safety and soundness of banking activities. To this end, the BdP can impose, at its discretion, a range of sanctions and remedial actions on a case-by-case basis, depending on the severity of a situation. Legal protection of the BdP staff is ensured by the Legal Framework of Credit Institutions and Financial Companies (LFCIFC). The CNSF and bilateral memoranda of understanding promote cooperation and information sharing with other domestic supervisory agencies.

Licensing and Structure (CPs 2–5)

46. The permissible activities of financial institutions are established in the LFCIFC. The standards for evaluating applications to license establishments, and the criteria for changes in ownership and investments are adequate and strictly applied by the BdP.

Prudential Regulations and Requirements (CPs 6–15)

47. Portuguese banks comply with capital requirements established by Basel I. Risk management techniques used by credit institutions vary considerably in terms of sophistication and complexity, and different risk management tools are used by the same institution to address different risks or portfolios. While banks generally use advanced techniques, including value-at-risk models, to manage trading book risks, they apply less sophisticated tools to assess banking book risks. The BdP has recently issued a regulation that allows banks to use internal models for market risk and, to date, no bank has submitted its own model to the BdP for validation. However, it is expected that major banks will soon submit credit risk models for BdP’s validation. All credit institutions will be also required to implement an internal process for overall capital adequacy assessment. Given these developments, the BdP has to further bolster its internal expertise on model validation and corporate governance evaluation.

48. Banks’ loan classification and provisioning policies comply with the BCPs. However, the planned migration from the current dual system of calculating provisions (economic and regulatory provisions; the former is subject to a specific external audit review) to a more comprehensive risk based approach should be accelerated.

Methods of Ongoing Supervision (CPs 16–20)

49. The BdP carries out its supervisory function through an effective mix of off-site and on-site supervision. The information provided by credit institutions to the BdP is comprehensive and timely so as to provide a basis for effective surveillance and early detection of financial weaknesses. Thorough off-site monitoring is conducted on a continuous basis and it is integrated with regular on-site inspections. At the time of the assessment, a comprehensive framework for assessing the risk profile of supervised institutions was still in the process of being finalized. In early 2006, a manual was completed and a pilot test was successfully carried out by applying the methodology to the assessment of a medium-sized bank. The credit risk register, which is managed by the BdP, is a complementary tool for off-site supervision. The electronic platform supporting the register could be improved and better integrated with other available tools for off-site monitoring.

Accounting Standards (CP 21)

50. Accounting rules and regulations are in line with EU Directives, and hence with the IFRS, and financial statements are prepared in accordance with those standards. Implementation of the IFRS rules has brought to the financial statements greater sensitivity to market risk, and has highlighted the relative importance of contingencies for banks’ employee pension funds. The BdP is empowered to (i) require all financial information deemed necessary for supervisory purposes, (ii) demand from external auditors specific extensive assessments, and (iii) perform on-site inspections in order to assess the quality of information.

Formal Powers of Supervisors (CP 22)

51. The BdP has broad enforcement powers ranging from moral suasion to imposing penalties upon banks and their management, restricting a bank’s current activities, replacing management or restricting their powers, and ultimately revoking the banking license. In the case of financially distressed institutions, the BdP may require a number of financial recovery and reorganization measures; it may also appoint one or more interim board members with veto powers over shareholders’ decisions.

Cross-Border Banking (CPs 23–25)

52. The regulatory framework allows the authorities to undertake globally consolidated supervision over internationally active banking groups. Supervision over the activities abroad of Portuguese banking groups is conducted mainly through on-site inspections at the headquarters and information sharing with host-country authorities. Similarly, at the group level, the overall risk assessment of the foreign institutions operating in Portugal is left to the home supervisor.

Authorities’ response

53. The BdP is in broad agreement with the assessment and welcomes the overall judgment that banking supervision and regulation in Portugal are highly compliant with the Basel Core Principles for Effective Banking Supervision. The BdP acknowledges that the IMF recommendations are generally adequate and is pleased that some of these recommendations actually backup existing strands of work, such as the full implementation of a comprehensive risk rating system, which BdP considers will enhance its current approach for the risk assessment of supervised credit institutions.

