Mifid II day of reckoning

The day of reckoning arrived for banks, brokers and asset managers this month as Mifid II finally came into force on January 3, 2018.

The Financial Instruments Directive II (Mifid II) – a wide-ranging set of rules that affect everything from stock trading to analysts’ pay –  is designed to of promote greater investor protection and transparency and build on its predecessor MiFID I.

But while most industry professionals agree with its aims, many complain that Mifid II rules, which are said to run to 1.5 million paragraphs of text – have soaked up too much time and talent. Risk managers have worked around the clock with others in the affected firms to ensure that their organisations comply with the rules. That task has been made difficult because the rules have been under development and many in the market are unsure whether they have done enough.

One banker told the Financial Times that “the stream of eleventh-hour clarifications and approvals by European regulators” had made it harder to comply. The US stock exchange operator Nasdaq only won approval to operate Mifid-complaint services at the end of December, according to the paper.

Despite companies spending billions of pounds to upgrade IT systems and compliance procedures, many are still not ready.

Mifid I already required organisations to have a risk management function and maintain risk management policies and procedures to identify risks relating to the organisation’s activities – as well as risk mitigation and appetite procedures. But the scale of the new rules means that compliance with new procedures is likely to be complex. For example, providing extra transparency over how research is funded and paid for – known as unbundling, could be tricky because at the moment the price of market research is hidden in trade execution fees.

The UK Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), which regulates the sector, has said it will is not likely to take formal action against firms not fully compliant with the revised directive straight away. But they will need to show they are making their best efforts to comply. How long that approach will last is anyone’s guess.

 

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