3rd of January 2018, while the markets started well their year and were keeping a bullish direction before the recent increase in volatility, something else started. Yes, it’s the new European Union Markets in Financial Instruments Directive known also as MiFID II.

Most people talked a lot about it during the last quarter of 2017 and were trying to understand the possible opportunities and threatens related to this topic. But first, let’s see what it is about.

 

The Directive

The aim of this big EU directive (more than 7000 pages) is to protect investors and make sure they receive “fair” deals when dealing with Fund and Asset Managers and so try to make Financial Institutions more transparent. This happens thanks to reports filled within 15 minutes from the transaction so that the regulators can spot abuses in all existing asset classes (Bonds, Stocks and Derivatives) and consequently become more diligent.

A major related change is for Bonds and Derivatives as they will not be any more phones involved in those processes, but everything will be done electronically. In this way, the EU wants to push back a lot of trades to public exchanges so that they can be monitored.

On the Equity side, EU was pushing for stricter limits regarding dark trading but at the last minute it was set back, probably to broaden this aspect, making still possible to trade more than 600 stocks on dark pools. The dark pools are basically private exchanges or forums for trading securities not accessible by the investing public. In those exchanges there is no transparency at all and are mainly used by institutional investors who do not wish to impact the markets. This is confirmed by Trista Keller’s (Bloomberg) statement which says: “For a lot of people MiFID II has still not happened, at list on the equity market”.

Mf1

 

With this little, simple and effective table published by Bloomberg, we can have an overview of the rules that the European regulator introduced and the result that should therefore arise.

Mf2

 

The implications

Let’s now look at the implications of this directive. First, different studies showed a decrease for Research inside banks, both in budgets and in people. Therefore, many professionals of the sector decided to leave earlier to create their own firm. This because an increasingly large number of leading asset managers already announced they will internalise the cost of research in their P&L instead of charging it separately to investors via Research Payment Accounts which are accounts exclusively created for the clients to put funds in to pay for research and directly managed by the financial institutions and banks. A McKinsey report estimated a 10-30% reduction in buy side’s external payment for research over the next three years and a S&P survey indicates that, asset managers’ EBIT may decline by 15%/ 30% because of the shift to P&L accounting for external research expenses.

From the following chart, the first impression is that big banks need a lot of information and their demand seems very fragmented. However, 20 banks account for 64%. Therefore, according to 80:20 Pareto’s rule, one can dominate the market by providing reports of Equity Research to a small number of big players.

Mf3

Moreover, the impressive decrease in European Research budgets both in terms of advisory and brokers, could lead to a big change in banks demand.

Mf4

Another big effect is on Sales&Trading which last year has seen a declining number of traders together with an introduction of electronic trading engineers. Indeed, specific data compiled by McKinsey on the Equity segment of the top 9 investment banks show the overall Sales&Trading headcount declined three times faster than Research since 2011. For example, Goldman Sachs’ US cash equity business moved from 600 traders in year 2000 to only 2 traders in 2016.

In fact, with MiFID II will cause lot of job loosing but at the same time many have been, are and will be created. For example, the number of job adverts on LinkedIn for MiFID-related roles has more than quadrupled in the last year in a sign of how companies have been trying to be well prepared for the far-reaching European regulation. Banks, asset managers, consultancy and law firms have all embarked on a hiring spree ahead of the introduction of the second instalment of the Markets in Financial Instruments Directive.

This is quite a revolution happening in banking which is also related to Fintech and Robo-advisory recent success among investors. Indeed, this disruptive companies are recently receiving large funding from high-profile investors and hiring new talents to take advantage of growth momentum.

 

Winners

Until now, MiFID II has created some advantages that benefited some players such as:

  • Pension funds and family offices will be advantaged as they will be more aware of the fees payed for researches and so increase their bargaining power. Regarding the price, also big money managers such as BlackRock and Vanguard Group will benefit.
  • Platforms in general will benefit from this directive and particularly in hedge funds where they will ease compliance and reduce again costs.
  • Individual investors will be more aware of the fees and this might lead to a big shift from funds to ETFs due to their lower cost. Indeed, they are forecasted to surge from 725 billion dollars to more than $1 trillion in next 1 to 3 years.
  • Big Investment Banks will be able to compete on prices for research eventually building a new revenues stream.

Losers

As any other piece of legislation, MiFID also created some “losers”:

  • Smaller companies with lower budgets will encounter higher prices for obtaining information and may charge higher expenses to clients which could cause a negative impact on business. The same goes for smaller investment banks and boutiques that cannot afford a war price on their research products.
  • Hedge funds will have to insert reports within 1 minute for the equity side and 15 for the fixed income products. This will probably impact their transaction volumes and costs in terms of time and money.
  • Research teams will shrink and so their effort higher or the output poorer. Are unexperienced investors ready to independently search for stocks without being able to rely on recommendations? Will they take the risk or miss the opportunity? What would happen to the relatively unknown small cap? Would the capital run towards big firms leaving the small ones illiquid? As trades would not be any more done over the phone but via platforms, who will now loose his voice and go to the doctor? And what about the already declining fixed phone business?

 

 

Authors

Lorenzo Bracco

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