What is the Markets in Financial Instruments Directive (MiFID)?
The Markets in Financial Instruments Directive (MiFID) is a European Union regulatory framework that exerts a higher degree of transparency in the operation of financial markets and standardizes disclosure requirements for investment firms and banks operating in the European Union.
MiFID aims to increase investor protection and fair competition by ensuring a set of common standards and rules for investment firms. The framework’s provisions lay down a standard organizational and business code of conduct, such as the transparency rules in the generation of pre- and post-trade data to be adhered to by investment firms. The directive’s defined scope that mainly focuses on the operation of the stock exchange. MiFID II replaced MiFID in 2018.
The Markets in Financial Instruments Directive (MiFID) is European legislation that requires investment firms and banks operating across the European Union’s financial markets to provide investment services transparently to facilitate fair competition.
MiFID was replaced in 2018 by MiFID II to accommodate additional investment regulations.
MiFID’s fundamental principle is to categorize client protection levels depending on the level of risk tolerance and financial instruments and services.
The adoption of MiFID measures seeks to promote integration and competition across the EU territories through a robust and common regulatory framework that protects investors. The directive was adopted a year earlier before the U.S. mortgage market meltdown in 2008. It was then realized that MiFID could not meet adequate regulations in the investment field, which saw MiFID II come into effect as the new arrangement, taking into account the lessons learned during the crisis.
One weakness that plagued some of MiFID’s underlying principles was that the stated rules of conduct did not apply to countries outside of the European Union. This implied that some investment firms outside the EU could have the upper hand in regulating investment activities over firms operating within the EU region.
New Changes in MiFID II
MiFID II addressed the regulations gap by harmonizing the rules across all trading venues. Particularly, MiFID focuses on the virtues of the stock exchange, which initially did not factor in many financial products. For example, over-the-counter (OTC) derivatives products were not included in MiFID. The 2008 Global Financial Crisis revealed destabilizing effects of the OTC derivatives products, which, other than being bespoke in nature to match the end users’ needs, are traded on a bilateral basis.
OTC transactions leave counterparties with direct credit exposure to each other since there is no exchange market between the users to act as a supervisor. As a result, the future potential exposure of OTCs is at a greater risk than their present market value. Previously, there was less regulatory oversight concerning the reporting of derivatives transactions to increase transparency between engaging parties.
MiFID II introduced more financial products, thereby expanding the original MiFID scope to monitor counterparties’ total financial exposures. MiFID also works as legislation, alongside MiFID II, to extend its regulatory standards to other types of assets.
Categorization of Clients
MiFID categorizes clients into distinct groups to create different levels of client protection, depending on the level of risk tolerance, as well as financial instruments and services. The idea behind the categorization is that different types of clients should be given different types of financial knowledge, and eventually different protection levels, given their varying levels of financial knowledge.
The MiFID defines three types of client categories – retail clients, professionals, and eligible counterparties. Professional and retail clients are considered capable of making their own investment decisions and evaluate the risks present in the decisions.
The professional and retail client category possesses knowledge, experience, and expertise. They include the per se professional clients, such as entities required to be authorized to operate in financial markets. Such clients are recognized as having greater experience in the financial markets and are automatically classified.
On the other hand, eligible counterparties are regarded as the most sophisticated investor participants and are subject to less regulatory protection by virtue of their financial capacities, knowledge, and capabilities. Eligible counterparties include, among others, investment firms, credit institutions, and insurance companies.
Regulatory Harmonization of the European Union
MiFID works alongside other EU regulatory initiatives to ensure compliance of all investment firms – such as banks, insurers, and mutual funds providers. The EU is committed to providing a transparent market environment using provisions, such as MiFID and the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), to protect EU citizens and boost investor confidence.
As with many legislative guidelines, many of the measures modify existing legislation, such as disclosure requirements, which bring conflict of interest issues. Investment firms that want to access the EU market must abide by explicit conditions provided by the MiFID II regulations.