II. IAIS Insurance Core Principles

54. This assessment, carried out in January-February 2006, was based on the IAIS ICP dated October 2003. Given the developed nature of the Portuguese insurance market, this assessment comments on both the essential and advanced criteria underpinning each core principle. However, in accordance with Annex 2 of the ICP, only essential criteria have been taken into account in assessing the overall level of observance of a core principle.

Institutional and macroprudential setting—overview

55. Portugal ranks as the 27th largest insurance market according to Swiss Re’s insurance market report of 2004, broadly comparable to Norway and Mexico. Premiums represent 7.9 percent of GDP, or US$1,294 per capita, with substantial potential for further deepening. The Portuguese market is dominated by Personal Lines products, Life and Pension. Some 80 percent of these products are distributed through associated banks. Long-term care and full health insurance may become an additional product in future as changes in social security arrangements are on the way. The general insurance market is relatively underdeveloped, with a high concentration in motor vehicles and workers compensation. Other products, such as property and casualty business, are relatively undersold. The general lines market is mainly distributed through personalized intermediaries, of which some 39,000 are registered in Portugal.

56. At the end of 2004, there were 69 insurance companies operating in Portugal, of which 40 are domestic insurance companies and 28 are branches of EU companies. Only two of the 40 domestic companies are registered as mutual companies, all others are limited companies. Of the 40 domestic companies 14 operate in life assurance, 21 in non-life insurance and 5 are licensed as composites. The 28 branches comprise nine operating in life, 18 in non-life and one in both lines of business. There is one branch of a company registered outside the EU. In addition to those, there are 288 licenses to provide freedom of services in force. The degree of concentration is relatively high, with approx. 60 percent of the market represented by the top five companies and a further 20 percent for the next 5 companies. The banking sector is substantially involved, including through ownership links, and represents more than 50 percent of the overall insurance market.

Main findings

57. The insurance supervisor (ISP) is very professional. The level of observance of the ICPs in Portugal is high and several planned measures and legal changes, not yet fully implemented at the time of the assessment, will likely address most of the remaining issues. In addition to recommendations in such areas (Table 4), several additional recommendations are made herein which, though not needed for ICP compliance, are nevertheless considered desirable further improvements.

Table 4.

Portugal: Recommended Action Plan to Improve Compliance with the Basel Core Principles

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Conditions for effective supervision (CP 1)

58. Good conditions for effective supervision are in place. All necessary professional resources are available and of high standards. Market infrastructure allows for an efficient management of the sector. A wide range of operational services is available to insurance undertakings and allows them to focus on technical related aspects of the business. Supervision makes extensive use of actuarial services and allows for risk-based supervision.

The supervisory system (CPs 2–5)

59. ISP needs approval for its budget from the Ministry of Finance. Although all expenses of the authority are covered by fees of the supervised entities, ISP can be subject to interventions throughout the year that could prevent it from achieving its goals. The charter should be amended to grant more formal independence in this respect, so that ISP is protected against inappropriate interference from executive branches and allowed to fully utilize its financial resources. Furthermore, ISP should reassess the staff resources required to fully implement Solvency II.

60. In addition, although not directly a matter of ICP compliance, an important issue is that, in addition to its supervisory functions, ISP manages the investment of the guarantee fund for motor third party business (MTP)—as well as that for workers compensation-and administers the claims handling process, including loss adjustment. ISP should review its range of duties and look for alternative solutions for the guarantee funds. The management of investments is associated with potential reputational issues and represents an unnecessary risk to the supervisory organization. ISP should dispose the claims management function. The current organizational structure would allow for a smooth segregation. The objectives for ISP should be adjusted to allow for the disposal of these non-supervisory tasks related to guarantee funds and claims management.

61. The degree of cross shareholdings, the activities of banks in the insurance sector, the importance of bank-assurance for the distribution of life insurance products suggests that in time it may be desirable to review the possible advantages of a more integrated prudential supervisory authority-although this is not an urgent matter given some significant operational priorities for supervisors. Commonalities in the area of investment management, mathematical, statistical and actuarial skills may bring potential synergies in the utilization of joint resources between the central bank and ISP.

