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MiFID II implications on Investment Research

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ARTICLE FOR GLOBAL BANKING & FINANCE REVIEW FROM SIMON-KUCHER & PARTNERS

Avoiding price wars and focusing on value is key for the success of the industry in a post-MiFID II world. 

January 3rd 2018 is a seismic day for the Investment Research industry which will experience a radical change in the very fundamentals of its business model.

From this date the new MiFID II regulations require buy-side clients(i.e. Asset Managers and Hedge Funds) to pay an unbundled commission for purchasing Research products and services, clearly separated from execution fees. The current logic ‘I will give you the research for free, if you trade with me’ won’t be applicable anymore and will instead be considered as a prohibited ‘inducement to trade’.

Until now, research has effectively never been priced and sold as standalone product. Separating research from trading is likely to push the industry into a period of discovery and intense negotiations among players in the market since there is no reference point to begin the contractual discussions. Consequently, banks are facing a situation often seen far more frequently outside financial services – the launch of a new product in the market.

There is an increasing concern that the result of this fundamental shift in perspective will ultimately trim banks’ profits and cause significant consolidation in the industry, reducing the number of research providers.

After the discovery phase, as the research products become more and more ‘mature’, the expected status quo situation will likely see the emergence of a handful of global research providers on the one hand and on the other a number of specialised players that defend a market niche. Those stuck in the middle will ultimately need to decide whether to step up their investments to join the first group or to devote all their resources to create their own niche. In any case, there seems to be no room for everyone and, for those who make it, profits won’t probably return to pre-MiFID II levels.

Although the overall picture looks gloomy, we at Simon-Kucher & Partners think that not all hope is lost! Far from it.  Even accounting for the extreme industry consolidation scenario happening, which it may not, we are convinced that this will in the end increase the willingness of buy-side institutions to pay for high-quality services.

And if the buyers are willing to pay more for quality, banks need to position themselves so they can price accordingly… which can be easier said than done without a clear strategy and strong buyer insights.

Of course, from the perspective of the bankers on the sell-side, their clients have a high bargaining power and will use it to extract favourable conditions. However, even buy-side firms have a lot to lose if they are not careful and push too hard for price reductions that hit the quality of the research.

Ultimately, Investment Banking is a relationship-based industry and it will always remain so. Relationships between banks and asset managers are so intertwined that the negotiations around research costs will always take into consideration the big picture. Buy-side firms, for example, have to evaluate the trade-off between paying a higher price on research or burning bridges completely,risking the loss off a preferential channel for capital raises or bond emissions.

However, in the new world quality will take on more importance than it did previously.  When everything was free of charge, quality didn’t really represent a factor in decision-making. Next year, when funds’ or consumers’ money will be spent for purchasing research, the classic demand and supply dynamic will become prominent. If the content generated by a sell-side provider is considered of better quality, demand for it will increase, and considering a limited supply, price will necessarily rise and so will profitability.

Investment banks must not make the mistake of considering their research products as ‘commodities’. This is the key for transforming the challenge ahead into an opportunity. Research should not be perceived solely as a report, an analyst call or a visit to a CEO, but rather as the process for generating investment ideas, and ideas have tremendous value.

Unfortunately, history doesn’t seem to have been favourable to players that have gone through a situation similar to that which banks now face.  In similar instances the existing players’ fear of losing market share has led many industries into damaging price wars.  It will be bad news for banks if they too launch into the mutually assured profit destruction of tit-for-tat prices cuts that will ultimately see valuable research sold at Pound land prices.

Simon-Kucher & Partners’ 2016 global pricing survey of more than 300 bankers across 25 countries found that the majority of the respondents acknowledge that their industry is undergoing a price war. What’s even more interesting is that 89% of respondents blamed their competitors for triggering it. The thinking is ‘they started it, we can only follow suit by decreasing our prices’. This is exactly how the commoditisation process begins and when prices go down it is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to bring them back up.

Global leaders in the sell-side space should ponder whether crushing competitors with extremely low prices is the right strategy or is it better to resist the temptation and keep prices economically sustainable. Competition dynamics are multi-faceted – a bank might be ranked top-3 in a particular asset class, but fall below the top-10 in another one. An aggressive strategy in one asset class is necessarily going to trigger a retaliation somewhere else, thereby contributing to lower profit levels for every provider.

In our opinion, banks need to face the regulatory challenge by simultaneously assessing their relative strengths vis-a-vis their competitors, and quantify the value they deliver to buy-side clients. Focusing on the value delivered from their research, and measuring the relative power to charge a fair price for it is key in ensuring a profitable future for the industry.

