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Investors’ growing appetite for private markets means firms must improve their regulatory governance

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Investors’ growing appetite for private markets means firms must improve their regulatory governance 1

·       Both large and small firms are struggling to meet regulatory demands due to poor governance of deal distribution, inaccurate investor profiling and inadequate data and document management.

·       Many firms are still relying on traditional, paper-based records which are more difficult to audit than electronically-held data 

·       A significant number of firms offering clients access to private markets are struggling to comply with regulations because they “don’t know what they don’t know”.

·       Over five and 10 years, UK private equity and venture capital funds have outperformed the FTSE All-Share, FTSE 100, 250 and 350 indices according to BVCA data, which has driven increased interest in the sector1.

Firms that operate in private markets without effectively using technology risk causing ‘investor harm’ and significant reputational damage to their own company by struggling to comply with Financial Conduct Authority’s (FCA) regulations.

The problem exists for firms of all sizes – from enterprise institutions to boutique advisers – as the “blind spot2” in regulatory compliance is not being addressed, often because organisations operating in this sector are not sufficiently aware of the regulations they should be complying with.

Some of the most common challenges that firms face include implementing robust governance around deal distribution, accurately profiling investors, and overcoming antiquated document and data management systems which make it difficult to audit client files effectively.

According to research carried out for Delio’s report ‘Private markets in wealth management’, 65% of firms said the challenge of consistently achieving full regulatory compliance was the main obstacle to launching their private market proposition.

Yet, investor appetite for private markets has grown significantly over the last decade3 and looks set to continue thanks to consistent returns and greater interest in areas such as impact investing. With investment growth averaging 20.1% over five years and 14.2% over 10 years4, compared to 7.5% and 8.1% respectively in the FTSE All-Share, firms’ need to ensure regulatory compliance isn’t going away and firms need to address with urgency.

Gareth Lewis, Co-Founder and Chief Executive of private markets technology specialist Delio, said: “We have been working in this sector for more than five years, yet we are consistently shocked at how difficult some firms are finding it to meet their regulatory requirements.

“First and foremost, any firm operating in private markets without robust regulatory frameworks in place is failing their clients. That’s before you even consider the repercussions of non-compliance for the firm itself, which could result in fines and potentially compensation to investors that have been mis-sold.”

Earlier this year, the FCA highlighted alternative investments as a key area that it will be focusing its attention on in 2020/215, with unverified reports that firms are already being contacted by the regulator as part of an ongoing review. The FCA itself said that although the letter mentions potential further work being undertaken, it “can’t confirm what that work is unless we make it public”.

However, because private markets are a relatively complex regulatory area, many companies “don’t know what they don’t know”, said Mr Lewis.

He added: “Many of the processes involved in private markets, from deal distribution through to properly identifying suitable investors, can create regulatory pitfalls. Firms who fail to see the benefits that technology can offer in these areas are taking unnecessary risks with their own reputations and, worse, client investments. Digital tools remain under-utilised by firms, with only one in four institutions reporting that technology plays a core role in how they deliver unlisted investment opportunities to their clients6. Yet, digitisation of these processes could minimise such risks through the

automation of document sign-off, approval tracking, proper and auditable investor profiling and so on.

“If companies continue to provide private markets services to clients using traditional methods rather than technology to enhance their compliance, they will inevitably come unstuck. It’s time for any firm that is serious about offering unlisted investments to take control of their regulatory obligations for the benefit of their clients and their own reputation .”

Investing

Stocks slip from highs; investors wait on Fed

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Stocks slip from highs; investors wait on Fed 2

By Matt Scuffham

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Global stocks slipped from record levels on Tuesday, with investors cautious as the Federal Reserve kicked off its two-day policy meeting and U.S. lawmakers continued to debate a new stimulus plan.

Those concerns overshadowed impressive results from a slew of companies, including from General Electric and Johnson & Johnson, which had earlier pushed the S&P 500 to a record high.

“Investors don’t expect the Fed to give any reason to think they are getting closer to talking about when they will consider scaling back QE, but nervousness is brewing on Wall Street,” said Edward Moya, senior market analyst at OANDA in New York.

Wall Street’s main indexes closed lower.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 22.96 points, or 0.07%, to 30,937.04, the S&P 500 lost 5.74 points, or 0.15%, to 3,849.62 and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 9.93 points, or 0.07%, to 13,626.07.

The MSCI world equity index, which tracks shares in 49 nations, fell 1.99 points or 0.3%, to 666.09.

After a “buy everything” rally over several months supported by money-printing pandemic stimulus packages, near-zero interest rates and the start of COVID-19 vaccination programs, some investors are worried markets may be near “bubble” territory.

They point to rocketing prices of assets such as bitcoin or the soaring stock of short-squeezed videogame retailer GameStop.

“There is room for some consolidation,” said Francois Savary, chief investment officer at Swiss wealth manager Prime Partners.

Uncertainty over the timing and size of fiscal stimulus also tempered sentiment.

Disagreements have meant months of indecision in the United States, where new coronavirus cases have been above 175,000 a day and millions of people are out of work.

Democrats in the U.S. Senate will act alone to approve a fresh round of stimulus if Republicans do not support the measure, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said.

U.S. Treasury yields were narrowly mixed in choppy trading, after hitting three-week lows on the long end of the curve, as investors remained cautious about the stimulus and the slow global roll-out of coronavirus vaccines.

