Authorisations

On this page, the terms “bank” and “credit institution” are used interchangeably.

The ECB is the authority in charge of banking authorisations in the euro area. This covers:

  • the licensing of banks, withdrawal of banking licences and authorisation of acquisitions of qualifying holdings in banks: three procedures known collectively as “common procedures”. These decisions are taken by the ECB for all banks: those it supervises directly (significant banks) and those it supervises indirectly (less significant banks)
  • “fit and proper” assessments, that look into whether members of the management body are suitable to perform their role in the bank. The ECB only takes fit and proper decisions for significant banks

List of supervised banks

When deciding on authorisations, the ECB applies the EBA's Single Rulebook and, where relevant, national law.

EBA Single Rulebook

National competent authorities (NCAs) play an important role: for example, as the entry point for authorisation applications, as members of the Joint Supervisory Teams (JSTs) for significant banks and as direct supervisors of less significant banks. The ECB works together with staff in NCAs to ensure a consistent approach for authorisations across the euro area and high standards in the key operational and policy issues in this field. Supervisory expectations are laid down in public guides.

List of national application forms for authorisation procedures

Licensing

The licensing process establishes confidence in the financial system because it ensures that euro area banks are fit to operate. Furthermore, licensing ensures that only robust banks which comply with all legal requirements can enter the market. However, licensing should not hinder competition, financial innovation or technological progress.

Criteria

When the ECB, in cooperation with the relevant national supervisor, assesses a bank licence application, it considers four main areas:

  • the amount, quality, origin and composition of the applicant credit institution’s capital
  • the programme of activities, structural organisation and business plan of the applicant credit institution
  • fit and proper assessments of the applicant credit institution’s management body
  • a suitability assessment of direct and indirect shareholders of the applicant credit institution

The areas considered are the same for all banks, whether they have a more traditional business model or a fintech business model.

Timeframe

It usually takes between six and twelve months from the applicant providing a complete licence application for a decision to be taken. European law states that a decision must be taken within 12 months; some national legal deadlines are shorter.

Process

Licensing - process Licensing - process

* where applicable
** or rejection by the national supervisor

Acquisition of qualifying holdings

The ECB must authorise the acquisition of a participation in an existing institution if this participation counts as a “qualifying holding”, in others words if the acquirer reaches one of the relevant thresholds of 10, 20, 30 or 50%, or if it makes it possible to exercise a significant influence. The approval process aims to ensure that only suitable shareholders enter the banking system, therefore ensuring the smooth functioning of the banking system.

Supervision. Explained.: What is a qualifying holding?

Criteria

The criteria assessed by the ECB in cooperation with the relevant national supervisor are the following:

  • reputation of the proposed acquirer
  • fitness and propriety of the board members to be appointed by the proposed acquirer
  • financial soundness of the proposed acquirer
  • ability of the target to continue to comply with prudential requirements following the acquisition
  • whether the transaction involves, or increases the risk of, money laundering or the financing of terrorism
Timeframe

A qualifying holding must be authorised or objected to within 60 working days, with a maximum extension to 90 working days.

Process

Acquisition of qualifying holdings - process Acquisition of qualifying holdings - process

* where applicable
** or senior management, if delegated

Withdrawal of licence

Both the ECB and the relevant national supervisor have the right to initiate the withdrawal of a banking licence in certain circumstances. A licence may be withdrawn if a credit institution ceases its activities or no longer meets the applicable prudential requirements.

Timeframe

The timing depends on the circumstances of the case, for instance whether a winding down of activities is required or whether the credit institution has ceased its activities.

Process

Withdrawal initiated by the ECB

Withdrawal initiated by the ECB Withdrawal initiated by the ECB

* where applicable

Withdrawal initiated by the national supervisor

Withdrawal initiated by the national supervisor Withdrawal initiated by the national supervisor

* often at the request of the bank
** where applicable
*** or senior management, if delegated

“Fit and proper” assessment

The management body of a credit institution must be suitable to carry out its responsibilities and be composed in a manner that contributes to effective management and balanced decision-making. Ensuring that institutions’ management bodies are “fit and proper” not only enhances the safety and soundness of the institution concerned, it also strengthens the banking sector as a whole by increasing public trust in the people managing the euro area’s financial sector.

Criteria

The ECB considers five criteria within the fit and proper assessment:

  • reputation
  • experience
  • conflicts of interest and independence of mind
  • time commitment to duly perform the functions
  • collective suitability of the board

When appointments are part of a licensing or qualifying holding procedure, the fit and proper assessment forms part of the assessment for granting the licence or for the acquisition of the qualifying holding.

Timeframe

National legal deadlines are applied.

Process

Fit and proper assessment Fit and proper assessment

* or senior management, if delegated