In 2014, Moldova experienced a severe banking crisis followed by a recession. During that crisis, the National Bank of Moldova (NBM) demonstrated significant shortcomings in public communications and failed to sustain public confidence at a critical moment for the country’s financial sector.
To help the NBM strengthen its ability to contain potential shocks to public confidence in the event of a future banking crisis, VEGA Member Financial Services Volunteer Corps (FSVC) provided two volunteer experts in May to conduct a series of consultations with NBM staff and management that helped improve their strategy with regard to communications in times of crisis. One of those volunteers is Loretta Stack, a financial services consultant from New York. Below, she writes about her experience volunteering with the Technical Assistance to the National Bank of Moldova project.
As a result of this project, the NBM obtained a roadmap on how to establish an effective communications framework in the event of a crisis. This work will lead to greater financial stability, as the NBM is better equipped to deal with extraordinary financial crisis situations in a timely and professional manner, thereby avoiding public panic, a decline in public confidence and potential bank runs.
Currently, there are two Central Securities Depositories (CSDs) in Moldova; one operated by the National Bank of Moldova (NBM) for government and central bank bonds, and one operated by the National Securities Depository (NSD) or corporate securities. A CSD is defined (per CPSS-IOSCO PFMI) as follows: “A central securities depository provides securities accounts, central safekeeping services, and asset services, which may include the administration of corporate actions and redemptions, and plays an important role in helping to ensure the integrity of securities issues (that is, ensure that securities are not accidentally or fraudulently created or destroyed or their details changed).” The International Monetary Fund (IMF) completed a review of the structure of the CSDs, as well as the securities registrars, and in June, 2016, issued a report which identified issues in the existing infrastructure. The report recommended establishing a single CSD for both corporate securities and bank and government bonds; it was also recommended that this new, combined CSD be operated by NBM. The purpose of this FSVC volunteer assignment was to assess the capacity of the NBM to establish this single depository.
As this was my first time volunteering for an effort like this, and as I came into the project a little bit late, I had to do a bit of catch up on the reading and preparation. Fortunately, the FSVC staff provided a good deal of background material, and also hosted a conference call to introduce the volunteers (3 participated, an IT expert, a legal and regulatory expert, and myself) and discuss the project. There was also a good deal of international financial press coverage around money laundering and fraud issues in the Moldovan markets. FSVC also took care of all of the logistical planning, e.g., flights, connections, car service, hotel, etc., which was a great help as I had never been to Moldova previously.
FSVC had arranged a very strong agenda for our time in Moldova. In the course of 4 days, we met with USAID, the IMF, the NBM, the NSD, the National Commission for Financial Markets (NCFM), and the Ministry of Finance. We had initial, and with several groups, follow up meetings to further understand the current market infrastructure, the market, legal, regulatory, technical and operational considerations that would have to be addressed for this project, the approach to the project, the current status, and issues and challenges. During these meetings, it became evident that the NBM was very open to guidance and potential recommendations as they understood the critical nature of this initiative. As a result of the meetings and discussion, the volunteers completed an assessment identifying gaps and challenges, and suggesting recommendations for the effort. It should be noted that this is very complex project, with a large, diverse group of stakeholders, significant deliverables, and aggressive timeframes. Therefore, the potential for a carefully orchestrated, phased implementation was also raised. I do expect that there will be follow up with the NBM, and potentially with other stakeholders as well, to discuss the report, the recommendations, and ongoing project management.
From a personal perspective, I am delighted that I became involved in this effort. Although I have worked in international financial services for most of my career, this assignment was very different from any that I had tackled before. In addition to learning about the market infrastructure and the issues, I learned so much about the people and the culture. This was in large part due to the FSVC staff explaining the background of the country, the impact that had on its citizens, and how that is still reflected in some ways. Additionally, I have a much, greater understanding of the roles of the IMF and USAID; this experience has taken my understanding from a very theoretical level, to really understanding the roles and the potential benefits that may be afforded due to their efforts.
If anyone is considering a volunteer assignment like this, I would strongly encourage them to do the research on the effort, and participate. In addition to any value you may bring to the project, you may be very surprised by just how personally rewarding it is.