THE Financial Services Authority is expected to ease the daunting requirements on start-up banks to hold huge capital reserves, in a move that coincides with the imminent launch of Scoban, the new UK private bank being plotted in Edinburgh.
Scoban yesterday signalled continuing progress in its challenging launch phase by attracting senior banker Graeme Hartop as managing director.
Mr Hartop, managing director of Scottish Widows Bank since 2003, said: "It is a hugely exciting time to be joining Scoban as I believe the timing is perfect to deliver a new, high quality private banking proposition in the UK.
"The chance to become involved and help shape this new venture is very appealing to me and I believe there are great prospects ahead for this business."
Ray Entwistle, chairman of Scoban, said: "I am delighted that Graeme is joining our team and brings with him the experience of running a banking business, showing foresight throughout the troubles of 2008, and defining a strategy that made Scottish Widows Bank a very successful operation."
The appointment suggests that Scoban, launched by the former Adam and Co chief executive Mr Entwistle two years ago in the teeth of the regulatory crackdown on banks, has helped to influence and will benefit from a review by the Financial Services Authority of "barriers to entry" in the banking market.
The FSA is due to publish the review next month. It will address whether the hurdles set for new entrants are unnecessarily restrictive, including the size of capital adequacy requirements.
Scoban, which has been in discussions with potential backers over the bank's eventual name, has previously said it could be required to have £75m to £100m of capital before opening its doors. Mr Entwistle said Mr Hartop's appointment came "as we work very closely with the FSA to gain our banking licence and I am of course pleased that the process for authorising newcomers to the banking marketplace is currently the subject of considered discussion".
He said Mr Hartop would submit a formal application to the FSA, or one of its two successor authorities, the newly formed prudential regulator PRA, "in the next few months with a response anticipated quite soon afterwards". A spokesman for the FSA said banking authorisation encompassed capital adequacy, conduct, systems, and controls to prevent money-laundering.
"We are reviewing that process and addressing some of the concerns – one of which is are capital levels too high – and asking is there more we can do as a regulator to make it easier for new entrants," he said.
He added: "As well as the massive capital outlay it is also quite difficult hiring personnel when you haven't actually got FSA authorisation - there is a recognition from our point of view that probably more can be done to help new entrants."
Scoban had, by mid-2012, only raised some £5m of an initial £8m fundraising target set in early 2011.
But discussions with the FSA encouraged it later last year to make key appointments and sign a 10-year lease on a Charlotte Square office.