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The Bank of England

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Bank of England

The Central Bank of England is in charge of dictating the monetary policy of the country through a specialised committee. In addition to ruling the monetary policy of England, it also serves as the central bank of the government of the United Kingdom. Although it belongs to the European system of central banks, it has full autonomy from monetary policy due to the non-adoption of the Euro as a national currency. It is located in London.

The governor of the Bank of England is the most important position within the Bank of England as it belongs to the monetary policy committee and therefore has a predominant role in the orientation of national economic and monetary policies. The bank of England is the UK’s central bank. The mission of the central bank is to promote the good of the people by maintaining monetary and financial stability. The bank of England has four basic functions:

  • Regulate other banks
  • Issue banknotes
  • Set monetary policy
  • Maintain the financial stability of the system

One of the most important tasks of the central bank is to design and print banknotes. Only the central bank of England can issue banknotes in England and Wales, but seven commercial banks can issue them in Scotland and Northern Ireland. The Bank of England is responsible for keeping the UK’s economy healthy through an adequate monetary policy. The bank has two main tools to intervene in the economy by moving the interest rate (formally known as Bank Rate) and in special circumstances using Quantitative Easing (QE). Decisions on monetary policy are made by the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) eight times a year.

Also, the Bank of England is responsible for surveillance of the financial system. The Financial Policy Committee (FPC) identifies and monitors risks in the financial system and intervenes to reduce or remove these risks. Among other tasks that the bank has, it is responsible for conducting studies and research on the state of the economy, regulate and supervise other financial institutions.

The governors of the Bank of England perform at one of the highest levels of the executive team and are jointly responsible for the bank’s policy committees to achieve the bank’s mission of providing stability to the British economy and its population. The governor together with various committees and the court of directors are responsible for studying the behaviour of the British economy and making decisions depending on the tasks of each committee.

The Court of Directors acts as a unitary board setting the strategies of the bank’s organisation and budget, in addition to making key decisions about the appointments in the bank and the resources of each area and committee in the bank.

The Court is required to meet at least seven times a year and has five executive members of the bank and up to nine non-executive members. All members of the court are appointed by the crown and one of the non-executive members is selected by the chancellor to preside over the court. The governor serves the court for a term of eight years, deputy governors for five years and non-executive members for up to four years.

In addition to the meetings of the directors of the court, the court is assisted by other committees each with specific tasks that they have to comply with and assist the court in the management of the bank. Since the foundation of the bank in 1694, the directors of the bank have met regularly to discuss various issues related to the administration and operations of the bank. Since 2012 the financial service minutes mandated the board of directors of the court to publish the minutes of the meetings a few weeks after each meeting they held.

Although the mandate was established in 2012, minutes of the meetings have been kept in the bank’s archive since the first one in 1694 in London. To access the minutes of previous meetings the bank decided to digitise minutes dating from the late twentieth century thus facilitating the investigations of investors and academics on the decisions taken by the central bank.

One of the aspects that most worries central banks in the world is the behaviour of inflation because this variable affects transactions, the wealth of households and often also determines the behaviour of the labour market. Inflation is calculated by the central bank through a team of specialists from the national statistics office, which collects price information from the goods and services market, forming a basic consumption basket. That basket of goods is used to calculate the consumer price index (CPI). The statistical office publishes the change of this index every month.

The central government of England is the one that dictates what will be the annual inflation target that the Bank of England should sustain in order to achieve the proposed goals regarding the number of employees and the welfare of the population. The government has set the target at 2%.

To achieve this goal of 2% there is a committee in charge of dictating the monetary policy called the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC). This committee is in charge of changing the bank’s official interest rate. This is the rate that the central bank pays for maintaining the reserves of commercial banks and generally the change of that rate is transferred to consumers. When the rate goes up by the central bank, commercial banks pay more for people’s savings, but they also raise the cost of loans and other financial products such as credit cards.

The logic of the bank is that if inflation is above the target level, interest rates are raised so the loans and credit card consumption is reduced, affecting consumption by the people, which will lead to inflation decreases. The same happens in the opposite case, if it is necessary to encourage greater consumption so that inflation rises, the rates are lowered to encourage spending by households and businesses. There is a mandate from the bank where if the rate of inflation at the end of the year is above 3% or below 1%, the governor of the Bank of England must deliver a letter written to the chancellor explaining why the bank failed in its goal of 2%, and what measures will be taken to meet the goal the following year.

The monetary policy committee is responsible for making decisions about how and what tools to use to achieve the inflation target. Historically the Bank of England has used the interest rate, but recently the bank has tried to use quantitative easing to stimulate the economy and reach the target inflation rate. Reaching the inflation rate proposed by the government is the main objective of the monetary policy, but there are also other objectives such as serving as support to the government objectives in terms of economic growth and the unemployment rate.