The supervised entity (CPs 6–10)

62. The Law does not currently address fit and proper requirements for senior management and other key functionaries to a sufficient extent. There are no specific requirements for insurance undertakings’ external auditors and the supervisory authority does not have the power to disqualify an auditor that does not comply with fit and proper requirements. In addition, the supervisory authority is not able to require significant owners who no longer meet fit and proper requirements to dispose of their interests in the insurance undertaking. Amendments to the law are planned to address these areas.

63. On corporate governance, there is a low percentage of non-executive directors in the governing body, and the law does not expressly address some issues that relate to specific responsibilities of the governing body, such as the establishment and monitoring of compliance with standards of business conduct and ethical behavior for directors, senior management and other personnel; and the establishment and regular review of the policies that deal with conflicts of interest, fair treatment of customers and information sharing with stakeholders. Also, a significant number of insurance undertakings have not instituted audit committees and the responsible actuary is not granted direct access to the governing body as well as his independence from inappropriate orders of the insurer is not completely assured. Legal amendments are planned to address these areas.

64. Inadequacies with respect to internal controls are being addressed through a new regulation already approved and being implemented. ISP has thus ensured sufficiently that by 2007 all procedures for internal control will be in force.

Ongoing supervision (CPs 11–17)

65. The framework and implementation in these areas is effective.

Prudential requirements (CPs 18–23)

66. Although not strictly needed for compliance with the ICP, there are two areas where further consideration would be desirable. First, there is a significant amount of investments held in corporate bonds for which a rating is not available. It should be investigated why corporates avoid external rating. Also, for exposure measurement purposes, insurance companies rely on provisional ratings provided by banks. Although the write-offs reported have been immaterial, the absence of rating is a rather unusual process. Second, the law does not set specific requirements regarding the matching of assets and liabilities, and capital adequacy requirements are not adequately sensitive to the risks of the insurer’s operations. In anticipation of the Solvency II project, ISP should progressively introduce the methodologies foreseen in that new solvency regime (centered on a risk-based approach).

Markets and consumers (CPs 24–27)

67. With the new legislation, which is in its final stage of approval, ISP has ensured sufficiently that adequate procedures will be in place to address current weaknesses in relation to consumer protection. Further measures are also needed in relation to insurance fraud, which is not specifically addressed in the insurance business law. Consequently, insurers and intermediaries are not required to allocate appropriate resources and implement effective procedures and controls to deter, detect, record and promptly report fraud to appropriate authorities.

68. Although not strictly needed for compliance with the ICP, two other aspects of this area should also be considered further. First, the large number of personalized intermediaries is an administrative burden to ISP. The implementation of the new directive will deliver—in contrast to other European countries—a slight release and reduction of duties. However, the amount of applications from other countries to act as an intermediary in Portugal is considerable. ISP is strongly advised to investigate the application of some form of administration fees for those applicants, in order to ensure appropriate sharing of the administrative burden. Second, the scope of information disclosed to the market could be enlarged and should be reviewed in the context of the outcome of Pillar III of Solvency II.

Anti–money laundering, and combating the financing of terrorism

69. The measures in place in this area are considered adequate for ICP purposes.

Table 5.

Portugal: Recommended Action Plan to Improve Observance of IAIS Insurance Core Principles

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Authorities’ response

70. ISP acknowledged the fruitful discussions during the assessment process within the FSAP, and the recommendations received, which will help improve the effectiveness of insurance supervision in Portugal. ISP appreciated the appraisal of the efforts undertaken to strengthen insurance supervision according to a forward-looking and risk-based approach, and to increase the standards related with insurance undertakings’ risk management and internal controls, in line with the development of the Solvency II Project. Furthermore, ISP welcomed the FSAP’s recognition of the efforts made to promote and reinforce the transparency of the supervisory authority’s activities and processes according to international best practices.

71. ISP has carefully considered all the FSAP recommendations and will continue to work towards their progressive implementation, both by drawing up regulatory measures and by preparing proposals for the amendment of existing laws.

