A Reader's Digest of Insights

In March 2023, following the launch of SICAM 2.0 wolrdwide, SIX has carried out several literacy activities around the topic of market abuse. In particuliar, we have worked with A-Team insight to organize a bespoke webinar on international Market Abuse Regulations. Before this event, two of our market experts published an article on the situation in UK and its regulatory specificities. During the webinar itself, participants had the opportunity to answer several polls, which results have been analyzed and rendered in a dedicated write-up. We propose you to discover these two insighful pieces in this "digest webnews".

Firms Need a Robust Technology Framework to Manage the Challenges of Market Abuse

By James Causton, Regulatory Sales Consultant, and Darren Lawrence, Compliance Sales Specialist, at SIX.

In recent months, the FCA has fined several firms with regards to breaches of market abuse regulation. The increasing focus of the UK’s FCA and other national competent authorities in the EU demonstrate a coordinated focus on improving standards and operational governance frameworks in market abuse detection and reporting.

Many firms are also facing additional challenges around post-Brexit divergence highlighted within the Edinburgh Reforms in December 2022. This series of consultation has a particular focus on:

- Ensuring a reduction in complexity in the UK’s financial sector
- Putting technology and innovation at the forefront of the UK’s strategy
- Safeguarding governance and oversight frameworks to deliver for investors
- Ensuring the UK financial sector is a leader in sustainable and responsible investment

The UK has also sought to toughen up its approach to insider trading and market manipulation by increasing the maximum sentence from seven to 10 years. The obligation for companies to maintain insider lists now also applies to persons acting on behalf of issuers, providing additional challenges for professional advisors and other related third parties.
For financial institutions, the only way to overcome this challenge is to ensure a robust, proportionate governance framework is in place. Having a technology-enabled solution is also paramount to the detection of potential instances of market abuse.

Failure to meet the demands of national competent authorities, such as the UK FCA and Central Bank of Ireland, with respect to the detection and reporting of market abuse may result in costly fines, but could also damage reputation and returns financial institutions can generate.

There is also increasing willingness to hold individuals to account as demonstrated by the FCA’s introduction of the Senior Managers and Certification Regime, as well as the publication of decision notices fining and banning three Mizuho bond traders for market manipulation – all of which illustrate the need for effective market abuse monitoring for efficient compliance as the regulatory landscape continues to evolve at a rapid pace.

Market Abuse Regulation – How to Detect and Analyse Abusive Market Transactions

Webinar write-up published on A-Team Insight

A clear understanding of the business, frequent risk assessments, staff training, and a suitable surveillance system are key to compliance with Market Abuse Regulation (MAR) and its equivalences. So too, are governance, board level responsibility, and a strong compliance culture across the organisation.

These are just some of the findings from a recent webinar hosted by A-Team Group and sponsored by SIX, MAR – how to detect and analyse abusive market transactions. The webinar was moderated by A-Team Editor Sarah Underwood and joined by a panel of experts comprising Jamie Bell, Head of Secondary Market Oversight at the FCA; Katharine Harle, Partner at Dentons UKIME; Karyn Harty, Head of Litigation at Dentons UKIME; and Francisco Merlos, RegTech Product Manager at SIX.

Starting the conversation, the speakers described some typical scenarios that can cause firms to be penalised for market abuse. Poor controls around surveillance, a lack of awareness of market risks in the business, surveillance infrastructure that is not aligned to the risks, and a shortfall in core data controls were highlighted, along with poorly calibrated surveillance solutions, and a lack of training.

Challenges of MAR compliance

With these problems in mind, an early poll of the webinar audience asked, ‘What are the challenges of compliance with MAR at your organisation’. The poll results showed a high number of false positive as the main challenge, ahead of the cost of software and market data for trade surveillance, finding all required contextual information to perform investigations, constantly changing regulatory requirements, and a lack of management understanding or buy-in.

Picking up on these results, the speakers added the reasonable suspicion test of market abuse, a challenge that calls on human judgement and needs someone who understands the information received from surveillance reporting to make the call. Governance can also be a challenge, over reporting, and making sure technology solutions are implemented and calibrated to work well.

Small companies can experience the problems of manual surveillance, perhaps using Excel, and less resources than their large colleagues. That said, large firms can be hindered by numerous complex systems, and the need for nuanced solutions in particular jurisdictions.

Moving on to issues of responsibility for MAR compliance, the consensus was that the board must take responsibility for compliance, and roles from brokers to trading firms and DMA providers must be accountable for managing risk.

Technology solutions

Turning to technology, a second audience poll showed 50% of respondents using a trade surveillance tool provided by a third-party vendor, 30% using an internally developed solution, 13% manual processes, and 7% ‘other solutions’. The vote for third-party vendor provision was endorsed by the panel, which noted the benefits of surveillance tools offering economies of scale, lower cost of utilisation, and the collaborative contribution of a community that provides feedback to improve performance.

Selecting the right solution for a specific firm is based on understanding the business, its clients, approaches to trading, and making a risk assessment. While there are likely to be numerous solutions at different price points, things to look for include intuitive ease of use, timelines of updates, ability to reduce false positives, and total cost including not only licence fees, but also market data, corporate actions, and support.

In terms of technologies, cloud-based centralised solutions are available, and artificial intelligence and machine learning options are emerging to detect market abuse and prioritise alerts, although these raise problems of explainability.

New to the field is generative pretrained transformer (GPT) chatbot technology, or large language models, that show potential in compliance but are not yet ready for implementation. Solution providers are, however, working with the technology on functions such as helping compliance officers through the investigation process by proposing next steps. So far, the most developed use cases are in training and learning, keys to successful surveillance.

Best practice approaches

A final audience poll considered the business and operational benefits of successful compliance with MAR. The results showed benefits on both fronts, with operations leading the way. Broadening this to benefits and penalties, panel members noted that regulators are interested in working with regulated entities to help them get compliance right, and warned of the multi-million dollar fines of getting it wrong.

Summing up the webinar discussion, best practice approaches to detecting and analysing abusive market transactions start with ongoing risk assessment of what the business is doing, and move on to review governance, policies and processes, make sure the board understands and takes responsibility for MAR compliance, and that the surveillance team has an investigative mindset. Solution selection and systems calibration that will reduce false positives are also key, as are quality assurance, testing and documentation. Last, but not least, staff training is critical to success.