In this transition year, it will be of utmost importance for investment bankers to focus on their negotiation capabilities to strike satisfactory deals during talks with asset managers and hedge funds. Having a clear view of the overall profitability of the relationship with the buy-side will also be important in avoiding disruptions in other businesses that banks have with the same clients.

Gianluca Corradi, Head of UK Banking Practice at Simon-Kucher & Partners (www.simon-kucher.com).
Simon-Kucher works with many of the world’s leading banks and other financial institutions on pricing and marketing strategy

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England soccer star Rashford nets younger buyers for Burberry

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England soccer star Rashford nets younger buyers for Burberry 1

By Sarah Young

LONDON (Reuters) – Burberry stuck to its full-year goals on Wednesday after a media campaign fronted by high-profile English soccer star and social justice advocate Marcus Rashford drew a younger clientele to the British luxury brand.

Higher full-price sales would boost annual margins and Asian demand remained strong, Burberry said, while warning that it could suffer more sales disruption from COVID-19 lockdowns.

Manchester United striker Rashford, 23, has won plaudits for his campaign to help ensure that poorer children do not go hungry with schools closed during the pandemic.

A first coronavirus wave last year cut Burberry’s sales by as much as 45% before a bounce back on strong demand in mainland China and South Korea, which continued in the last few months.

Shares in Burberry were up 5% to 1,825 pence at 0905 GMT, with Citi analysts saying that improved sales quality from fewer markdowns would drive full-year consensus upgrades.

Burberry’s 9% sales decline in its third quarter was worse than the 6% fall in the second, and the company said that 15% of stores were currently closed and 36% operating with restrictions as a result of measures to curb COVID-19’s spread.

“We expect trading will remain susceptible to regional disruptions as we close the financial year,” Burberry said, adding that it was confident of rebounding when the pandemic eases given the brand’s resonance with customers.

In the third quarter, comparable store sales in Europe, the Middle East, India and Africa declined 37%, hit by shops shut in lockdowns and a lack of tourists visiting Europe, but in the same period, it posted sales growth of 11% in Asia Pacific.

Burberry said that Britain’s new relationship with the European Union would cause headwinds, warning of a modest increase in costs to comply with new rules and also the impact of an end to a scheme for VAT refunds for non-EU tourists.

This would make Britain a less attractive destination for luxury shopping when tourism returns after the pandemic, Burberry said, adding that it would try to mitigate the effect.

(Reporting by Sarah Young; Editing by Kate Holton, James Davey and Alexander Smith)

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Alibaba’s Jack Ma makes first live appearance in three months in online meet

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Alibaba's Jack Ma makes first live appearance in three months in online meet 2

SHANGHAI (Reuters) – Alibaba Group founder Jack Ma met 100 rural teachers in China via a live video meeting on Wednesday morning, in the businessman’s first appearance since October, triggering a sharp jump in the Hong Kong listed shares of the e-commerce giant.

Social media speculation over the whereabouts of China’s highest-profile entrepreneur swirled this month after news reports that he missed the final episode of a TV show featuring him as a judge, amid a regulatory clampdown by Beijing on his sprawling business empire.

Ma had not appeared in public since Oct. 24, where he blasted China’s regulatory system in a speech at a Shanghai forum that set him on a collision course with officials, leading to suspension of a $37-billion IPO of Alibaba’s financial affiliate Ant Group.

Tianmu News, a news portal under Zhejiang Online, which is backed by the provincial Zhejiang government, first reported that Ma had met with the teachers via a live video conference on Wednesday.

The Jack Ma Foundation said that Ma participated in the online ceremony of the annual Rural Teacher Initiative event on Wednesday. Alibaba Group also confirmed that Jack Ma attended the online event.

Alibaba’s Hong Kong-listed shares jumped more than 6% after the reports of his reappearance, compared with a 0.64% rise in the Hang Seng index.

Ma’s public appearance comes as Alibaba plans to raise at least $5 billion through the sale of a U.S. dollar-denominated bond this month. Reuters reported the bond proceeds could reach $8 billion, which the e-commerce leader was likely to use for general corporate expenditure.

Alibaba is also the target of an antitrust investigation launched last month by Chinese authorities, who have in recent months accelerated a crackdown on anticompetitive behaviour in China’s booming internet space.

