Law firm of the year: Simmons & Simmons

Structured Products Europe Awards 2017: With January 3, 2018 looming for firms subject to Mifid II and Priips requirements, the law firm has proved an invaluable ally for clients

penny miller of simmons and simmons
Penny Miller, Simmons & Simmons

From helping clients prepare for possible outcomes in the Brexit negotiations to advising on a series of upcoming regulatory deadlines, lawyers serving the structured products industry have been kept busy in 2017. The challenges have been complex in form and myriad in number, perhaps explaining why “depth and range of knowledge and experience” at Simmons & Simmons led judges to name the company law firm of the year.

It is the second win in a row for the London-based firm, which has been serving clients in the Square Mile and beyond since 1896. Age proved no obstacle to fresh ideas as Simmons & Simmons “continued to adopt a proactive approach across the regulatory agenda, providing thought leadership across the industry,” according to one judge.

Penny Miller, a partner in the firm’s financial services division, says it has been another active 12 months for the 121-year-old company. 

“2017 has been a notable year for the continuation of regulatory developments and challenges for the structured products industry,” she acknowledges, citing the upcoming deadlines for the implementation of Packaged Retail and Insurance-based Investment Products (Priips) and Markets in Financial Instruments Directive (Mifid) II deadlines. “There is significant regulatory scrutiny facing structured products, not to mention the ongoing regulatory implications of Brexit.”

The firm has continued to advise a large number of issuers and private banks on how to implement the key information document (Kid) aspect of the Priips regulation and conducted advocacy work with regulators in Brussels and industry groups. It is the kind of work in which Miller, with a deep understanding of these complex issues and an equally strong contacts book, has excelled.

“We have liaised directly with the European Commission and the ESAs [European Supervisory Authorities] on behalf of the trade associations to clarify key points, particularly around grandfathering and territorial scope, and have also held our own industry roundtables on Priips to discuss the regulation requirements and evolving market practice,” she says.

The firm’s Priips coverage has extended to the digital realm with its development of a micro-site dedicated to the regulation. “[The site explains] exactly what [the regulation] covers and the actions firms need to take in response to it,” says Miller. “We offer a wide range of resources and materials to our clients to ensure they are kept abreast of important industry developments.”

2017 has been a notable year for the continuation of regulatory developments and challenges for the structured products industry
Penny Miller, Simmons & Simmons

The regulation may be complicated but Miller says the aim of the site is straightforward – making otherwise complex, time-consuming and costly regulatory requirements manageable.

Industry participants preparing for the January 3, 2018 deadline to file their Priips application can merely wish that it was the only pressing regulatory issue facing them. Among the raft of other legal matters on their minds, the revised Markets in Financial Instruments Directive (Mifid II) – which shares the January application deadline – stands out in terms of its complexity and its potential to reshape the investment research and trading environment in financial services.

The firm is hosting an in-depth webinar series for clients on key Mifid II issues in the run-up to the deadline. Whether by offering Priips articles and seminars via its service, or developing the Mifid 2 Manager service, technology has proven important in advancing client service for Simmons & Simmons.

Only so much can be achieved behind a computer screen, but Simmons & Simmons’s position as a “proactive” market participant, pressing the flesh with watchdogs and trade groups to increase industry understanding of complex issues has continued to impress the Structured Products Europe Awards judges.

Miller is determined not to lose sight of this. “This continues to be at the forefront of our minds and it is crucial that we are constantly engaging with clients and industry bodies in order to maintain this proactive approach,” she says.

“Our combined regulatory and transactional practices on retail structured products is unique within the market and helps to give us a 360-degree view of the market, which is invaluable for delivering the best service we can to our clients.”

If 2018 proves anything like as busy as this year, the approach is sure to be warmly received by clients.

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