There can be no doubt that PRIIPs has absorbed a disproportionate amount of political and regulatory energy in its decade-long gestation – yet it has often felt that EU regulatory resources have been confined to the scope of the regime rather than the practical matter of its implementation.  The lofty ambitions of the regime are now colliding with cold, hard market realities and EU-level assistance to reconcile the two has been perennially lacking.

Within the asset management space, many firms have only recently defrosted their PRIIPs projects to discover that the one year delay - hoped to deliver a practical and proportionate regime - has been squandered.  Unfortunately, the delay worked like a handbrake - it killed momentum on PRIIPs projects within firms and, seemingly, within European regulators.  As we approach the third quarter of 2017, still awaiting Q&As that were promised in July last year, many may be fairly surprised to hear that the implementation of PRIIPs is stated to be one of this year’s top priorities for ESMA.

In fact 2017 has been far more about MiFID II than it has been about PRIIPs (both for regulators and for firms).  Indeed, the only sign of guidance on PRIIPs from ESMA so far has come in the form of MiFID II Q&As.  However, the industry is getting mixed messages.  On one hand, with a focus on PRIIPs, manufacturers’ obligations have been downplayed (UCITS Management Companies, in particular) while, with a MiFID focus, firms are being told they need to get manufacturers’ cooperation to obtain PRIIPS-compliant information.  

And this has been the pattern - it seems that for every attempt to limit the direct impact of PRIIPs, there has been a corresponding curve ball that introduces a practical or commercial need to apply PRIIPs methodologies (and build the systems to deliver those outputs).  While lawyers like me like to draw divisions between direct and indirect obligations, for many businesses, there is no practical difference – resources still need to be committed to create the necessary outputs.  

Firms will be hoping that ESMA’s sentiments - that the regime is a ‘top priority’ - will translate into affirmative steps to assist firms before they have to commit to solutions for delivery.