BELGIUM - A group of Europe's leading banking and insurance companies is calling on the European Commission to advance pan-European co-operation between national asset management regulators, by establishing a lead supervisor that would act as a single point of contact for all reporting schemes.

In a report published on June 15, the European Financial Services Round Table (EFR) highlighted the benefits that a lead supervisor would have on the banking (including asset management) and insurance sectors.

EFR member Anton van Rossum, chief executive of banking and insurance company Fortis, said a truly integrated financial market was impossible without better cross-border management of national rules. Closer co-operation among national supervisors, which the EFR has so far been pushing for, is in itself insufficient. A lead supervisor would be able to provide a much better overview of the industry as a whole, and this would be invaluable at a time of crisis in the industry.

The report said: "It is unacceptable and inefficient that financial institutions should have to cope with a multitude of independently acting local supervisors."

But the EFR insisted its proposal for a lead supervisor would not result in the harmonisation of national rules. Rather, it would promote closer co-ordination between the different systems of the EU's Member States. In the cases where national bodies held different opinions from those of the lead supervisor, committees that have been established under the Lamfalussy framework would act as arbitrators - for example, the Committee of European Banking Supervisors (CEBS), the Committee of European Insurance and Occupational Pensions Supervisors (CEIOPS) and the Conglomerate Committee.

The EFR stopped short of calling for a single regulatory European financial services authority, though did not rule one out completely. "There may be a call for one in the future," admited van Rossum. He added that the proposal for a lead supervisor is simply a further step in promoting closer co-operation between the myriad of national supervisory systems.

Managers of pension funds are not yet calling for greater pan-European supervision, but Freddy Van den Spiegel, chief economist at Fortis Bank, who helped draft the report, said discussions on this are not far away.