Keynote speech by Commissioner McGuinness at high-level conference on the Capital Markets Union

(Source: European Commission)

It strikes me that Capital Markets Union has been around for some time so the ambition is huge and the potential is great.

And that’s what keeps me motivated frankly, is that if we unlock and all of our work comes to fruition, Europe will be in a much better place than it is today around capital markets.

We know what it is and we know what we need – CMU – and we’re also taking steps in that direction.

But I was pleased to hear praise for some of the elements of our plan, about advice, I’m sure we’ll have this discussion in the chat – about the issue of information, about our education when we’re young and when we’re old around financial issues and where people get advice.

Because frankly, I know I have four under 30 – between 20 and 30 – and they get their advice from places that I didn’t know existed until I went onto TikTok etcetera.

So I think there is an audience that may not be in the room. And I know there’s 400 that are online here and some of you may also be getting information from those sources, we need to actually think in that direction.  And also move in a direction – not to say everything is good in that space – because sometimes those who are paid to influence, will influence because they’re being paid as opposed to giving good and sound guidance.

But we cannot ignore what is happening in the real world which is the virtual world around digitalisation. I’m alert to it, not just around the area of financial advice but also crypto etcetera.

It’s good that so many are gathered in this room and thank you to my colleagues who have organised this conference. It’s actually my first live event of my services.

So it’s great that it’s this topic we’re talking about in these very trying times that we are in today, where we are faced with war on European soil.

We see the destruction of a country very close to us.

We know that climate change is a huge challenge for us and we need to invest.

Interesting that during COVID, those who were working were saving a lot of cash in banks so a pileup. Why weren’t we thinking of investing our money? What is it in the European psyche that can be unlocked and how do we unlock that in a way to allow people to take control of their financial interests?

I always say that people work hard for their money – we need to help that their money works hard for them. And I think that’s not happening at the moment. And I think we could do a lot to unblock those issues.

Finance is central to everything. When I was appointed to this portfolio, I had lots of other experiences in policy areas but wherever it was, money drove the innovation.

Money matters and therefore, it really is important that the talk we’re having here today moves outside experts and agents and brokers to citizens, that they take control of this topic and that they take control of their money.

Because whether you’re a private citizen, whether you’re an SME, whether you’re a large company, you will need finance at certain stages of your life and you need to plan for the future.

It’s really the future planning that also concerns me. I do think younger people today are better tuned in to realising they will work differently than maybe their parents and they make need to think differently about how they look after their financial future. And I think they’re not getting enough, sufficient information.

So it is an opportunity.

Those who would write and say that – ‘Europe and its CMU – it hasn’t happened, it’s slow’ – don’t underestimate the potential that’s there when we unblock and unlock that potential.

And that’s the work that’s been happening in the Commission before my arrival and that I hope to put my stamp on. I wanted 5 years to do it, mine has to be condensed into my 4 year term but I intend to make a difference in all of these areas.

There isn’t a silver bullet that will deliver CMU. If there was, we’d have found it. It isn’t there.

We have, and I’m looking at a list here of acronyms that I would choke on if I used them altogether. I know everyone in this room will understand them but really we have a whole range of issues around long term investment funds, alternative investment funds, transparency. We have issues in Solvency II, the insurance sector has to play its part, the banking package.

So all of these technical amendments and changes are important to build the blocks of CMU and they need to translate into real world experiences for investors large and small.

On all of these proposals, I want to thank the co-legislators and the leadership of the French presidency who have worked really hard, really fast and really well and I look forward to the Czech presidency to continue that work.

So there are other issues we’re working on collectively in the College – and I have a College meeting at 4pm so I’d better watch the clock – Commissioner Reynders and I will propose an initiative to harmonise aspects of corporate insolvency procedures across Member States.

This is a tricky subject so I’m not seeing this as an easy one, but I think we have to raise these issues and work towards unblocking problems.

We’re also looking at a Listing Act to improve access to capital for companies by making the listing of securities easier, particularly for smaller companies.

You know we are doing work on central clearing capacity and there will be developments on that by the end of this year.

And maybe linking to this very interesting conversation when I entered into the room, it was a pleasure to listen to it – we are planning to adopt a very strong strategy for retail investment and to put retail investors at the heart of our work because we want them to benefit from the opportunities that come with CMU. There are a lot of issues coming up there.

People say, “So what progress have you made?”

And we do have the CMU Indicator Dashboard and it was created for the very purpose that we want to monitor progress.

If you looked at last year it showed gradual improvement under most of the indicators. Yes, starting from a low base and with great differences between our Member States but nonetheless, gradual progress.

And to my point, CMU does not happen overnight, it happens over time. But it won’t happen without taking concrete steps and making this relevant to business and consumers and citizens alike.

So who will make it happen?

I think this room will. I think our work on financial literacy. I think it all works in one direction which is to make us more aware that money matters in society.

Money matters to build a more sustainable economy, a more sustainable society.

And look at the urgency of the need for the transformation of our economy and society today because of the war, because of our overreliance on Russian fossil fuel.

There are many things we need to do there, including large sums of investments but also, issues in Member States who are planning applications for renewable projects.

We are faced with a huge challenge and I think the work of the Commission, led by the President Von der Leyen, is in the direction of meeting that challenge head on and working with our Member States to ramp up our work around, particularly renewable energy sources and therefore, private investment funds are absolutely essential.

So I want to wrap up by saying that I will have to leave the room before 4pm because there’s a College meeting but, to say that the purpose of this conference was to harness the energy that is in the room and that is online, to show the commitment of this Commission to Capital Markets Union – also Banking Union.

These things matter and that while this has been talked about for decades, in one sense we have ramped up considerably our work with the latest action plan and the proposals on the table.

Sometimes the technical issues, we get lost in the detail, but I always keep sight on the objective.

What are we trying to achieve here? We’re trying to make Europe stronger when it comes to the flow of capital – I have to use the word “cross-border,” we shouldn’t talk across border but we tend to – but we want to make capital flow.

We want to have opportunities for business large and small.

We want citizens. We want my children and your children and their family to be able to invest for their futures.

And we want them, for example, when they’re looking at where they will invest to understand if they opt for a sustainable product that what it says on the tin is what’s in the tin. And there’s been some issues recently in that regard and I hope they come up in our conversation which I look forward to having now.

So thank you for being here. Thank you for the support you give to the work of my colleagues in FISMA. I would salute them because not only are they working hard on CMU and many, many other issues but their work on sanctions I want to applaud today if I may say that. And to thank them for their very detailed and dedicated work there.

I think that together, we can make a difference.

We can create Capital Markets Union and make Europe stronger than it is today in the financial area.

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