Gearing up for MiFID 2: our preparations and plea to ESMA

MifiD 2 – a pan-european piece of financial legislation applies from January 3rd, 2018.

10 years in the making, MifiD 2 builds on its predecessor, “to improve the functioning of financial markets, making them more efficient, resilient and transparent.”

Whilst the overall scope of MiFID 2 is way beyond our scope …

MiFID 2 & Retail Brokerage

But does it affect the retail brokerage industry?

Quite a lot. ESMA, the Pan-european regulator behind MiFID2, has its eyes set on CFDs – intervening using rare legislative prerogatives reserved for “high priority” situations.

Why is that? Because retail trading has grown a lot (the trader movement is strong!). Unfortunately, it’s done so with teething problems that need fixing, pronto. In its statement, ESMA announces regime changes combining (and hopefully harmonising) the various measures introduced by national regulators, including:

  1. Leverage limits,
  2. Guaranteed limits on client losses, and / or
  3. Restrictions on the marketing and distribution of these products.

National strategies so far – our take

If we were in ESMA’s shoes, we’d make retail OTC trading “efficient, resilient and transparent” by forcing CFDs on Exchange, because this would tame the conflict of interest between retail traders and market makers. Without conflict, who would want retail traders blowing up? What would be the point of leverage limits, guaranteed stop-losses or marketing restrictions? (Could this be why IG are working on their own MTF?).

If you want more insight on why, in our view, on Exchange is the only way:

Alas, national regulators haven’t suggested on Exchange for now… so we hope whatever ESMA comes up with overcomes the limitations of:

  1. FCA: Leverage limits (NB the FCA has since delayed policy to follow ESMA)
  2. BaFin: Guaranteed limits on client losses as introduced in Germany…

MiFID 2 – the Darwinex way

In any case, we’re luckily not in ESMA’s shoes (not an easy job!). We’re in our own – and there’s plenty we can – and will – do in the meantime.

Since launching Darwinex broker 3 years ago, we’ve NEVER traded against customers (and NEVER will). Instead, we invest in them. Slowly but surely… the likes of NTI prove that listing independent traders creates an asset, and that investor leverage is the sustainable business model.

And yet, on Exchange or off Exchange, more and more people actively invest their savings. Which unfortunately also means too many gamble away more than they can afford. The problem is: too many quit before learning how to do it. Because that’s bad (for them and for us), we’re re-vamping on-boarding procedures for even more alignment and transparency.

Without disclosing methodology & parameters (this could incentivise people to “game” the system against their own best interest), available leverage for users will depend on:

  1. Proven or proveable experience/training when trading with leverage
  2. Solvency – because no-one should risk capital they can’t afford to lose

MiFID 2 – what it means in practice

NB: all users will be allowed to purchase DARWINs – within their stated risk appetite. This is because DARWINs are comparatively low leverage (rarely more than 5:1)

We will segment the Trading user base using both pieces of information, and transition from:

  1. Inappropriate -> the aspiring traders’ gaps in either or both criteria are too large. We won’t accept his trades until he’s ready (watch out for more news in the educational space)
  2. On transit -> it’s appropriate for the user to trade, but we will restrict the leverage he can deploy
  3. Unlocked -> user has acquired enough experience. We will offer him/her all the leverage available to customers at any given time

We will disclose our internal categorisation to customers so they know where they are in their evolution from “novice” to “maximum” leverage.

In addition to the above segmentation, we will apply two further controls:

  1. For investors: from day 1, the risk management engine tracks Equity at Risk (EaR) for every investor portfolio. Investors can’t buy more exposure than their maximum risk threshold at any point in time – investors can only sell once they reach the maximum threshold
  2. For all customers: we will track customers’ overall P&L (for trading and investing), informing them about it. We will also warn when the threshold is exceeded. And we may withdraw permission to trade if we feel it’s inappropriate for him/her to continue trading

Last, but not least, the restrictions apply to new customers only.