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European bankers fight negative interest rates

Europe’s top banking executives are joining politicians in a wide-ranging pushback against negative interest rates ahead of this month's ECB meeting.

Driving the news: Deutsche Bank CEO Christian Sewing on Wednesday warned that further reducing interest rates, as the central bank is widely expected to do next week, will "ruin the financial system" and have "grave side effects" for the region.

  • UBS CEO Sergio Ermotti also joined the chorus speaking out against negative rates, asserting that they are hurting social systems and savings rates.

The big picture: Ermotti and Sewing’s comments add to growing concerns across Europe that the ECB’s monetary policy is threatening the business of banking altogether and inducing people to stuff money in their mattresses rather than holding it in bank accounts.

  • The CEOs join financial authorities from Germany, Denmark and Norway who have recently spoken out against the deleterious effects of negative interest rates on Europe's banks.

What to watch: The disquiet has even reached the ECB's expected next president, Christine Lagarde, who promised Wednesday to review the costs and benefits of negative interest rates and bond purchases, though most expect her to continue the policies.

  • In an address to EU lawmakers this week, Lagarde said that while the impact of the ECB’s unconventional tools on Europe’s economy "continues to be positive, we need to be mindful about their potential side effects, and we have to take the concerns of people seriously."

Go deeper: Negative interest rates have hurt, not helped