Will MiFID II usher in the age of free financial information?

 

MiFID II — the financial regulation that’s due to come into affect from 3 January 2018 — is forcing some of the world’s biggest financial giants to change the way they think almost all aspects of their business.

One of the most high profile and disruptive elements of the new regulations — formally known as the revised Markets in Financial Instruments Directive — is that banks and brokers will have to price the cost of their research and trading separately.

The decision, called unbundling, was reached because retail investors and pension funds are usually the ones who ultimately pick up the bill for the combined research and trading.

The move — as was reported by the FT in July — has resulted in some banks considering slapping their research platforms with $1m annual access price tags.

Now one bank, ING, has gone the opposite direction — making its financial research completely free on a newly launched site called think.ing.com.

Other banks are thought to be considering the same, the FT reported.

ING’s chief economist, Mark Cliffe, said it’s all about moving with the times and adapting to an ever tougher regulatory environment.

Think aims to help people make better decisions. We’re in a rapidly changing environment in which knowledge, let alone data, is becoming a commodity. We aim to cut through the noise. We’ll not only be guiding people through the latest news and trends in the global economy and markets, we’ll concentrate on the consumer side too. Over the coming months, a broader array of features and topics will be added.

Will other banks have to follow suit?

When one provider in a market either massively lowers the price of its services, or begins offering it for free, (provided the quality doesn’t decline) it’s likely that others will be forced to follow suit.

The move towards free financial research has arguably taken far longer to arrive than it should have done. Charging for digital documents and products is becoming increasing difficult for publishers of any kind to justify, with solid paywalls being broken down in favour of different businesses models.

Now asset managers will be forced to consider just how much a regular flow of research and analysis is worth to them.

Will making financial research free anger regulations?

The financial industry has long grappled with the idea of free services and how much it might result in miss-selling of financial products.

What has becoming known as the freemium model — getting the basics for free then paying for additional extras — could trigger additional intervention by the regulator to ensure the advice being given is not designed to encourage non-paying users to becoming paying customers unfairly.

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