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Double-dip recession fears stalk banking boardrooms

Fears of another crippling recession are keeping bankers awake at night, according to a major survey.

Now in its 13th year, the Centre for the Study of Financial Innovation's annual Banking Banana Skins poll, produced in association with business advisors PriceWaterhouseCooper, has shown that economic instability is at the top of a list of 30 big risks to banks and their customers.

Banking anxiety levels are at their highest since the survey began, with credit risk, liquidity, the availability of capital and political interference also being listed as big fears among the 700 bankers, banking regulators and banking industry stakeholders polled in 58 countries.

The latest survey says that, while banking is global, concerns are local and the current greatest cause of anxiety is the eurozone crisis which contains the threat of sovereign debt default by several countries.

Respondents told the survey team that the shock of a euro collapse would hit banks across the world, with bankers in countries as far apart as the US, Canada, China, Argentina and Australia putting the euro crisis at the top of their list of concerns.

They anticipated that the immediate consequence of a crash would be large credit losses, followed by a funding crisis with banks denied access to liquidity and fresh capital.

There are fears too, of political interference increasing regulation of the banking sector with the intention of solving the banking crisis, but merely adding cost and distracting banks from customer focus and economic regeneration.

Respondents in Latin America, Africa, Asia and the Far East ranked their prospects higher than those in North America and Europe.

However, the survey also showed mounting concern about the prospects for China as its economy slows and its banks face growing pressures.

David Lascelles, the survey's editor said that the picture painted by this survey is "very bleak".

"It shows a fragile banking system beset by major threats and uncertainties," he said.

Andrew Gray, banking partner at PriceWaterhouseCooper added: "Banks are clearly worried about the dangers posed by continued turmoil in the eurozone, the threat of a further credit squeeze and uncertainty created by continued regulatory changes."