III. IOSCO Objectives and Principles of Securities Regulation and Transparency of Securities Regulation

72. An assessment of the Portuguese Securities Market was conducted during December 6-20, 2005, as part of the FSAP. The Assessment was conducted based on the IOSCO Principles and Objectives of Securities Regulation and its Methodology adopted in 2003.

Market structure

73. The legal and regulatory framework provides for the participation of banks as well as other specialized entities in the Portuguese securities market. As of August 2005, there were 56 intermediaries authorized to provide investment services, including 32 credit institutions, 8 credit institution branches, 8 broker companies, 4 broker-dealer companies, and 4 investment company branches. In addition, there were 43 investment managers authorized to manage Collective Investment Schemes (CIS).

74. Two main cash markets operate in Portugal: Eurolist and MEDIP. Eurolist integrates the markets of Brussels, Paris, Amsterdam and Lisbon into a single market with the same listing requirements. MEDIP, which is the wholesale market for government debt, is fully integrated into MTS, a single market for public debt that has segments in many European countries.

75. The Portuguese securities market has a limited role as an alternative source of financing for companies. As of September 30, 2005, there were 51 companies with listed shares and 46 companies with listed bonds in Eurolist and only one Initial Public Offer was carried out in 2005. While market capitalization has shown modest growth, the market is still highly concentrated with one company, BSCH (a Spanish cross-listed issuer), representing about 52 percent of the stock market capitalization. Excluding BSCH, market capitalization amounted to around 44 percent of GDP, and the average free float for the 10 top companies amounted to almost 34 percent of their capital.

76. Liquidity of the secondary markets remains limited, except for MEDIP. For 2004, trading volume in MEDIP accounted for 72.7 percent of total trading volume in Portugal, Euronext accounted for 16.1 percent and trading in non-regulated markets and over-the-counter activity accounted for the remaining 11.2 percent.

77. The asset management industry is also modest, though it has experienced steady growth since 2000. As of August 2005, individual portfolios amounted to EUR 34.9 billion (23.7 percent of GDP), compared to EUR 11.2 billion (9.2 percent of GDP) in 2000. Over the same period, CIS increased from EUR 24.9 billion (20.4 percent of GDP) to EUR 34.2 billion (22.3 percent of GDP).

78. Derivatives markets do not play a significant role in the Portuguese securities market. Moreover, their importance has diminished: the future market has shown a downward trend, while the options market disappeared following the migration to the Liffe Connect platform.

Description of the regulatory structure

79. The Portuguese system follows a partially integrated functional approach, whereby the CMVM is responsible for market conduct and BdP for prudential regulation of market participants. The MoF retains very specific powers limited to (i) the authorization of financial intermediaries that are subsidiaries of credit institutions with their head offices in a non-euro member country, (ii) the authorization of regulated markets, and (iii) the establishment of the minimum capital requirement for financial intermediaries. Both the CMVM and the BdP are governed by an executive board, whose members are appointed for a 5-year period by the Council of Ministers, based on a proposal from the MoF. Once appointed, they can only be removed with due cause.

General preconditions for effective securities regulation

80. There are a number of preconditions necessary for the effective regulation of securities markets, and these generally appear to be in place in Portugal. However, the financial sector would benefit from speedier disposition of judicial proceedings, mainly those related to the execution of guarantees; insolvency and criminal offenses related to securities matters. The tax system appears to be complex, with different tax treatments for different sources of income, and the authorities have expressed some concern that it might be affecting the competitiveness of certain segments of the Portuguese securities market vis-à-vis other EU countries.

Main findings

81. The Portuguese regulatory framework exhibits high levels of compliance with the IOSCO Principles.

Principles related to the regulator (Principles 1–5)

82. The responsibilities of both the CMVM and the BdP are set forth by law. Both authorities have sufficient functional independence to carry out their day-to-day operations. While the BdP enjoys financial independence, permanent provisions to ensure the CMVM’s financial independence are necessary. Both regulators have sufficient powers and resources to carry out their functions and both have set up organizational structures, policies, procedures and internal controls that allow them to properly discharge their duties. Both regulators are subject to a system of accountability to the public and to the Government, including financial accountability.

