MiFID - Investor Protection

Steven Maijoor, ESMA Chair, delivered the opening remarks at the BVI 2018 Annual Reception in Brussels on the evening of 20 March. 

His remarks focused on issues related to:

Brexit and the issue around ESMA's work on delegation -

"The decision of the UK to leave not only the EU but, as stated by the UK Government, also the Single Market, has led to a situation in which there is the potential for a significant shift of entities and activities from the UK to the EU27​."

​"This triggered concerns about the risk of regulatory arbitrage between the EU27 Member States seeking to attract this business. I am realistic enough to know that such competition for business will always be with us. What we as ESMA felt very strongly was that in the contingency plans that businesses were drawing up, regulatory or supervisory arbitrage should not be a factor.

"As I have repeatedly clarified, we are not looking to question, undermine or put in doubt the delegation model. We know that this is a key feature of the investment funds industry and that the flexibility to organise centres of excellence in different jurisdictions has contributed to the industry’s success. To put it more bluntly, to us delegation is not a dirty word.

"What our opinions are seeking to address is the risk of letterbox entities. I hope you would all agree that it is in no-one’s interest to allow the creation of such entities. Both the UCITS Directive and the AIFMD explicitly require there to be enough substance in the entity established in the home Member State."

"In other words, financial centres in the EU27 should be free to compete based on the particular strengths they can offer relocating firms, like speed and efficiency, but in all cases the EU rulebook should be consistently applied. Otherwise, there could be insufficient substance in the EU27, which may pose risks to ESMA achieving its stability and investor protection mandates."

Costs and Charges - MiFID II

"The first thing I want to say is that I believe the changes to cost transparency introduced by these two pieces of legislation are already having a positive impact. I have said before that in order to increase investors’ confidence in financial markets, they need to have greater trust in the entities producing and distributing investment products. An important step towards achieving that goal lies in greater transparency about the products themselves and the service provided."

"Let us take the example of unbundling. Under MiFID II, inducements are banned for independent advice and portfolio management. For other services, inducements are permitted if they, among other things, improve services provided to individual clients."

"This should help ensure better use of the research budget instead of firms, and ultimately their clients, paying for low quality, duplicative research. Managers will thus be able to use the funds allocated to research more efficiently. The new rules should also provide better opportunities for independent research providers to compete on the quality of the research provided and prompt portfolio managers to acquire research from a wider variety of research providers."

"On the question of whether to include disclosure of transaction costs, I think it is only fair that investors are fully informed about something that can have a material impact on their returns, especially when the impact can vary significantly across different products. Indeed, I would go so far as to say that we will look back on this debate in a few years’ time and wonder how it could ever have been so controversial. PRIIPs and MiFID II have really embedded the idea that no cost, whether explicit or implicit, should escape disclosure."

"On the methodology for calculation, we are aware of the vocal reactions of stakeholders and the extensive coverage in the media of supposed flaws. What I would say to you is that we are ready and willing to look at this issue but that we need to see concrete evidence to assess whether these flaws are real. In the absence of any such evidence, we maintain our view that the methodology is sound and that negative transaction cost figures should be extremely rare."

​CMU/ESAs Review

"As envisaged in the CMU Action Plan, but also emphasised by the European Parliament Resolution in July 2015 [on building a capital markets union], the “legal and supervisory frameworks play a fundamental role in avoiding excessive risk taking in financial markets, and [therefore] a strong CMU project needs to be accompanied by strong EU-wide and national supervision.

"I would like to underline that the Commission’s legislative proposal on the ESAs review from September last year clearly delivers on these expectations. However, as it quickly emerged after the publication of the proposal, a number of Member States in the Council have not shared my excitement at seeing this comprehensive set of amendments to the current frameworks of ESMA, EBA and EIOPA."

"...to those who see only additional complications and burdens from a strengthened role for ESMA on delegation, I would point out that the Supervisory Coordination Network (SCN) has been doing similar work over the past six months without creating any of the disruption that has been warned about. In addition, I would like to highlight that the tools we would be empowered to use under the Commission’s proposal – namely opinions – are a very standard convergence tool that we have used hundreds of times already on a range of different topics, including under MIFID I and MiFID II."

"Another point some Member States and parts of the industry have been critical about is the new funding model. I and my colleagues at ESMA looked at these numbers, and the shift to the industry-funded budget for indirect supervision, as proposed by the Commission, would inter alia impact about 2,500 investment management companies across the EU. Their yearly contribution, however, based on ESMA’s 2018 budget and the proposed distribution key would mean an average of €650 per entity annually. I cannot imagine that this level of burden could significantly impact the profitability of the BVI’s membership."

"At the same time I predict that with a more independent funding base, ESMA would be able to expand its supervisory convergence activities, which ultimately benefits the CMU project, and both consumers and the financial industry. Finally, I think it is important to keep in mind that ESMA’s Board of Supervisors would retain the budget approval powers, and the Member States would continue to co-decide the general EU Multi-Annual Financial Framework which also applies to ESMA.

"The last aspect I want to mention in the context of the ESAs review are ESMA’s level 3 measures. People say “don’t fix what is not broken” and this in my opinion applies to the process governing our guidelines and Q&As. These supervisory convergence tools have been used by ESMA mostly “per request” of individual national regulators and industry stakeholders seeking more guidance.

"While we consult extensively on draft guidelines, the Q&As are reserved for more technical issues and clearly better suited for providing faster responses. In my view there is no need to change the governance principles around these supervisory convergence tools, however, it does not mean that we should not explore ways to improve our stakeholder management. For this reason, last month, we launched a dedicated stakeholder relations survey, which will remain open until the end of March. I would appreciate receiving your feedback on this important matter."


The European Supervisory Authorities (ESAs) for securities (ESMA), banking (EBA), and insurance and pensions (EIOPA) have today issued a pan-EU warning to consumers regarding the risks of buying Virtual Currencies (VCs). 

The ESAs are concerned that an increasing number of consumers are buying VCs unaware of the risks involved. VCs such as Bitcoin, are subject to extreme price volatility and have shown clear signs of a pricing bubble and consumers buying VCs should be aware that there is a high risk that they will lose a large amount, or even all, of the money invested.

Non-regulated products and exchanges

Additionally, VCs and exchanges where consumers can trade are not regulated under EU law, which means that consumers buying VCs do not benefit from any protection associated with regulated financial services. For example, if a VC exchange goes out of business or consumers have their money stolen because their VC account is subject to a cyber-attack; there is no EU law that would cover their losses.

Operational problems

Some VC exchanges have been subject to severe operational problems in the past. During these disruptions, consumers have been unable to buy and sell VCs when they wanted to and have suffered losses due to price fluctuations during the period of disruption.

Background information

This Warning is based on Article 9(3) of the three ESAs’ founding Regulations and follows the publication of two statements by ESMA on Initial Coin Offerings in November 2017 and an earlier Warning to consumers and two Opinions on VCs published by EBA in December 2013, July 2014 and August 2016, respectively. 

VCs come in many forms. The first VC was Bitcoin, launched in 2009 and since then many other VCs have emerged. Most of them leverage on the distributed ledger technology, commonly referred to as Blockchain.

The European Securities and Markets Authority (ESMA) has issued today the official translations of its Guidelines on MiFID II product governance requirements.

National Competent Authorities (NCAs) to which these Guidelines apply must notify ESMA whether they comply or intend to comply with the Guidelines, within two months of the date of publication by ESMA of the Guidelines in all EU official languages.