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MiFID and electronic signatures

I participated in a roundtable recently held by compliance vendor NetConsent. It was a fairly broad-ranging discussion about how digital certificate and e-signature solutions have evolved and been adopted (or not, as the case may be) by businesses and governments over the past 10 years.

One interesting example that came up is the way the Swedish government convinced banks in that country to run a digital identity service that is also used to access public services. 

Authentication and identity management technologies are increasingly being adopted in closed communities - particularly supply chain participants in sensitive areas such as defense. And there's been a surge recently in retail banks embracing two-factor authentication for customers accessing online services.

But on the question of electronic signatures replacing the pen-and-paper variety, there hasn't been as much movement, even though much of the legal basis for their acceptance is in place.

In a follow-up conversation after the roundtable with Paul Chapman, head of compliance at Collins Stewart, we were discussing his firm's approach to MiFID compliance. Among the challenges arising from the regulation is the amount of paperwork that needs to be generated, sent to customers for signatures, recieved back and filed. Because Collins Stewart spans institutional and private client stockbroking, market making and fund management, it will have to deal with quite a lot of correspondence regarding client classification, best execution policies etc.

Paul seemed to think that particulary in situations like this -- where there are huge batches of communication to push through the traditional cycle of print-send-sign-receive-file in a short time frame -- there could be a business case for investing in e-signature and content management technology to speed things up.

But given that many firms aren't anywhere near ready to deal with the more fundamental implications of MiFID I suspect that most organisations will just end up throwing more temp staff at the growing mountain of paper that MiFID will generate.


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