What Will Be the Upshot of MiFID II on Hedge Fund Jobs?

Just as the regulatory mists were beginning to dissipate under President Trump’s Sharpie and the House’s legislative action, a new fog is rolling across the financial sector—MiFID II. Although driven by European regulators, it cannot be ignored by any financial organization that engages the European markets, and this includes the hedge fund industry.

What Is MiFID II?

This acronym stands for the Markets in Financial Instruments Directive-Two, the second phase of MiFID, which has been in force across the European Union (EU) since 2007. Its stated goal is to provide a uniform regulatory framework that protects EU investors. MiFID’s first iteration was limited, primarily focused on over-the-counter transactions. However, following the penchant of all regulatory bodies, enough was not enough, and that has brought us to MiFID II, which is scheduled to take effect in January of 2018.

It’s important to note that, while this directive is driven by European regulators, MiFID II will reach deeply into the global financial industry, affecting all financial organizations that deal with the European markets.

The Goals of MiFID II

The high-level goals of MiFID II seem innocuous. They include increased market transparency, a shift toward structured marketplaces, lower cost market data, improvements in execution, trading uniformity, and removing any ambiguity regarding the costs involved in trading and investing. However, the price of achieving full compliance is likely to be dear.

The Cost of Compliance

The high cost of compliance is a result of the technological implications inherent in reporting, transparency of trading expenses, and recording telephone calls (cell & landline), texts and face-to-face meetings.

The issue of reporting seems the least daunting of these challenges. The issues of trading expenses and recording interpersonal contacts are the most intimidating challenges and this is why.

In the current scheme of things, trading costs are less than transparent. MiFID II requires separate disclosures for trading commissions and investment/research fees. If free market principles bear out, when the actual costs of an analyst’s time and work are revealed, investors will become increasingly selective with regard to what they are willing to pay for. The likely result will be a fall in demand from previous levels when such research was perceived as free.

Recording all these interpersonal contacts is without precedent in the United States. Not only does this give rise to privacy concerns, it also raises the bar to new levels in terms of cyber security. Then, one needs to determine where and how all these petabytes of data will be securely stored!

What about Hedge Fund Jobs?

Clearly, the small-sized hedge fund firms will face the biggest challenges. Funds available to address compliance costs are a function of management fees and small funds necessarily have the least financial flexibility. Of course, these small firms could choose to avoid transactions that trigger MiFID II requirements, but such a move would impose serious limitations on the fund.

Research analysts in funds of all sizes could face layoffs if demand falls as predicted. The banking sector has already trimmed its analyst staff and expectations are high that further reductions are in the pipeline. When one considers the fact that the position of research analyst is the gateway to employment for many in the hedge fund industry, the jobs picture is looking somewhat faded…thanks Europe!

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