MiFID II: Broker-Dealers Still Vexed re Unbundling Research

MiFID II, Broker-Dealer,

As the Jan 2018 deadline for full implementation of MiFID II approaches, US broker-dealers and their EU counterparts remain vexed by looming regulations that seek to parse buy-side client payment for research content and commission payments tied to actual trade execution.  In an effort to distill the confusion, ESMA, the UK regulator has provided a recent update to the new regulatory scheme, including a highlight of topics such as how/where global macroeconomic research, FICC markets corporate access, RPA and CSA arrangements and the distinction between ‘free research’ and paid-for research.

Courtesy of insight from Rebecca Healey of Liquidnet, the equities trading platform that connects buyside and sell-side traders from across the globe, “the latest FCA summary, published on March 3, 2017, highlights just how far the UK regulator believes firms are falling short of expectations in unbundling research and execution services. The regulator’s opinion is that poor market practice remains commonplace despite rules that have been in place for more than a decade. In particular, firms are still failing to adequately assess and budget for substantive research that is of value to their end clients’ investments.” Ms. Healey’s coverage is excerpted below, with a link to her recent posting in Tabb Forum.

Corporate Access

ESMA is of the view that arranging a meeting itself is not providing material or services which “explicitly or implicitly recommend or suggest an investment strategy and provide a substantiated opinion as to the present or future value or price of such instruments or assets.” (Recital 28) As such, Corporate Access is not to be considered “research” but as a separate service to be paid for commercially.

However, ESMA notes that it is important that the Corporate Access provider prices services at commercial levels and any access provided is not linked to or dependent on payments for research or execution services. Under Article 13(9), each benefit or service an investment firm provides must be “subject to a separately identifiable charge.”

ESMA is of the view that corporate access such as arranging meetings or field trips could involve the allocation of valuable resources by the provider and could influence the recipient’s behavior (Article 12(3)). As such, ESMA expects firms to assess whether corporate access services facilitated by an investment firm are material or of minor non-monetary benefit, and therefore, whether these services can be accepted. If the investor “road show” is freely and publicly open to analysts from investment firms and other investors, it could be considered acceptable minor non-monetary benefits under Article 12(3).

However, to avoid any conflict of interest, an investment firm wishing to meet a corporate issuer can approach the firm directly and/or pay for a third-party corporate access service provider that does not provide other MiFID investment services.

Macro-Economic Research

In ESMA’s opinion whether macro-economic analysis can be considered research should be weighed against the criteria set out in Recital 28. In particular, whether the research in question “informs views on financial instruments, assets or issuers within that sector or market” and whether “this material or service explicitly or implicitly recommends or suggests an investment strategy … could be used to inform an investment strategy.”

In ESMA’s view most macro-economic analysis is likely to suggest an investment strategy, unless it is sufficiently general to fall outside the definition of research. If it is considered research, it is then capable of being received (and paid for) by an investment firm, under Article 13.

If not, it does not automatically classify as a minor non-monetary benefit, and portfolio managers and independent advisors would need to make a commercial decision either to pay for this or not accept the service.

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No Carve Out for FICC

To continue reading, please visit Tabb Forum via this link


MiFID II and The End of Brokers?


(TradersMagazine)-The new regulations from MiFID II have a direct impact on the structure of brokerages in Europe. Specifically, MiFID II dictates that all brokerages are required to demonstrate best execution and provide full disclosure and transparency on the following items: price, transaction costs, speed of execution, likelihood of execution, trading venue selection, etc. While these metrics seem to be obvious priorities for investor disclosure that should be adopted by the U.S. regulators as well, these long have been the “secret sauce” of many execution brokers.

Not to mention the other requirement of MIFID II: strict requirements for soft-dollar commissions for research. When I started working on the trading floor, soft-dollar commissions were the way business was done. A quant (me) would generate trading ideas that would be subsequently distributed to the desk’s institutional clients. An example of a trading idea could be the economic rationale for why the futures prices on Canadian dollar were about to rise, and, hence why someone like a treasurer of a business with Canadian exposure would choose to buy the futures now, rather than wait for the quarter end. Clients choosing to trade on the research were invariably charged a spread with the cost of the research idea priced-in, and that was just business as usual.

In addition to the secret sauce that will be spilled by transparency requirements and the tight control of soft-dollar commissions, the last component of traditional brokerage businesses was quality relationship management. Can one differentiate a business by a friendly attitude and a free pint of beer? Of course, yes. However, a client can only drink so much beer on a given day, and the prospect of hanging out with yet another broker can be daunting, to say the least.

