Risk is a great leveler. Everyone has different thresholds of it. Of course when you’re young, risk is easier to take. Have a family, take on a mortgage, private tuition and heaven forbid you get wiped out in a divorce – the risk reward equation is constantly swinging. Catching up with an old client last night put a smirk on my face. In 2018 MiFID2 comes to life. For financial markets people it is the latest EU regulations which has many service providers in a blind panic. Investment clients will have to select “research” He spoke of the current equity broker market being a bit like a huge buffet. Lots of selection but hardly a Michelin star in sight. He said he’d met with many bulge bracket brokers who are all tinkering at the edges. Never before has the dangers of not taking risk been greater. While Musk might be tearing up the EV world, MiFID2 is a massive disruptor for financial services and the collective might of the alpha egos inside it can’t summon a slither of courage to be different.
It is easy to hide behind compliance. If I had my way I’d staff compliance with lawyers rather than those with a penchant for saying “no”. MIFID2 is such a huge chance yet all brokers are like rabbits in a headlight. A lawyer will tell you how far you can go. A compliance officer is more worried about protecting his own hide so maximum risk off is the safest option. So worried about compliance are finance companies in some circumstances they outnumber the people they’re assigned to police. Name me one prison where guards outnumber inmates?
The latest trend is to hire product managers. Enlightened ones who are entrusted to revolutionize the research offering. One asked what makes a good product manager? I replied one that is prepared to completely blow up the old model. More importantly one whose management will give him or her carte blanche to start a revolution and to act decisively on hiring analysts with true out of the box vision. Yet time and time again these senior managerial risk experts turn into complete novices and hire conservative group thinkers who have no desire to rock the boat. Throw on top the outsourcing to aggregators like SmartKarma and all you have is an even bigger buffet of substandard gourmet. The aggregator model will not be a success unless it reforms to have serious quality control of which it claims it has but in reality hasn’t.
MiFID2 is a bit like Spectre in a Bond film. The baddie Bond girl is like the client. The equity broker is Bond. If it wasn’t for 007’s array of gadgets from Q-branch (research) he’d be toast. The new breed of product managers (Q) are not creative enough to give equity salespeople (007) the upper hand to woo the baddie Bond girl. The problem is even worse because under MiFID 007 will be unable to use carefully rehearsed lines, expensive meals or fancy sports cars to catch his prey. So without a creative Q, brokers will end up being annihilated by the baddie Bond girl without even so much as a kiss in her death grip. Sadly baddie Bond girl needs to justify her actions to Spectre. Too. She won’t waste time in meeting M to plead her conversion. Quite frankly if 007 can’t deliver the goods she has every right to feel no emotion if he dies.
Q has always been the innovator. The one trying to stay well ahead of the curve. Let’s face it. Every Bond film we see comes out with something new to dazzle. Baddie Bond girl is never easily impressed so without properly engaging, well thought out, reasoned and in depth balanced research, 007 will die a slow death chewing on his high calorie low quality buffet which Q unimaginatively sprinkled Tabasco on.
Baddie Bond girl wants to be charmed. Like Pussy Galore ditching the poison gas canisters for a mild sleeping agent over Fort Knox, Baddie Bond girl will be only too happy to oblige switching broker repellent for commission dollars if Q makes the difference.
So to me MiFID 2 is an absolute bounty for the Michelin star research providers. Ones who give clients such a gustation experience that they can’t wait to book another opportunity to pay for another culinary experience.
In closing perhaps the biggest schadenfreude in all of this is three realization of how internal politics which have driven sell side bonuses gets exposed when next to no clients want to dine at their smorgasbord.
I’m no fan of MiFID2 but now that it is coming I see it as a huge opportunity rather than a sign to wave the white flag. Bring on January 2018.