Principles related to compliance and enforcement (Principles 7–10)

83. Both regulators have broad regulatory and supervisory powers, including enforcement authority. Both the CMVM and the BdP have developed adequate supervisory practices for all market participants under a risk-based approach, though a comprehensive framework for risk rating financial intermediaries is yet to be implemented by the BdP. Since mid-2005, the CMVM has exhibited a more vigorous policy towards enforcement and has made more use of administrative fines. A recent reform to the Securities Code makes it mandatory for the CMVM to disclose to the public the sanctions imposed in the case of very serious infractions through its information system; however, broader disclosure might still be considered.

Principles related to information sharing and cooperation (Principles 11–13)

84. Legal provisions require the CMVM and the BdP to cooperate with each other. Formal mechanisms have been developed, including the creation of the National Council of Financial Supervisors and the signature of two MoUs. However, these MoUs need to be updated and their publication should be considered. Legal provisions allow both the CMVM and the BdP to cooperate with foreign counterparties, although the framework for the CMVM could be clarified by amending the Securities Code. Both authorities have signed numerous MoUs, and the CMVM is a signatory of the IOSCO Multilateral MoU. In practice, within the current framework, the CMVM has answered in a reasonable time frame requests for information and assistance made by foreign counterparties.

Principles related to issuers (Principles 14–16)

85. In line with international standards, both public offerings and listings are subject to disclosure requirements at the moment of authorization and periodically thereafter. In addition, substantial and insider shareholdings are subject to disclosure requirements. There is in place (i) a set of mechanisms to ensure issuers’ compliance with disclosure requirements, and (ii) a comprehensive framework for corporate governance with both mandatory regulations and a set of recommended practices implemented under a comply-or-explain regime.

Principles related to collective investment schemes (Principles 17–20)

86. Registration of CIS requires the submission of a prospectus that is in line with international standards, while proper segregation of assets is achieved through a depository. There are clear rules governing pricing of units as well as its disclosure to investors. All unit mispricings must be reported to the CMVM and published, and operators are required to compensate losses under certain circumstances. CIS operators are subject to a licensing system based on capital, and fit and proper requirements. CIS and CIS operators are subject to periodic reporting as well as on-site supervision following a risk-based approach.

Principle related to market intermediaries (Principles 21–24)

87. Licensing requirements comprise both capital requirements as well as fit and proper requirements. Market intermediaries are subject to periodic reporting to the BdP and the CMVM as well as on-site supervision by both of them. In both cases, supervision follows a risk-based approach, though BdP has yet to implement a comprehensive risk-rating system. The BdP has developed a checklist for contingency situations. However, it does not yet have a comprehensive written contingency plan to deal with the failure of a financial institution. The CMVM should coordinate with BdP to prepare detailed contingency plans that can be implemented in the event of market disruption. In addition, BdP should complete the preparation of its manual for financial crises. Portugal has also implemented an investor compensation scheme.

Principles related to self regulatory organizations and secondary markets (Principles 6–7; and 25–30)

88. The CMVM monitors all markets under its supervision in real time (on line) except for the derivatives market for which surveillance is carried out the following day. Markets and market operators are subject to periodic reporting as well as on-site inspections. Portugal was a signatory to the MoU for the supervision of Euronext Markets and Clearnet in 2003. Joint on-site supervision of Euronext by all country regulators where Euronext operates is recommended. Provisions in place in the regulated markets provide for adequate pre-trade and post-trade transparency.

Table 6.

Portugal: Recommended Plan of Action to Improve Implementation of the IOSCO Objectives and Principles of Securities Regulation

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Authorities’ response

89. The authorities are broadly in agreement with the Assessment and welcome the overall judgment that the Portuguese framework is highly compliant with the IOSCO Principles.

90. The CMVM emphasized that there is already a provision in the Annual Budget for 2006 that addresses the problems that the CMVM faced in the past regarding its budget.

91. The CMVM emphasized that its Board of Directors has already changed its enforcement policies, to make more use of administrative fines. In addition, a reform to the Securities Code, which was approved during the course of the second visit, makes mandatory for the CMVM to disclose the sanctions imposed in the case of very serious infractions through its information system. In the first eight months of 2006, the CMVM imposed 19 administrative fines for a total of EUR 2.7 million.