So where is the brokerage industry going under the new regulations? Technology is certainly not only enabling the requirements of transparency, it is also leveling the field as far as investors are concerned, making broker-shopping easy. How are brokers to retain their clients?

BrokerDealer.com maintains the largest database of broker-dealers across 35 countries

The answer once again lies with technology. Smart order routing solutions should enable brokers to compete for clients beyond beer outings and popular tickets. A solid example of someone who has been doing this well for the past decade in the U.S. equities is Pragma Securities: leveraging PhD-level research and the technology to deliver benchmark-beating routing to their clients. However, even Pragma cannot fully disclose its secret sauce – doing so would make it vulnerable to competition and likely affect its business considerably.

Irene Aldridge

Irene Aldridge

Irene Aldridge is Managing Director, Head of Research and Development, AbleMarkets.com
and Able Alpha Trading, LTD. She is the author of High-Frequency Trading: A Practical Guide
to Algorithmic Strategies and Trading Systems. She can be seen at the Big Data Finance
conference at New York University on May 19 and 20, 2016. Irene can also be reached at Irene@AbleMarkets.com.

For the entire column from Traders Magazine, click here

MiFID II Expected to Smack Intl Equities Traders


(TradersMagazine) A new report from Greenwich Associates, European Equity Trading and the Consequences of Regulation reveals that European buyside traders and portfolio managers believe MiFID II provisions could increase trade execution costs and reduce market liquidity—particularly in small cap stocks.

More than 3.4 billion Euro in commission payments earned by brokerage firms on institutional trades of European equities in the year ending Q2 2015 was about evenly divided. An estimated 53 percent pay for research and advisory services and 47 percent take the form of payments for trade execution services, according to Greenwich Associates.

“The debate over MiFID II has sparked intense speculation about the future of the European equity research business. Much less attention has been paid to the potentially profound impacts of the regulatory proposals on the European cash equity trading business,” according to a press statement.

BrokerDealer.com provides the global financial industry’s most comprehensive database of broker-dealers operating in more than thirty countries across the free world

For the full report from TradersMagazine, please click here

Here Comes MiFID Part 2-What BrokerDealers Need to Know

mifid II

MiFID II is in the batter’s box, and BrokerDealer.com provides a good primer for investment banks and broker-dealers courtesy of Traders Magazine contributor Simon Richards of Fonetic USA.

BrokerDealer.com note: Its time to deploy a new regime of voice-recording record keeping…

The investment banking beast is changing its spots. Driven by the regulators and the threat of billion dollar fines, these traditionally ponderous organizations are awake to what they need to do in order to comply with the Dodd-Frank Act and MiFID. But it is quite clear that the establishment of new regulations is not going to be a one-off occurrence. 

BrokerDealer.com provides the most comprehensive list of global brokerdealers with a database of broker-dealers in 35 countries across the world.

The recent changes to the Markets in Financial Instruments Directive — MiFID II — demonstrate that the regulations are going to change often and rapidly. Adapting to amendments to regulations is the new status quo.

The MiFID II changes are wide-ranging and will affect functions across the board from trade strategy, trade initiation, trade execution, settlement and clearing to ongoing management. Your firm’s IT and HR systems are also likely to be affected. 

One significant change is that the scope of the Transaction Reporting Obligation is being extended. Investment firms will have to keep a complete record of all services, activities and transactions in a format that can be accessed by regulators. Let’s take a look.

Phone and Ecomms: Firms must record all phone and electronic communications relating to concluded and potential transactions. The records must be stored for a minimum of five years and where requested by an authority up to seven years. Under Dodd-Frank, phone recordings are required to be kept for 12 months.

Storage: All electronic records must be stored in a medium that cannot be changed or deleted and must be available to clients on demand.

Trading: All trades, including algorithmic trading records, must be stored on an approved form with accurate, time-sequenced record of orders that were placed executed or cancelled. Firms must keep all relevant data relating to orders and transactions, whether for their own account or on behalf of clients.

The MiFID II amendments illustrate that the regulations are subject to rapid change. This means the industry needs to become more strategic. In short, tactical solutions are no longer going to cut the mustard.

To read the entire primer, please visit TradersMagazine.com


Simon Richards is CEO of Fonetic USA.