The 116th CECA General Assembly was held today, chaired by Isidro Fainé

CECA's General Assembly ratified the appointment of Antón Arriola Boneta, Chairman of Kutxabank, and Francisco Serrano Gill de Albornoz, Chairman of Ibercaja Banco, as members of the Board of Directors

The CECA sector has allocated more than €800 million for social initiatives and projects in Spain in 2022, the largest private social investment in the country

CECA's member entities, together with the rest of the country's credit institutions, have launched initiatives to improve the attention provided to the elderly, among other vulnerable groups

The recent turbulence on both sides of the Atlantic has shown that the Spanish banking sector is highly resilient and that there is an urgent need to complete the Banking Union

CECA held its 116th General Assembly today, which was chaired by Isidro Fainé, Chairman of CECA and Fundación "la Caixa". The meeting took stock of the sector's activity in 2022 and addressed future challenges. The event brought together representatives of CECA's member credit institutions and foundations. The eight groups of banks and savings banks represented by CECA account for nearly 40% of the deposits of the Spanish financial system. In addition, the banking association brings together thirty-two banking and ordinary foundations that excel as philanthropic entities, geared towards the promotion of local development and with a social purpose.

CECA's chairman has stressed the important efforts undertaken by the sector's institutions to make available to society all the necessary resources to help overcome the current economic situation. In the words of Isidro Fainé, CECA's chairman: "It is precisely during the most difficult and uncertain times, such as the present, when CECA and its member entities have an important mission to continue to develop for the benefit of their customers and society as a whole: create banking that is good for customers and good for society. This is our dual challenge". To which she added: "Our Obra Social is increasingly a mainstay of support for many vulnerable people and a driving force for educational, scientific and cultural progress. Obra Social is the heart and soul of our association, and we are committed to protecting it. We would like to extend it worldwide".

The CECA sector, the largest private social investor in Spain in 2022

CECA's Obra Social has been developing charitable and social initiatives for over three centuries, and this year it once again illustrated its essential role as an irreplaceable lever for social, cultural and economic progress, as well as a complement to the programmes implemented by public administrations and the welfare state. CECA's member entities allocated €800.16 million for Obra Social in 2022, an increase of 2.8% compared to the previous year. Thanks to this endowment, more than 72,000 activities have been conducted, benefiting more than 32 million people, especially the most vulnerable groups. Following the approval of Law 26/2013 on Savings Banks and Banking Foundations, the Obra Social of CECA sector entities has invested close to €7,000 million and conducted more than 849,000 activities, representing an increase of 12.71% since 2014.

Obra Social operates in a number of areas, which seek to cover all segments of the population, with a special focus on vulnerable groups.

As in previous years, the field of Social Action has been the area that has received the greatest investment, €313 million (39% of the total), which has been allocated to more than 20,500 activities involving assistance, health and welfare, inclusion, social kitchens and volunteering programmes. Activities targeting vulnerable groups and improving people's integration into society have also been conducted.

Education and Research, with an investment of €219 million (27% of the total) and 12.4 million beneficiaries, ranked second. Within this area, the entities promote progress and innovation with training, education, research and scientific dissemination and R&D programmes. In addition, they support financial inclusion by providing a comprehensive service and facilitating access to financial services for all groups, especially the most disadvantaged.

Furthermore, the areas of Culture and Heritage were allocated €153 million in 2022 (19% of the total) and Local Development and Job Creation accounted for almost €81 million (10% of the total), earmarked for local development programmes, support for the business fabric, promotion of employment and entrepreneurship, among others.

Finally, more than €34 million (4% of the total) was jointly allocated to Sport, Leisure and the Environment. Sport is full of examples of dedication, effort and perseverance, values that Obra Social shares and which it has been applying to its projects for over 300 years. In addition, the CECA sector has a strong commitment to sustainable development by collaborating with different organisations, encouraging the use of sustainable products and services, and undertaking activities for the protection of natural environments.