In the 50-second video, Ma, dressed in a navy pullover, spoke directly to the camera from a room with grey marble walls and a striped carpet. It was not clear from the video or the Tianmu News article where he was speaking from.

He addressed teachers receiving the Jack Ma Rural Teachers Award, who in previous years would have attended a ceremony organised by the Jack Ma Foundation in the Chinese seaside city of Sanya.

“We cannot meet in Sanya due to the epidemic,” he said in the speech, which did not discuss his whereabouts. “When the epidemic is over, we must find time to make up for everyone’s trip to Sanya, and then we will meet again!”

Xie Pu, founder of Chinese tech website Techie Crab, said the media and public had over-interpreted Ma’s move to lay low and that his step away from the public spotlight should not have been seen as a problem for Alibaba.

“We shouldn’t over-interpret his reappearance into public view this time, said Xie Pu, founder of Chinese tech website Techie Crab. “Alibaba still has a good governance structure — there are partners and a board of directors.”

(Reporting by Brenda Goh in Shanghai, Kane Wu and Sumeet Chatterjee in Hong Kong, Yingzhi Yang in Beijing; Editing by Tom Hogue and Gerry Doyle)

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ComplyAdvantage Releases State Of Financial Crime Report For 2021

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ComplyAdvantage Releases State Of Financial Crime Report For 2021 3

Designed as an must-have strategic roadmap for compliance teams, the comprehensive report covers financial crime insights related to fraud, cyber, and money laundering, the rise of crypto,

and the ever-changing sanctions landscape

ComplyAdvantage, a global data technology company transforming financial crime detection, today announced the availability of the firm’s much anticipated report The State Of Financial Crime 2021 Designed as a strategic guide for global compliance teams, the report lays out the many emerging threats that governments and financial institutions will face in 2021, along with prescriptive recommendations for implementing best compliance practices for combating financial crimes.

The research on which The State Of Financial Crime 2021 report is based was administered in November and December 2020. Interviews were conducted with 600 C-suite and senior compliance decision makers across North America, Europe, and Asia Pacific. The respondents represented enterprise banking, investments, crypto, insurance organizations, and fintechs.

One of the biggest challenges that compliance teams face is keeping current on the rapidly evolving regulations, and the advances of criminal behavior while balancing their organizations’ risk appetite.   Risk indicators are also becoming harder to spot as the amount of information available grows exponentially and the speed of change gathers pace.  This is why ComplyAdvantage has dedicated the company’s resources and  anti-money laundering (AML) expertise in order to help compliance executives mitigate regulatory risks related to the most extreme AML financial crimes.

The State Of Financial Crime 2021 delves into the most important financial crime trends that Compliance Officers are most concerned with in the coming year.  Specifically, these trends include increased fraud related to COVID-19 relief; risk vulnerabilities related to inconsistencies in global AML and counter financing of terrorism (CFT) system; the growth in sophistication of computer and mobile-enabled cybercrimes via payment systems; the continued use of sanctions as a tool of first resort and more.

A sample of key insights from the report include:

  • SARs filing was on the rise with 74% of respondents saying they filed more SARS in 2020 than the previous year
  • 93% of respondents stated that real-time AML risk data would improve their compliance operations
  • Cybersecurity and third party risk management were noted as organizations’ biggest compliance-related pain points in 2020. With 54% of respondents ranking cybersecurity as a top pain point.
  • 62% of respondents plan on upgrading their legacy systems in 2021.
  • 54% of respondents plan on replacing or upgrading their transaction monitoring system in 2021.

“Due to the massive economic, political and social disruption brought about by COVID-19, international crime syndicates, rogue nations, global terrorists and cyber-criminals have become increasingly more aggressive, “said Charles Delingpolefounder and CEO of ComplyAdvantage.  “Therefore, we felt it was imperative to prepare Compliance Officers and their teams for the potential onslaught of financial crimes driven by nefarious organizations.

Already the preferred choice of some of the world’s largest banks, enterprises and           high-growth fintechs, ComplyAdvantage uses machine learning and natural language processing to help regulated organizations manage their risk obligations and prevent financial crime. The company’s proprietary database is derived from millions of data points that provide dynamic, real-time insights across sanctions, watchlists, politically exposed persons, and negative news. This reduces dependence on manual review processes and legacy databases by up to 80% and improves how companies screen and monitor clients and transactions.

ComplyAdvantage releases The State Of Financial Crime 2021 a comprehensive report covering financial crime trends related to fraud, cyber, and money laundering.  #compliance #financialcrime #AML #antimoneylaundering #cybercrime

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