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01 July 2015

ESMA: Verena Ross speaking on regulatory outlook at CISI 2015 annual conference

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The main highlights of her speech were: CMU, investor protection - both under the MiFID II framework -, the work ESMA is doing together with the other European Supervisory Authorities, and the digitalisation of financial services.

One of the key aims of the Capital Markets Union (CMU) is to create a balanced funding system that maximises the benefits of capital markets and is less reliant on funding by the banking sector. The foundations of this ambition are currently being built, and ESMA’s main objectives, of enhancing investor protection and promoting stable and orderly financial markets, are fully aligned with the objectives of the CMU. A successful CMU based on a single capital market in the EU would promote the attractiveness of the EU for investors, which should in turn create more jobs and stimulate economic growth. This could bring with it many opportunities investors and market participants. [...]

ESMA has been tasked with a significant role in contributing to further refine the framework as laid down in MIFID II. During 2014, ESMA submitted an extensive technical advice to the European Commission covering the breadth of MIFID II, including on key investor protection measures and on a broad range of issues for secondary markets. [...]

In the European context, this poses particular challenges because of the vastly differing education and qualification systems across the different Member States. That is why ESMA’s draft guidelines set minimum standards that national competent authorities and other relevant national bodies need to take into account when determining the specific qualifications and experience that are expected from investment advisors and others providing information on investment products and services.

Given the breadth and complexity of the single rulebook – and MiFID II is just one of many relevant pieces of legislation – regulators need to make choices about where to concentrate their efforts. Many factors are at play in making these decisions, including the relevant economies, market structures, business culture, and the resources available to regulators relative to the market size. However, diversity in these choices can result in an unlevel playing field which could be used for regulatory arbitrage or create a “race to the bottom.”

Recently, our work has focussed on the major regulatory mandate on Packaged Retail Investment and Insurance products (PRIIPs), which will enhance investor protection by creating uniform requirements for the manufacturers of PRIIPs – such as fund managers, insurance companies, credit institutions and investment firms – to produce a clear, concise Key Information Document (KID), where these products are targeted at retail investors. The PRIIPs KID will be required from 31 December 2016. This work is extremely important as it will really impact on each investor in the EU. Our work is involving a number of consultations (we just launched a further one) and also intensive consumer testing.

Digital innovations and new applications of existing technologies offer firms new ways to interact with their clients. One benefit of the increasing digitalisation of financial services is that it may reduce costs; not only for firms, but ultimately also for investors. This may increase the affordability of financial advice and consequently mean that financial advice can be made available to a wider population of investors. However, as the barriers to accessing financial products and services are lowered, investor protection is even more important. Investment firms need to act in the best interest of their clients, regardless of the channel through which they provide their products and services.

Full speech


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