The London-headquartered IMS Group is a leading provider of consulting and integrated business support to the asset management and securities industry. The group’s core service offering is regulatory compliance consulting to UK-regulated financial services firms.
IMS supports more than 700 investment businesses, ranging from established global firms to start-ups. Of the firm’s 250-plus hedge fund clients, around 70 are UK subsidiaries of US hedge fund firms.
Today the hedge fund industry is undergoing a seismic shift in terms of the way funds are regulated. With Dodd-Frank in the US and the AIFM Directive in Europe, managers, and specifically compliance officers, have a lot of information to absorb.
Head of regulation and compliance Peter Moore (pictured) says the industry is now on the cusp of the regulatory tsunami that emerged post-2008, and that 2011 was probably the last year of preparation for what’s coming.
“There are three strings of regulatory change,” he says. “We’ve got the change to the UK regulatory regime from 2013, various new European directives or revisits of existing directives, and we’ve got the US’s extraterritorial response in Dodd-Frank, investment adviser registration and Fatca.”
Although last year was largely business as usual for IMS, there were a couple of exceptions. “One thing that was meant to happen last year but didn’t was investment adviser registration with the SEC,” Moore says. “We were good to go in the middle of last year, then we heard it had been extended to the first quarter of 2012 – an extension that was in many respects welcome.
“The other exceptional feature last year was market volatility. In a regulatory sense market volatility probably manifested itself in the various short-selling bans, one of the best – or worst – examples of regulation made on the hoof. People came into work on a Friday and suddenly found they weren’t allowed to short certain stocks.”
In Moore’s view, shared by many in the industry, despite the phenomenal amount of new regulation in the market, the sum total of all these changes will not make the world a better place to a commensurate degree.
One of the more positive regulatory developments in Europe is the harmonised short-selling regime. Says Moore: “From November 1, 2012 we will have a situation where the answer to the question, ‘How does the short-selling regime in Latvia compare with the UK’s?’ will be ‘It’s all the same’. That’s a good thing. The other hidden positive is the possibility that Esma will actually reduce the number of short-selling measures.”
One key feature of IMS is that it can get into the minds of clients and appreciate what they want and need, which involves drip-feeding vital information at the right time. Says Moore: “What we do well is look at what’s coming down the line, assess the impact and give clients an appropriate amount of information at an appropriate time before the relevant changes come into effect.
“If we’d spent the past three years peppering clients with monthly newsletters on, say, the AIFM Directive, it would have amounted to the overprovision of information about a very prolonged debate.”
Moore adds: “We’re delighted to win the award for Best European Regulatory Advisory Firm for the second year running. It demonstrates that Hedgeweek readers continue to appreciate the service we provide and that through constant self-examining of what we do, we continually seek find new ways to improve our business in line with our clients’ needs.”
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