92. The CMVM also stressed that other recommendations have been already implemented, including setting up the Internal Audit Department, and the closing meeting with the board of financial intermediaries. In addition, no financial intermediary has been registered under the rule of positive silence; however, its elimination is already included in a draft amendment to the Securities Code. Finally, the CMVM believes that it has full powers to exchange information but acknowledges that the law could be clarified.

93. The BdP acknowledges that the IMF recommendations are generally adequate and is pleased that some of them actually back up existing work, such as the full implementation of a comprehensive risk rating system, which BdP considers will enhance its current approach for risk assessment of supervised credit institutions.

Appendix—Methodological Aspects of Stress Testing

94. This appendix describes the main assumptions and procedures underlying the stress testing exercise, which is reported in more detail in a separate Technical Note. The exercise encompassed a bottom-up and a top-down approach applied to both banking and insurance sectors (Table 7).

Table 7.

Portugal: Overview of Banking and Insurance Stress Tests 1/

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Sources: Banco de Portugal and Instituto de Seguros de Portugal.

Main risks identified are starred.

Including non-life companies and non-life undertakings of composite companies.

For banking: relative to system assets. For insurance: relative to premiums (bottom-up) and insured capital (top-down).

On an individual basis, except for top-down banking stress tests where results are reported for the system as a whole. Results are reported relative to the projected baseline for banking and relative to the pre-shock levels for insurance.

A. Banking Stress Tests

Development of Scenarios

95. Macroeconomic scenarios were developed by the BdP for the period 2005—2008. These included a baseline scenario, foreseeing a moderate economic recovery; a “disruptive adjustment” scenario, featuring an abrupt adjustment of global imbalances; and a “cyclical asynchrony” scenario, showing a strong economic upturn in the euro area that does not spill over into the Portuguese economy (Table 8).

Table 8.

Portugal: Macroeconomic Aggregates

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Sources: Banco de Portugal; and IMF staff estimates.

Regarding pension schemes, the actuarial rate is assumed constant for the baseline and disruptive adjustment scenarios. For the cyclical asynchrony scenario, the actuarial rate rises by a cumulative 25 basis points, distributed annually in proportion to changes in the 10-year interest rate.

A positive number represents an appreciation of the euro.

End-of-year figures.

96. Macroeconomic projections were translated into probabilities of default (PDs) for four types of credit on the basis of previous BdP’s studies (Table 9). Loss given defaults (LGDs) were assumed constant at 10 percent for mortgages and 45 percent for the other types of credit. Given the uncertainty surrounding these estimates, a robustness test was also carried out by imposing ad hoc a 20 and 50 percent increase in derived expected losses rates.

Table 9.

Portugal: Probabilities of Default Projections

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Source: Banco de Portugal.
Bottom-Up Approach

97. The bottom-up approach examines the impact of various risk factors on individual financial institutions’ balance sheet. The exercise covered one financial conglomerate and five of the largest banking groups, representing about 80 percent of total banking system assets. In addition, the stress tests considered the impact of shocks on banks’ pension schemes and hence banks’ potential extraordinary contributions to compensate for actuarial losses in excess of regulatory corridor. The cut-off date used was end-2005.17

98. The exercise featured two approaches: a scenario and a sensitivity analysis. The scenario analysis took into account the correlations amongst risk factors. Institutions projected their balance sheets, operating profits, and regulatory capital under the three scenarios and provided a qualitative assessment of their liquidity positions. The sensitivity analysis evaluates the impact of large and instantaneous shocks, other things being constant. In particular, three risk factors were examined: a non-parallel shift and a pivotal change in the yield curve; a change in equity price level and volatility; and a change in the euro-dollar exchange rate (Table 10).

Table 10.

Portugal: Banking Sector: Overview of Sensitivity Shocks

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Source: Banco de Portugal.

Shocks to interest rates with other maturities obtained by linear interpolation. Stress tests for pension schemes incorporate an increase (decrease) in the actuarial discount rate of 25 and 50 bps, respectively.