The monetary policy committee (MPC) is composed of nine members: the governor, the three deputy-governors for monetary policy, financial stability and markets and banking, a chief economist and four external members appointed by the chancellor. These external members are appointed to ensure that the MPC has a diversity of thoughts and experience of members who do not belong to the bank.

Also at the meetings of the MPC is a representative of the HM Treasury who cannot vote on the decisions of the committee, but can discuss what would be the best decisions they could make in monetary policy. MPC members serve by fixed terms and after their cycles are completed they are replaced or re-elected.

In conclusion, the objective of the MPC is to maintain price stability within the United Kingdom and to support government policies to encourage growth and good job creation rates. The bank has several tools such as the interest rate and the volume of purchases of assets financed by the issuance of bank reserves and exchange intervention. The MPC has no responsibility with respect to the risk profile of the Bank’s balance sheet, that responsibility falls on the Court of Directors, or the Court may delegate it to the Governor and the Bank Executive.

The MPC has no responsibility with respect to the provision by the Bank of financial assistance to financial institutions. That responsibility also falls to the Court of Directors (or may be delegated by the Court), although the Financial Policy Committee may make recommendations on the Bank’s provision of collective assistance.

The Financial Policy Committee (FPC) identifies, monitors and takes the necessary measures to eliminate or reduce systemic risks to protect and improve the financial system of the United Kingdom. The financial policy committee was established in 2013 as part of a new regulatory system that was imposed to improve financial stability after the global financial crisis that occurred in 2008. The financial committee normally has thirteen members. Six members are staff of the Bank of England, the Governor, four deputy governors and the Executive Director of Strategy and Financial Stability Risk. In addition, there are five external members who are selected for their experience and knowledge in financial services.

Another committee of the Bank of England is the Prudential Regulation Committee (PRC). The PRC makes the prudential regulation authority’s most important decisions. The PRC is made up of twelve people. It is chaired by the Governor of the Bank of England and the other four members are Bank England Deputy Governors. A positive aspect of the committee is that the majority of the members came from outside the bank.

In addition to the aforementioned committees, the Bank of England has a network of twelve agencies located throughout the United Kingdom. These agencies play an important role in linking businesses, people and local economies with those in charge of monetary policy and other committees belonging to the bank in London. The agencies are responsible for the central bank to ensure that its economic prospects are correct because they are more in contact with the market than the bank is.

Each agency is composed of four agents and an administrative team. These agents have face-to-face conversations with people, businesses and some industries located near each agency, as well as attending local events to find out what the agents’ perspectives are on the economy.

Each agency has a network of contacts with those who can talk regularly but who belong to organisations from all sectors of the economy, so they have contact with a wide range of companies, ranging from small companies to multinational companies with each agency.

After these meetings with each major agent in each area, the agencies share their information with the Bank of England to take these reports into account at the monetary policy meetings, the financial policy committee and the prudential regulation authority. In addition to this good organisation, each agent can schedule meetings with local agents with the people belonging to each committee so that they can hear the information first-hand.

The bank publishes the agents’ findings eight times a year, but they do not necessarily share the opinion of the agents, just as the committees do not always act solely based on these reports. In recent years each agency has been collecting greater amounts of information for the bank to be more efficient in its mandates and try to create a more robust and more stable system.

There is evidence that indicates that these agencies have been efficient in their work in terms of information that has managed to warn the bank of risks in the corporate credit market, and abnormal conditions in the real estate (housing) market.

Finally, it is important to clarify what the role of the HM treasury member is and to identify why they are always present at the meetings of the MPC and in the monetary policy decisions. The HM Treasury is the government’s ministry of economy and finance and tries to control public spending, direct the economic policy of the United Kingdom and make decisions that help sustain strong economic growth.

As already mentioned, this entity oversees:

  • Public expenditure: departmental expenses, public sectors and pensions
  • Financial services policies: Regulation of financial and banking services, financial stability and ensuring the competitiveness of the system
  • Strategic supervision of the UK tax system

The priorities of the committee are to achieve a strong and sustainable economic growth, reduce the deficit of the trade balance of the economy, ensure a good management of taxes, try to have an efficient and simple tax system, among others.

In conclusion, the Bank of England is one of the most efficient banks in the world due to its different committees and agencies that allow its governors and directors to be in permanent contact with market agents and the perspectives of people who face the local conditions daily. In addition, in its committees, there are members external to the bank which allows adding more knowledge to the discussions and different perspectives of the internal members of the bank, so there are different profiles in the members of the committees. In addition, the bank is independent of the government as is the case for most of the central banks of the world which gives greater flexibility when acting.

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