Benchmark 10-year notes last rose 2/32 in price to yield 1.0347%.

The U.S. dollar edged lower across the board as traders showed a preference for riskier currencies.

The dollar index fell 0.2%, with the euro up 0.21% to $1.2162.

European stocks advanced, shrugging off political upheaval in Italy, as strong earnings from wealth manager UBS and auto parts maker Autoliv added to a string of upbeat corporate updates.

The pan-European STOXX 600 index closed up 0.6%, with a rally in automakers, industrial companies and SAP helping the German DAX outperform.

Europe’s broad FTSEurofirst 300 index added 0.64%, at 1,573.47.

The IMF raised its forecast for global economic growth in 2021 and said the coronavirus-triggered downturn in 2020 would be nearly a full percentage point less severe than expected.

Italy’s FTSE MIB rose 1.2% after Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte handed in his resignation to the head of state, hoping he would be given an opportunity to put together a new coalition and rebuild his parliamentary majority.1.2163

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan fell 11.47 points or 1.58% in Asia overnight. South Korea and Hong Kong topped losers, each falling more than 2%. The sell-off also caused Japanese stocks to slip 1% and Chinese blue-chips to tumble 2%, their biggest one-day loss since Sept. 9.

All had touched milestone highs earlier this month.

Gold prices edged lower. Spot gold dropped 0.2% to $1,850.63 an ounce. U.S. gold futures settled down 0.2% at $1,850.90.

U.S. crude oil futures settled at $52.61 a barrel, down 16 cents or 0.30%. Brent crude futures settled at $55.91 a barrel, up 3 cents or 0.05%.

(Reporting by Matt Scuffham; Editing by Dan Grebler, Mark Heinrich and Sonya Hepinstall)

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Current cryptocurrencies unlikely to last, Bank of England governor says

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Current cryptocurrencies unlikely to last, Bank of England governor says 3

By David Milliken

LONDON (Reuters) – No existing cryptocurrency has a structure that is likely to allow it to work as a means of payment over the long term, Bank of England Governor Andrew Bailey told an online forum hosted by the Davos-based World Economic Forum on Monday.

“Have we landed on what I would call the design, governance and arrangements for what I might call a lasting digital currency? No, I don’t think we’re there yet, honestly. I don’t think cryptocurrencies as originally formulated are it,” he said.

Bitcoin, the best-known cryptocurrency, hit a record high of $42,000 on Jan. 8 and sank as low as $28,800 last week, far greater volatility than is found with normal currencies.

“The whole question of people having assurance that their payments will be made in something with stable value … ultimately links bank to what we call fiat currency, which has a link to the state,” Bailey said.

The BoE, like the European Central Bank, is looking at the feasibility of issuing its own digital currency. This would allow people to make sterling electronic payments without involving banks, as is currently possible with banknotes, and would in theory help avoid the volatility that renders bitcoin impractical for commerce.

Bailey said the appropriate level of privacy for digital currencies was likely to be hotly debated and was potentially underrated as a challenge in setting one up.

“This is a big one that is coming on to the landscape, the whole question of a privacy standard for transactions made in any form of digital currency, and where the public interest lies,” he said.

(Reporting by David Milliken, editing by Tom Wilson and Alistair Smout)

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EU sustainable investment rules need better corporate data – banking report

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EU sustainable investment rules need better corporate data - banking report 4

By Simon Jessop and Kate Abnett

LONDON (Reuters) – European Union rules aimed at defining sustainable investments should help reduce “greenwashing” by businesses, but better quality corporate data is needed to ensure they work effectively, a banking report said on Tuesday.

The sustainable finance rules will classify investments that can be marketed as sustainable, a move aimed at steering much-needed cash into low-carbon projects to deliver the bloc’s climate goals.

From January to August 2020, 26 of the region’s biggest lenders tested the EU framework across a range of core banking processes, including retail banking, trade finance and lending to smaller companies.

As the main providers of finance to companies across the EU, the ability of the banking system to track and report on whether corporate activities are sustainable or not could prove crucial in assessing the rules’ success or otherwise.

The lenders broadly welcomed the regulations as they seek to align their businesses with the transition to a low-carbon economy, the report by the United Nations Environment Programme Finance Initiative and the European Banking Federation found.

However, they also raised a number of issues, many of which were data-related and could require a phasing in of reporting requirements.

While many large companies are already required to disclose certain environmental and social information by law, the bulk of smaller and mid-sized banking clients are not, hampering banks’ assessment of their alignment with the rules.

Concerns over the quality, detail and standardisation of data is also an issue when looking at banks’ lending overseas, something that would be made more complex as other regions launch their own regulations.

The banks who tested the EU rules called on regulators to seek global alignment of regulations, and for better tools to manage data from clients, such as a centralised EU database.

While under no compulsion to lend to activities that can be classed as sustainable, banks see sustainable finance as a growth area that is likely to take on more importance in coming years should policymakers tighten environmental legislation.

With more investors globally looking to become shareholders of companies with a good record on managing environmental risk, banks are also likely to look to reduce their exposure to environmentally or socially harmful activities over time.

The European Commission is expected to finish the section of the rules covering climate change in the coming months, before they take effect in 2022.

(Reporting by Simon Jessop and Kate Abnett; Editing by Pravin Char)

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