CySEC – Cyprus Securities and Exchange Commission
A substantial number of retail forex and binary options brokers are regulated by the Cyprus Securities and Exchange Commission (CySEC). In fact, you will actually find more regulated forex brokers in Cyprus than any other jurisdiction. However, what precisely is CySEC? What regulations are imposed on licensed, registered brokers and how efficient is the regulatory agency? This article will answer all of the above, while also covering CySEC’s history, criticisms and key announcements.
What is CySEC?
CySEC is the financial regulatory agency of Cyprus. When Cyprus became an EU member state in 2004, all regulations, processes and operations of CySEC had to comply with the European MiFID financial harmonisation law.
Purpose & Responsibilities
As the official website details, CySEC’s main aims and responsibilities are as follows:
- Effective monitoring and supervision of the local stock exchange and related companies and brokers.
- To distribute licenses allowing for investment and brokerage firms to operate in the stock, forex and CFD market.
- Effectively collating all necessary information on regulated forex companies and other brokers lists.
- To understand the meaning and advanced trading benefits of new products, such as the cryptocurrency Bitcoin and other virtual currencies.
- To accurately review and amend when necessary new forex regulations, license certificates and investment advice.
- Undertaking training to tackle money laundering and other threats to regulatory systems.
- To inspect the list of regulated brokers and companies, including checking they are meeting reporting requirements and operating a fair remuneration policy.
- To ask questions and impose sanctions on any registered companies that breach regulations.
CySEC is a public corporate body that sprung to life in 2001 from the Cyprus Securities and Exchange Commission Law of 2001. As a result of Cyprus becoming one of the EU members, all registered brokers and licensed companies were given access to European markets.
However, the EU registration and transition weren’t without problems. The move had a significant impact on the tax haven regulatory framework that CySEC has previously adopted.
By the time May 4th, 2012 had rolled around, the board made an announcement that it was changing the classification of binary options so they counted as financial instruments. All platforms operating in Cyprus had to adhere to the new binary options regulations in 30 days. These new rules included providing consumers with clear information about products and a requirement to “operate in a way that is fair to clients”.
This was a significant move for two reasons. Firstly, the majority of platforms are found in Cyprus. Secondly, CySEC became the first regulatory body to recognise and regulate binary options as financial instruments.
A board consisting of five members, including two full-time employees, a chairman and vice-chairman run CySEC. On top of that, a non-voting board member represents the Central Bank of Cyprus.
CySEC also has links to the government. The Council of Ministers decides on the board of directors after receiving proposals from the Minister of Finance.
Regulation & Processing
When you take CySEC vs FCA or CFTC you realise the former is constantly having to adjust regulations to try and keep up with significant growth rates and more reputable regulatory agencies.
In fact, during 2014-2015, CySEC was under attack in the news from traders and industry commentators who thought more stringent regulations were necessary to monitor high-risk investment firms. In particular, there was an argument fines for binary options brokers were too low.
Because they were the first to regulate binary options, a huge number of brokers hold CySEC licenses so they can operate within the Eurozone. However, many believe verification and processing times could be much quicker.
It’s also worth noting many brokerage websites claim “Binary Options are the simplest way to trade the market. They have been available since 2008, and became regulated in Europe by CySEC in May 2012”. However, this does not necessarily mean that a particular broker is regulated by CySEC. So traders should search for the 5 Digit CySEC License Number and then verify the license on the CySEC website.
CySEC has distributed guidelines and regulations on a whole range of trading activities. This includes bonus circulars, new guidelines for cryptocurrencies, such as bitcoin and directives for money laundering.
But with so many regulations, let’s touch on a couple of important examples that a regulated forex company must adhere to:
- A minimum of two people must be in charge of the administration of an investment firm, while also in the appropriate register.
- Brokers with licenses must notify CySEC before extending their services. Therefore, it is in the best interest of forex brokers to detail all the investment services it plans to offer at the outset.
In addition to the above, CySEC can also set minimum capital requirements, bonus qualifications and leverage limits. Furthermore, brokers must meet regulations around indemnity insurance and ensure access to investor compensation funds.
Note if a broker fails to meet license requirements, their offices can swiftly receive notifications of fines or even the removal of their license.
Those with contacts in the industry or follow relevant news announcements will have seen there are certain criticisms of CySEC. These include:
- As a result of hazy definitions and inaction, a number of licensed brokers and investment services have escaped infringements with minor warnings.
- Despite having the law to fall back on, CySEC compliance officers hand out relatively small non-compliance fines.
- When there is a potential break of regulations, CySEC is too slow to respond. For example, an investigation into IronFX only began after considerable consumer complaints and media attention.
- There is a distinct lack of direct communication for individuals searching to make a complaint. Unfortunately, unlike the NFA, any complaints have to be made directly to your broker. This puts you at risk of late and inadequate responses. The only other alternative is going to a financial ombudsman, which can also mean extensive waiting times. CySEC’s unwillingness to resolve direct complaints attracts criticism from a range of other regulatory bodies.
It’s worth noting CySEC have taken action to address some of these issues. In fact, they have pursued greater transparency around listed brokers and tougher fines. Furthermore, they have taken more action to suspend and revoke licenses.
In addition, a 2016 circular said: “the name of the regulated entities, or the use of words within their name, should reflect the work/activities they are engaged in, for purposes of not misleading the investors”. Also, to tackle consumer complaints, they have brought in a new structure.
It’s also worth pointing out that despite criticism, CySEC can be in pro-active. For example, new legislation in France was brought in to prevent digital advertising of high-risk investment products. CySEC were then quick to bring out a circular informing companies they would need to adhere to these new regulations when advertising to French clients.
CySEC still has much to do to be as reputable as the FCA in the UK and the CFTC in the USA. However, they remain a popular body and continue to grow as a result of low barriers to entry and less stringent regulations.
Remember before you sign up with a brokerage, always check the firm is one of the approved brokers using their registration number and the official CySEC website.