Vatican bank profits soar as it recovers from trading loss and continues Francis' reform

By Nicole Winfield
U.S. News
May 25, 2015

VATICAN CITY (AP) — The Vatican bank said Monday its profit soared by more than 20 times last year as it recovered from a trading loss and continued its reform process away from its scandal-marred past.

The bank, officially called the Institute for Religious Works, said it earned 69.3 million euros ($77.37 million) in 2014, up from 2.9 million euros the previous year.

Its net trading result jumped to 36.7 million euros from a loss of 16.5 million euros in 2013, when it lost money on investments and saw the value of its gold holdings drop.

Profits were also boosted by a drop in operating costs. In 2013, operating expenses jumped by some 8 million euros as it paid outside consultants to help review its client base and bring it into compliance with anti-money-laundering norms.

That review resulted in some 4,600 accounts being closed, either because they were dormant or because clients no longer fit the revised client base approved by the bank's board, which include religious orders, Catholic institutions, clerics, employees or former employees of the Vatican, as well as embassies and diplomats accredited to the Holy See.

Bank President Jean-Baptiste de Franssu said the bank's focus now is to improve services to the remaining 15,181 account holders and offering low-risk asset management services.

One area that is out of the picture for now is de Franssu's proposal for the Holy See to invest some assets in a Luxembourg-based investment scheme with variable capital known as a SICAV. Pope Francis nixed the proposal earlier this year, Italy's La Stampa newspaper reported.

De Franssu was named president last summer as the bank, which has been caught up in money-laundering probes over the years by Italian magistrates, began the second phase of a reform process aimed at cleaning up its operations.

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