Center for Financial Studies

Financial Regulation in Europe – just science or also an art?

The fact that financial regulation is a science would hardly be argued by anyone. But looking at financial regulation as an art – this connection is not easy.

The address given by the President of the Federal Financial Supervisory Authority (BaFin), Felix Hufeld, on March 16, focused precisely on the question of whether financial regulation is a science or an art. More precisely, which part of regulatory processes are considered as science and which are considered an art. Hufeld’s address was hosted by the Center for Financial Studies (CFS) at the Financial Centre Frankfurt’s Goethe Universität, whose lecture series is well known for its top-class speakers.

Hufeld described the basic concepts, models, and quantitative methods of regulation as scientific, but, further on in his lecture, he shifted focus to shed light on the parts of regulation that transcend these scientific elements, which Hufeld designated as art. These questions and decisions which cannot be answered by mathematical models, which necessitate consideration between different regulatory objectives, which can also intersect in a tense relationship. “In short: questions that rely primarily on one’s personal judgment,” as Felix Hufeld summarizes. These difficulties are exacerbated by regulation moving towards a context of global development, by the continuous process of Europeanisation, the dynamism of the markets, as well as the fundamental changes brought by digitalisation.

Using four examples, Hufeld dove deeper into this understanding of regulation as an art: financial stability vs. profitability, risk sensitivity vs. procyclicality, principle-based vs. rule-based regulation, and consumer protection vs. credit institutions’ capacity to act. These and other areas of tension require individual, creative and pragmatic decisions from regulators based on principles of stability and continuity, which must be balanced by the tension between contradictory regulatory objectives and dynamic developments. At the end of this process, the goal of regulatory authorities is to realize a sustainable, viable order in financial markets and to avoid the vicious cycle of crisis to regulation to deregulation and back to crisis.

The full text of Felix Hufeld’s lecture can be found here (German).

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