Interest rate changes are equal in all currencies.

Changes in euro exchange rate are applicable to all currencies. An increase indicates depreciation of the euro.

Equity price shock is applied simultaneously to all equity markets.

Volatility shock is applied simultaneously to all financial market prices (interest rates, exchange rates and interest rates). If initial volatility is 10 percent, a 30 percent increase implies that it rises to 13 percent.

Top-Down Approach

99. The top-down stress tests evaluated macroeconomic stress scenarios impact on default probabilities on banks’ loan portfolio and hence on their profitability and solvency. Special attention was also given to banks’ exposure to equity market risk. To map the macroeconomic scenarios into aggregate financial statements, various behavioral equations were estimated. Explicit modeling was carried out for credit and deposit aggregates. Top-down stress tests were carried out only for banking groups. Thirteen banking groups were included, representing approximately almost 90 percent of system assets.

B. Insurance Stress Tests

Bottom-Up Approach

100. The ISP coordinated a bottom-up exercise implemented by individual insurance companies. The stress tests were performed on a representative sample of life, non-life and composite insurance companies. The largest companies for each line of business were represented. The participating companies represented 78 and 64 percent of the life and non-life insurance sector, as measured by 2005 premiums, respectively. In terms of technical provisions, the sample represented 76 percent and 59 percent of the life and non-life business, respectively.

101. The exercise consisted of two parts. First, a market-consistent value of both assets and liabilities was calculated. Second, a number of standardized sensitivity tests were carried out on the market-consistent balance sheets and the impact on insurer’s capital requirements was derived. The risk factors included both financial and insurance-specific risks. The financial risks considered in the exercise were market risks (interest rate, equity, real estate and foreign exchange) and credit risk. The insurance-specific risks consisted of life underwriting risks (biometric and lapse). In addition, for the purpose of the risk-based capital adequacy formula, it was assumed that the non-life underwriting risk for premium and reserve risk corresponded to Solvency I capital requirements. The proposed shocks were calibrated with reference to earlier studies carried out within the Committee of European Insurance and Occupational Pensions (CEIOPS) (see Table 11).

Table 11.

Portugal: Insurance Sector: Overview of Shocks Under the Bottom-Up Approach

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Source: Instituto de Seguros de Portugal.

This corresponds to a 30 percent movement in the 5-year rate.

More advanced methodologies for estimating these risks are being tested under QIS2.

Top-Down Approach

102. The ISP carried out a top-down exercise to measure the sensitivity of the nonlife sector to catastrophic risk (‘CAT risk’), consistent with the second quantitative impact study (QIS2) exercise within the CEIOPS. Taking into account that Portugal is exposed to a non-negligible risk of severe seismic activity, the ISP estimated the potential losses for the insurance sector in the event of a severe earthquake. The sample of institutions consisted of

103. four selected non-life insurance companies operating in the Portuguese market. For simplicity, only property insurance was considered, namely policies on buildings and contents covering the specific peril of seismic hazard.

104. The earthquake scenario was applied using the “Market Loss” technique, which relies on an estimate of the expected probable maximum loss (PML) for the market as a whole due to the catastrophic event. The overall loss is then allocated to each insurance company in proportion to its share of total sum insured net of reinsurance.

105. The PML over the sum insured by the market was set at 1.11 percent. This figure corresponds to the estimate provided by an international reinsurance broker for an earthquake with a severity level higher than 8.5 points on the Richter’s scale.

Combining Both Approaches

106. To estimate the simultaneous impact on the free surplus of all shocks, under both the bottom-up and top-down approaches, plausible correlation assumptions amongst individual risk factors were derived following the modular correlation approach used in QIS2.

Table 12.

Portugal: Structure of the Financial System

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Source: Banco de Portugal.

Data for the banking sector for 2005 concerns a sample of institutions that are already complying with IAS/IFRS and that, as for December 2004, represented about 87 percent of total assets of the aggregate usually considered in regular analysis. For the sake of comparability, the figures for 2004 for this sub-sample are also reported.

Table 13.

Portugal: Financial Soundness Indicators of the Banking Sector

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Source : Banco de Portugal.

