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ESMA in brief

ESMA in brief

The European Securities and Markets Authority (ESMA) is an independent European Union (EU) Authority that contributes to safeguarding the stability of the EU's financial system by enhancing the protection of investors and promoting stable and orderly financial markets.

ESMA logo

ESMA achieves its objectives by:

  • assessing risks to investors, markets and financial stability; 
  • completing a single rulebook for EU financial markets; 
  • promoting supervisory convergence; and
  • directly supervising credit rating agencies, trade repositories and securitisation repositories.

ESMA, as well as fostering supervisory convergence amongst Member States’ national competent authorities (NCAs) with responsibility for securities and capital markets supervision, it aims to do so across financial sectors by working closely with the other European Supervisory Authorities competent in the field of banking (EBA), and insurance and occupational pensions (EIOPA).

Whilst ESMA is an independent Authority, it is accountable to the European Institutions including the European Parliament, where it appears before the Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee (ECON) at their request for formal hearings, the Council of the European Union and European Commission. The Authority reports to the institutions on its activities regularly at meetings and also through its Annual Report.

Mission and Objectives

One mission: to enhance investor protection and promote stable and orderly financial market

Three Objectives: Investor Protection, Orderly Markets and Financial Stability


ESMA was founded as a direct result of the recommendations of the 2009 de Larosière report which called for the establishment of a European System of Financial Supervision (ESFS) as a decentralised network. It began operations, under its Founding Regulation  on 1 January 2011, replacing the Committee of European Securities Regulators (CESR) which was a network of NCAs which promoted consistent supervision across the EU and provided advice to the European Commission.


ESMA achieves its mission and objectives through four activities:

  • Assessing risks to investors, markets and financial stability;
  • Completing a single rulebook for EU financial markets;
  • Promoting supervisory convergence; and
  • Directly supervising specific financial entities.

Assessing risks to investors, markets and financial stability

The purpose of assessing risks to investors, markets and financial stability is to spot emerging trends, risks and vulnerabilities, and where possible opportunities, in a timely fashion so that they can be acted upon. ESMA uses its unique position to identify market developments that threaten financial stability, investor protection or the orderly functioning of financial markets.

ESMA’s risk assessments build on and complement risk assessments made by other European Supervisory Authorities (ESAs) and NCAs and contribute to the systemic work undertaken by the European Systemic Risk Board (ESRB), which focuses on stability risks in financial markets.

  • Internally, the output of the risk assessment function feeds into ESMA’s work on the single rulebook, supervisory convergence and the direct supervision of specific financial entities.
  • Externally, it promotes transparency and investor protection by making information available to investors via our public registries and databases and, where needed, by issuing warnings to investors. The risk analysis function closely monitors the benefits and risks of financial innovation in the EU.

Completing a single rulebook for EU financial markets

The purpose of completing a single rulebook for EU financial markets is to enhance the EU Single Market by creating a level playing field for investors and issuers across the EU. ESMA contributes to strengthening the quality of the single rulebook for EU financial markets by developing Technical Standards and by providing advice to EU Institutions on legislative projects. This standard setting role was ESMA’s primary task in its development phase.

Promoting supervisory convergence

Supervisory convergence is the consistent implementation and application of the same rules using similar approaches across the 27 Member States. The purpose of promoting supervisory convergence is to ensure a level playing field of high-quality regulation and supervision without regulatory arbitrage or a race to the bottom between Member States. The consistent implementation and application of rules ensures the safety of the financial system, protects investors and ensures orderly markets.  Supervisory convergence implies sharing best practices and realising efficiency gains for both the NCAs and the financial industry. This activity is performed in close cooperation with NCAs. ESMA’s position in the ESFS makes it qualified to conduct peer reviews, set up EU data reporting requirements, thematic studies and common work programs, draft opinions, guidelines and Q&As; but also build a close network that can share best practices and train supervisors. Following the ESA’s Review, ESMA will also identify two EU-wide strategic supervisory priorities that NCAs shall consider in their annual work programmes. ESMA actively supports international supervisory coordination.

Directly supervising specific financial entities


ESMA is the direct supervisor of specific financial entities:


Credit Rating Agencies (CRAs)

Securitisation repositories (SRs)

Trade Repositories (TRs)


These entities form essential parts of the EU’s market infrastructure.

ESMA’s four activities are closely linked. Insights gained from risk assessment feed into the work on the single rulebook, supervisory convergence and direct supervision, and vice versa. We consider supervisory convergence to be the main outcome of the implementation and application of the single rulebook. The direct supervision of CRAs and TRs benefits from and also feeds into our risk assessment and single rulebook activities.