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Large asset managers fear the dreaded SIFI label

BlackRock fears it could be next on the list

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More nonbank firms face the regulatory scrutiny associated with being labeled a 'systemically important financial institution', or SIFI.

This particular development has asset management firms on high alert, BlackRock (BLK) spokesperson Brian Beades said when discussing the issue.

BlackRock understands FSOC and the Office of Financial Research are continuing to study asset managers to determine whether any of the firms will ultimately be designated as SIFIs.

"The timing of this decision remains uncertain, and importantly, the requirements associated with a designation have not been specified," Beades said.

He continued, "We continue to work with various policymakers to clarify the risk profile of asset management firms and how it differs from other institutions in the financial services sector."

The Financial Stability Oversight Council, or FSOC, attaches the SIFI label to ensure non-bank financial services firms experience some oversight when they pose a significant threat to the financial system.

The tangible impact of the SIFI designation is twofold: the Fed supervises SIFIs, subjecting them to a tailored regulatory framework, Compass Point Research & Trading Group said in a new report.

However, any firm can push back against the SIFI classification. The designation process has an appeals mechanism built into it.

Prudential Financial (PRU) was the latest institution to be designated a nonbank SIFI by FSOC.

Prudential has 30 days to seek judicial review of the decision.

Prior to GE Capital (GE) and American International Group (AIG) receiving SIFI designations, FSOC had only subjected eight financial market utilities on the nonbank side to the designation, according to Compass Point.

"Those designations were, in our view, special cases as they would also reap certain benefits (e.g. discount window access)," explained Compass Point policy analyst Isaac Boltansky.

He added, "We believe that the FSOC will ultimately apply an industry-specific regulatory paradigm for the nonbank institutions that it designates as SIFIs so the potential regulatory impact will be tailored."

Simply put, designation means enhanced regulation via the Federal Reserve and tighter rules related to capital standards and overall liquidity.

Going forward, BlackRock and MetLife (MET) could very well be the next firms designated nonbank SIFIs, Compass Point suggested in new research.

MetLife announced in July that FSOC is in the final stage of the designation process.

SIFI designation is a three stage procedure, which includes a quantitative, qualitative and an in-depth review, Compass Point explained.

Both companies are involved in the mortgage market in some way, although MetLife has been winding down its involvement in the mortgage sector for some time.

When it comes to BlackRock, Boltansky believes the company will clearly move past stage one when considering the company’s quantitative threshold. Currently, the firm holds $50 billion in assets.

At that point, however, it becomes a question of BlackRock’s business lines and FSOC’s operations.

"These questions are impacted by other factors such as whether the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission pursues tougher money market fund reforms or whether the FSOC decides to expand its net beyond insurers and financial market utilities," Compass Point explained.

He continued, "My sense is that the FSOC will cast a wider net over time, but that it’s not likely to do so in the immediate future."

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