Our response to the coronavirus pandemic

We at the ECB have put in place a set of banking supervision and monetary policy measures to mitigate the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the euro area economy and to support all European citizens.

“Unlike in the 2008 financial crisis, banks are not the source of the problem this time. But we need to ensure that they can be part of the solution.”

Andrea Enria, Chair of the ECB Supervisory Board

Our measures to support the euro area economy

Ensuring firms and households have access to credit

Ensuring firms and households have access to credit

Banks play a vital role in supporting a healthy economy by ensuring that citizens and firms have access to funds they need for saving and investment. Because of their special position in the economy, banks also have to abide by particular rules to ensure that they are solid enough to withstand shocks. One of these rules stipulates that banks have to hold extra funds – called capital buffers – in store for difficult times.

A key component of our crisis relief measures is encouraging banks to use their capital buffers now. This will free up capital for €120 billion. Banks can use these funds to absorb losses resulting from the crisis, or earmark them to finance up to €1.8 trillion in new loans to households and businesses.

It is exactly in times like these that banks should use their buffers. This should help ensure that households and businesses continue to have access to funding in this difficult period.

Reducing banks’ risks and increasing their lending capacity

Reducing banks’ risks and increasing their lending capacity

Banks must follow rules regarding the loans they make. They should only give out loans they think people and businesses will be able to repay.

We also require banks to keep a close eye on the loans they have given out. When a bank determines a customer is unlikely to repay a loan, the bank must classify the loan as “non-performing” or “bad” and put aside money for the associated losses. If this situation occurs, the bank has fewer funds available to make other loans.

We understand that in a crisis situation even financially solid customers may have temporary problems paying back their loans. To avoid a situation where a bank is short of funds because more loans to such customers are being classified as “non-perfoming”, banks now have more flexibility when they are classifying loans that are backed by public guarantees.

We are also less strict about how much banks must put aside to prepare for losses on government-backed loans. This further frees up capital for loans to households and companies.

Helping banks focus on providing vital funding to the economy

Helping banks focus on providing vital funding to the economy

Supervision helps ensure the financial system remains stable. It also requires banks to fill an extensive set of requirements. In the midst of a crisis, when many banks are facing serious operational concerns, we aim to loosen some of the timetables to which supervised banks must adhere, so they can focus on their vital function: granting loans to households and businesses.

To do this, we will adjust supervisory timetables, processes and deadlines according to each bank’s situation. For example, we will consider rescheduling upcoming inspections in the supervised banks and extending deadlines for them to correct shortcomings identified in recent inspections.

We will also take a pragmatic approach to the Supervisory Review and Evaluation Process (SREP) this year. The aim is to ensure an efficient and focused assessment of the banks directly supervised by the ECB, while reducing the burden compared with normal SREP cycles. This year the process will assess banks’ ability to respond to current challenges and the most material risks and vulnerabilities related to the coronavirus situation.

Encouraging banks to do their share

Encouraging banks to do their share

The crisis is extraordinarily difficult for people and companies across the euro area. To encourage banks and their shareholders to do their share, we have asked banks not to pay out dividends or buy back stocks during the pandemic. Instead, they should use any funds freed up from the measures we outlined above to absorb losses or to grant loans to the euro area economy. This will enable them to be part of the solution.

Helping the economy absorb the shock through asset purchases

Helping the economy absorb the shock through asset purchases and long-term loans to banks

To support the economy in the crisis the ECB has also launched a package of monetary policy measures to ensure that banks and companies have enough funds available.

For instance, we are buying several kinds of assets under the €1,350 billion pandemic emergency purchase programme (PEPP). For example, we buy bonds directly from banks. This way, we make more funds available that banks can lend to households or businesses. We also buy companies’ bonds, giving them an additional source of credit. Both kinds of purchases help boost spending and investment, with the aim of supporting economic growth.

We are also offering long-term loans at very favourable conditions to banks that keep up their lending to those who need it most. We are applying less strict rules on the assets banks must give as insurance, or “collateral”, for these loans, to ensure banks have enough collateral. This, again, helps ensure they can continue lending.

Looking for the latest on coronavirus?

25 November 2020
Yves Mersch: Interview with Financial Times
Interview with Yves Mersch, Member of the Executive Board of the ECB and Vice-Chair of the Supervisory Board of the ECB, conducted by Martin Arnold on 23 November 2020
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18 November 2020
COVID-19: the impact on Europe’s smaller banks
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Kerstin af Jochnick: COVID-19: recovery and regulatory response
Conversation between Kerstin af Jochnick, Member of the Supervisory Board of the ECB, and Tim Adams, President and CEO of the Institute of International Finance (IIF), at the IIF 7th Annual European Banking Union Colloquium
4 November 2020
Elizabeth McCaul: Out of the past, into the future: Transatlantic views on the next stage for European banking supervision
Keynote speech by Elizabeth McCaul, Member of the Supervisory Board of the ECB at the European Institute of Financial Regulation (EIFR) Webinar on “Banking Supervision in Europe: a US perspective”

View all publications on coronavirus

Would you like to know more?

We are working to support you. Please get in touch at info@ecb.europa.eu if you have any questions.