Obra Social places the 2030 Agenda at the forefront of its activities, strongly supporting its progress and implementation and contributing to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Thus, in 2022, the CECA sector's investment in Obra Social has continued to focus on the 17 SDGs and has joined forces to help reinforce those areas requiring greater attention from Spain, such as poverty, health and welfare, decent work and economic growth, industry, innovation and infrastructure, reduction of inequality and zero hunger, among others.

The Foundations and Obra Social Committee, the main forum for exchanging experiences, cooperation and research in relation to Obra Social, also held its annual meeting today. This is a statutory and advisory body of the association that brings together representatives of the sector's banking and ordinary foundations. Clara Arpa, Chairwoman of the Spanish Network of the Global Compact, participated in the opening ceremony.

Making the elderly feel well catered for, one of the great challenges facing the banking system

In his speech, Isidro Fainé highlighted three initiatives implemented in 2022 that underline the sense of social responsibility of our way of banking:  the Roadmap to reinforce financial inclusion in rural areas to alleviate the problem of depopulation in various parts of Spain; mortgage relief measures to address the needs of the most vulnerable customers in the face of rapidly rising interest rates;  and the Protocol to improve the assistance provided to the elderly, so that the digitalisation of the sector does not leave any group unattended.

In 2021, the sector's associations presented the Strategic protocol to strengthen the social and sustainable commitment of the banking sector with measures geared towards reinforcing the attention provided to vulnerable customers, including the elderly. In 2022, the entities undertook new commitments in this area, and in March this year they presented a second report on the progress made in implementing the agreed measures.

In this regard, it is worth highlighting that bank users have expressed some concern about the possibility that passbooks were being terminated by some banks. For this reason, banks confirmed through their associations the commitment that all customers over 65 years of age who have a passbook will be able to keep it. CECA sector banks account for 8.6 million passbooks.

Another area where the activities of CECA generate a significant social benefit is Financial Education. Isidro Fainé recalled that "we have renewed our commitment to the National Financial Education Plan together with the Bank of Spain, the CNMV, the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Digital Transformation and other public bodies", and announced a new endowment for the Financial Education Stimulus Programme (Funcas Educa).

The Spanish banking sector, resilient with outstanding solvency and liquidity

A further issue raised by CECA's CEO, José María Méndez, was the uncertainty provoked a few weeks ago by several banks on both sides of the Atlantic. Faced with this situation, the Spanish banking sector has shown a high level of resilience, confronting these scenarios of instability and the latest tensions in the markets with solid capital and liquidity positions. In fact, the solvency of Spanish banks remains at levels higher than those attained in December 2019, prior to the COVID-19 crisis.

José María Méndez raised important issues for the audience to reflect on. On the one hand, the advisability of extending the Basel Committee's standards to a highly globalised financial sector is brought to the fore. These standards, which have shaped prudential regulatory orthodoxy for decades, are designed for internationally active banks. However, in many jurisdictions (including the EU), its rules extend to all credit institutions, irrespective of their size. In the United States, by contrast, Basel prudential requirements, including liquidity requirements, apply only to large banks.

Finally, the need to join forces to complete the finalisation of the Banking Union resurfaces. A recent meeting of EU leaders called for the strengthening of the crisis management framework and the use of national deposit guarantee funds. Indeed, a decade after the foundations were laid, the Banking Union project is not yet a fully-fledged reality. Although the first two pillars (SSM and SRM) are operational, the aim of having a common deposit guarantee scheme still seems a long way off. In this regard, the Spanish Presidency of the EU, which will take place in the second half of 2023, could be a magnificent opportunity to relaunch this debate.

CECA's CEO, José María Méndez, in his speech at the Assembly concluded that "the recent banking turbulence on both sides of the Atlantic has revealed three things: firstly, the advisability of extending the Basel Committee's standards to a highly globalised financial sector; secondly, the growing credibility crisis of the resolution framework and, finally, the urgency of finalising the Banking Union".