Data for the banking sector for 2005 concerns a sample of institutions that are already complying with IAS/IFRS and that, as for December 2004, represented about 87 percent of total assets of the aggregate usually considered in regular analysis. For the sake of comparability, the figures for 2004 for this sub-sample are also reported.

Income before taxes and minority interests.

Foreign exchange liabilities include foreign currency deposits and deposit-like instruments of resident non-monetary sector and foreign currency claims of non-resident vis-à-vis resident monetary financial institutions (excluding Banco de Portugal).

Table 14.

Portugal: Financial Soundness Indicators of the Non-Banking Sectors

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Source: Banco de Portugal.

Available solvency margin over required solvency margin.

Earnings before interest and tax as a percentage of interest and principal expenses.


See IMF (2005) “Portugal—Selected Issue,” IMF Country Report No. 05/376, “The Portuguese Banking Sector” and the articles quoted therein.


However, it should be noted that the significant deterioration in fiscal performance that has already occurred appears to have had no impact on risk premia to date.


BdP, Financial Stability Report, 2005. However, recent house price data need to be interpreted with caution because of a break in available series. Nevertheless, anecdotal evidence supports the picture of a flat market overall, with stronger pockets in some places offset by weaknesses in other places.


Banco de Portugal (2004), Financial Stability Report.


The data refer to borrowers with total loans from resident credit institutions equal to or greater than EUR 10 million.


In compliance with the European Banking Directive, the total of large exposures incurred by a credit institution cannot exceed 800 percent of its own funds.


Foreign borrowing (securities issuance and interbank) at end-2005 was equivalent to 16 percent of the total assets of the largest domestic banks and would be slightly lower for all domestic banks in aggregate.


Overall, claims on emerging and developing countries amounted to about 5 percent of banks’ total assets. In the case of one major bank active internationally, lending by each of its two main foreign operations amount to only around 4 percent of the lending of the Portuguese parent.


Banks’ adoption of International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) in 2005 has complicated the comparison of financial sector data with previous years, especially earlier than 2004.


Banco de Portugal (2004, 2005), Financial Stability Report.


Liquidity gaps deteriorated somewhat in 2005 after improving in the previous two years, with the aggregate coverage of interbank liabilities by highly liquid assets declining as interbank borrowing increased (some liquidity indicators are reported in Table 13). For the domestic banking system however, the latter ratio actually improved slightly further, while the deterioration for non-domestic banking groups appears to at least partly reflect a debt restructuring process.


Banks’ employee pension funds dominate the private pensions sector (over 80 percent of assets), with most of the rest accounted for by the communications industry’s pension funds. The sector itself is relatively small with global assets equivalent to a little over 11 percent of GDP in 2004. In aggregate, investment in equities accounts for around 22 percent of assets, though it is higher for some individual banks’ pension schemes.


The same general picture holds, even if the expected credit loss projections were 50 percent higher than in the scenarios modeled.


The CNSF has the responsibility to promote co-ordination and co-operation among the different entities, to promote the development of supervisory rules and mechanisms for financial conglomerates, and to formulate proposals for the regulation of matters related to the scope of activity of more than one of the supervisory authorities.


In Portugal, there are two funds in operation: the Fundo de Garantia de Depósitos (FGD) and the Fundo de Garantia de Crédito Agricola Mútuo (FGCA), which deals with mutual agricultural credit institutions. Both funds have very similar features. While the FGD has never been activated, the FGCAM has played a more active role mainly to help some consolidation among mutual credit institutions.


Based on the initial findings of the Financial Action Task Force on Money Laundering (FATF) evaluation that took place in March 2006. The assessment report is to be discussed at the October 2006 FATF Plenary, following which a ROSC will be prepared by the FATF and circulated to the Board for information.


In the case of one bank, which had a major capital increase in May 2006, the bottom-up stress tests were conducted as if the capital issue had already taken place.

Portugal: Financial System Stability Assessment, including Reports on the Observance of Standards and Codes on the following topics: Banking Supervision, Securities Regulation, and Insurance Regulation
Author: International Monetary Fund