Opinion 

Mifid II force partially awakens

Emma Ann Hughes

Emma Ann Hughes

Mifid II was billed as the biggest shake-up to European markets for a decade.

Conceived in the days following the credit crunch, and more than seven years in the making, Mifid II means firms dealing in shares, bonds, commodities and derivatives must now report detailed information on trillions of euros in transactions.

The aim of this blockbuster – with a budget of more than £1.47bn and running in compliance costs - is to increase transparency and bolster investor protection to avoid some of the problems of the 2007 to 2009 financial crisis.

In theory Mifid II should allow regulators to spot bubbles earlier.

However this looks likely to remain a theory as if Mifid II were a blockbuster movie it would be one where the story has gaping holes and the CGI is far from polished.

Given that many areas of the new law and regulations remain opaque, Ian Cornwall, the Personal Investment Management & Financial Advice Association's director of regulation, said greater understanding is needed before firms and their over-burdened compliance officers can fully get to grips with exactly what they have to achieve.

Mr Cornwall observed even the FCA, as the competent UK regulatory authority, is unable to “give guidance on European guidance” and is consequently uncertain how best to put some of these elements into practice. 

Yet as it arrived on Wednesday (3 January), Mifid II’s authors were in the mood to share high-fives all round and celebrate delivering their aim of bringing greater transparency and competition across the region’s markets.

Steven Maijoor, chairman of the European Securities and Markets Authority, proclaimed: “It will be the first time we have a complete overview of all financial instruments in the European Union.” 

Hmm. Are you sure Mr Maijoor?

Much like how I felt leaving the cinema after the latest Star Wars film, I was left feeling Mifid II promised so much but I question if it has actually delivered.

The multiple reprieves granted to parts of the market over certain portions raises questions about whether regulators might have bitten off more than they can chew with this mammoth blockbuster.

The preparation period has been so long it no longer feels like the big event it was supposed to be but rather a still moving (and therefore not entirely satisfactory) feast.

emma.hughes@ft.com

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