What is the Single Rulebook? Why do we need it?

Wim Nelen

CEO & Co-Founder

In 2009, EU politicians set up the ‘EU Single Rulebook’ in order to close regulatory loopholes and to contribute to a more effective functioning of the internal market. In 2019, Wim Nelen and Stefan Hendrickx set up Single Rulebook in order to close a hole in the market: integration of ever evolving regulation with the policies, systems and controls of regulated firms. Regulatory integration drives digital transformation. It makes regulation more effective and the sector more competitive.

What is the EU single rulebook?

In the context of the EU political project, the single rulebook refers to the aim of a unified regulatory framework for the EU financial sector that would complete the single market in financial services. The term single rulebook is most frequently associated with the EU’s banking union and a set of prudential rules. But the EU single rulebook can also cover prudential rules in areas such as insurance and conduct rules in respect of markets and consumers. The single rulebook concept is a key component of the European System of Financial Supervision (ESFS). It is designed to ensure that the rules applicable to the financial sector are adequately implemented across EU Member States in order to preserve financial stability, promote confidence and provide protection for consumers.

The aim of an EU single rulebook is prominently reflected in the strategic priorities of the three European supervisory authorities (or ‘ESAs’): the EBA, ESMA and EIOPA. The ESAs make significant contributions to the development of the single rulebook by drafting Regulatory Technical Standards ‘(RTSs’) and Implementing Technical Standards (‘ITSs’). They also strive for ‘supervisory convergence’ of how EU-wide are applied by all the National Competent Authorities (‘NCAs’). In order to achieve this the ESAs publish a large and frequently evolving body of Guidelines, Opinions and Q&As and summaries how NCAs comply with the implementation of the single rulebook.

The EU project has already achieved a significant degree of integration and harmonisation. At the same time it remains a vision. The gap between the ambition and the reality of a true single rulebook is mostly political in nature as a considerable degree of national fragmentation remains.

Regulators have only just started to think about how digital rulebooks can make their regulation more effective and the sector more competitive. In the EU, for example, the EBA and ESMA have made (separate) efforts to publish an ‘interactive single rulebook’. The EBA’s interactive single rulebook is more comprehensive than ESMA’s but in both cases the level of ‘interactiveness’ remains rather limited.

Why do we need a single rulebook?

The holy grail in digital transformation is integration. Integration of regulation with in-house processes unlocks value by providing traceability and efficiencies. Processes become directly rule-based. Digital rulebooks published by regulators should be the cornerstone of integration.

In reality, unfortunately, the many different rulebooks that any firm is subject to are a source of copy and paste activity. Even global banks use a central spreadsheet with regulatory change analysis that links through tribal knowledge into systems and controls.

The Single Rulebook platform processes, pre-indexes and hyperlinks rulebooks so that firms can easily work with them digitally. Drawing on our experience of using regulation, the user interface promotes collaboration, information sharing and knowledge management, enabling firms to work more efficiently with regulation.

Within the user interface sits a no-code API that makes it easy to integrate pretty much anything that is based on regulation with the most granular level of underlying requirements, including in-house interpretations. Our approach is flexible to the extent that any element of the regulation can be integrated.

This concept delivers regulatory traceability and data lineage without the need for a large implementation project. When that is in place, the impact of regulatory change across the firm becomes instantly clear. A single source of truth is established across the firm and end-users of regulation as well as regulatory staff become much closer to the regulatory requirements, creating efficiencies and reducing risk.

Future Developments

A few initiatives from regulators are going in the right direction. Examples are the UK Bank of England and Financial Conduct Authority’s work on data collection and digital regulatory reporting, the EU Commission’s Proof of Concept of machine executable EMIR reporting or the G20’s Techsprint.

These examples, as is often the case with digital initiatives from regulators, relate to regulatory reporting. This is not surprising. Data provision is a significant burden on firms and regulators themselves can significantly improve internal processes with better input data. To see these data initiatives from regulators is encouraging but they are not a near term solution. The Bank of England’s Discussion Paper about transforming data collection from the UK financial sector, for example, talks about a ‘5 to 10 year horizon’. We think 10 years is certainly the more realistic estimate.

These initiatives are encouraging. But they will take time to filter into a limited subset of new regulation, and then even longer to retrofit onto existing models. The limits of digital regulation will be tested when the intended outcome of a given part of law is non-binary.

It is clear that for firms looking to significantly change their way of working with regulation a market-led solution is an immediate way forward.

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