Time to get cracking on Mifid

I always find the purple and green backlighting that the Financial Services Authority uses on the stage sets at its events to be a bit disconcerting – something about the colour combination makes my eye ache.


And by the end of the May event on the implementation of the Markets in Financial Instruments directive, my head ached too. I was assured by others from the audience, who tossed back cups of coffee with a kind of franticness rarely seen outside university canteens, that they were having trouble absorbing all the information that was being shovelled out at them as well. It didn't help that the actor Tom Hanks was rumoured to be making an appearance outside Westminster Abbey across the road to promote 'The DaVinci Code'. There seemed to be a general feeling that a bit of light relief was called for.

FSA officials did their best to pep up the crowd. They said things like "For any of you tuning-in seriously to Mifid for the first time, well you are late to the party, despite our megaphone invitations over the past year and more. It is certainly important, as our American cousins say, that you now 'listen-up'." And to a member of the audience who wished to ask a question, "there's nothing wrong with open-necked shirts – that's the new look for the Conservative Party". In the UK, the Tories' new leader is on a reinvention campaign that includes tielessness among keen members of the shadow cabinet. I wonder how many regulators moonlight as stand-up comedians?

To be fair to the FSA, the event was well done. The discussions thoughtful, and there was a distinct lack of waffle in the regulators' presentations. Then again, practice does make perfect, and the regulator is already a battle-scarred veteran from the Capital Requirements Directive.

But what was the upshot of it all? It was that the FSA means business when it comes to Mifid implementation. It wants UK firms to get cracking, to exploit the directive to its full business potential, because it sees implementation of this not just as a regulatory issue, but as a competitive business issue.

However, firms are still trying to figure out what it means, and how they are going to find the time, budget and senior management backing to implement this project by November 2007.

So while the FSA has said – as unequivocally as it can – that more delays are unlikely, I can't help but feel the industry will press for some kind of help. And if the UK firms don't, their continental counterparts are sure to do so – according to the European Commissioner at the event, UK firms are doing brilliantly in comparison. Watch this space.

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