OPINION: New Year, New Regulation 

Terry Flanagan

The European Securities and Markets Authority obviously did not make a New Year’s resolution to use less paper as it issued more than 1,600 pages of technical advice on financial services regulation just before Christmas.

The advice was as a result of a consultation period with the industry following the regulator’s initial MiFID II proposals last May. Once MiFID II becomes effective in 2017 financial firms will be hoping that the pace of regulatory change slows down.

To make sure this happens the industry should go a lot further in making sure regulators don’t have a reason to intervene by voluntarily taking action to sort out known problems.

There were some encouraging signs last year such as the big increase in the compression of interest rate swaps and the voluntary launch of a platform to move over-the-counter equity trades into central clearing.

The Bank for International Settlements hailed the elimination of redundant swap contracts through the significant expansion of trade compression in 2014. SwapClear, which is part of global clearing house LCH.Clearnet, headed towards achieving its first ever annual net reduction in notional outstanding in OTC interest rate derivatives last year. Reducing notional outstanding allows banks to reduce the capital requirements for their swap portfolios and cut operational risk by decreasing the number of deals they have to monitor and settle.

In the equities market, a group of large broker dealers, three clearing houses and Traiana, a provider of post-trade and risk technology, launched central clearing of equity contract for differences related to hedging trades. By replacing bilateral settlements between each side of a trade, central clearing reduces counterparty risk, increases transparency and makes settlement more efficient.

So while the regulators should pledge to be less active after 2017, the industry needs to resolve to take the opposite stance and be more active in co-operating and resolving known problems. You can’t lose weight or give up smoking unless you really want to, and in the same way the financial industry won’t reform unless its heart is really in it.

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