The rise in interest rates and the problems of the most vulnerable families to face the payment of their mortgage payments have opened a deep debate among the main banks in the country while the Government increases the pressure and Caixabank shows its paw. According to financial sources familiar with the negotiations, there are significant discrepancies regarding the measures to be adopted and there is no definitive approach within the associations that bring the sector together, such as the Spanish Banking Association (AEB) and the old employer of the boxes (MINT). Sources from one of the main Spanish banks speak of “conflicting positions”, while another assures that “different possibilities are being analyzed”.
The tension is remarkable. The entities agree on the efforts of the first vice president, Nadia Calviño, to have solutions quickly. During the update of the financial inclusion protocol last week, the Minister of Economic Affairs already warned the banks of the growing burden borne by mortgage debtors. The sector admits behind the scenes that it is inevitable to agree on a plan of measures, given the certainty that the Ministry will impose its own if a compromise is not reached.
The ban was opened this Tuesday when a proposal from CaixaBank was known, which proposed to its peers the freezing of mortgages for a period of 12 months for those who had problems. It does not escape the sector that the firm chaired by José Ignacio Goirigolzarri has in its capital -as the second shareholder- with the State, for practical purposes, the Government of the day. Smaller entities believe that the sector cannot give away millions and that the debate is for the rich, that is, typical of financial returns (ROE) of 10%, and not the 5% or 6% in which many of them move.
It is not the only proposal on the table. There are those who advocate a particular negotiation with each client, a model that is already executed in practice and does not convince consumer associations due to its broad discretion. Another alternative is to recover the moratorium formula applied during the pandemic, by which the user had the capital deferred and only continued to pay interest. Some entities are committed to limiting themselves to applying the Code of Good Practices already in force and adapting it to some specific situations.
The possibilities and the margin to play with the grace periods are multiple and require deep technical work, since its implementation can have an impact on the banks’ balance sheets, for example, in terms of provisions. The profile of the mortgaged in each entity differs and, therefore, the chosen formulas can be more or less burdensome. There is conviction in the sector, however, that there is no excessive urgency because the default rate is very low despite the insistent drumming of economic recession.
A scourge for the image of the financial sector
Nadia Calviño landed in the Executive with her ties to the EU under her arm and as a representative of orthodoxy. It has been shown that this did not imply accommodating the establishment. The new banking tax has ended up scalding a sector that has already seen how the minister criticized its executives for the salaries they receive or asked them to “give their shoulders” for their high profits in the midst of the crisis. The reputational blow that the banks face for each of these episodes makes them try to soften –or not worsen– their image in the face of any demand from the Executive. The financial customer defense authority, a regulation in process and which should be approved before the end of the year, is the next battle in the making.
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