MiFID: IT contractors ride high on the waves of change

Don't you just love change? What with the moving target of customer requirements, and that constant bleat of officialdom. Not for you? Well it should be, it drives up your rates, and no one has yet invented an IT system that didn't need fiddling with to keep it performing. Change is constant and good.

If you could imagine a world without IT change, you'd imagine far fewer opportunities for freelance contractors. As a breed, they probably wouldn't exist.

And so, just as the Sarbanes Oxley and Basel II parties are winding down, another invitation to hike up the rates and make a mint presents itself: MiFID.

MiFID – rhymes with Triffid for those with a herbaceous bent – is the Markets in Financial Instruments Directive developed as part of the European Commission's Financial Services Action Plan. After eighteen months delay it is now expected to come into force by 1st November 2007.

According to business law firm Norton Rose, "MiFID has been compared to an iceberg of Titanic-sinking proportions... There is an increasing realisation that MiFID will have a fundamental impact on many investment firms."

And analyst Gartner adds that the technology impact of MiFID will be far reaching, "affecting enterprise architecture approaches, design and use of shared services, performance measurement and management, and governance."

MiFID attempts to bring down financial barriers allowing companies to provide services across borders and establish branches in other European states. Also, shares will no longer have to be traded through exchanges.

But while financial markets are being opened, compliance is playing a part too. Organisations will have to prove they provided the best outcome for clients – known as best execution – with transparent policies and comprehensive record keeping.

It is a mammoth task as Gartner points out: "IT organisations can meet MiFID requirements in time only if they understand their firms' business strategy, which will enable them to make necessary adjustments in internal and external connectivity, data management and price publication solutions."

Dave Pye, IT champion for the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC), representing the £24.5 billion recruitment industry, told CUK that now is the right time to get into MiFID, if you have a relevant financial services background.

In particular, experience of previous regulation (e.g. SOX, Basel II) and regulatory-change/business-change management, will put you in an excellent position to capture a high paying gig.

Right now, "rates are at the top end of the market," he says, and he expects them to rise steadily. And where a sector experiences high demand, talent is sucked in prompting better deals elsewhere.

However, Pye points out that it's a relatively small speciality "it's not for all."

Even so, advertised rates are currently hitting £500-£900 per day for business change analysts with the relevant experience, and positions have only recently started to hit the job sites. Pye agrees, the market could go barking for some contractors with the right experience.

For clients of contractors, Pye suggests they do all they can to keep good performers over the coming years, lest good people get whipped away at renewal time.

Yet despite the November deadline, for many companies it's still early days and effects on the contracting market are only just showing. One FS contractor working for the British offshoot of an American bank told CUK that the bank is still scoping changes.

He estimates three quarters of the bank's processes will be impacted (at a minimum requiring review) creating additional work for just about everybody; from architects, to database analysts, to GUI programmers.

It's all rather encouraging for financial services (FS) contractors, and one imagines many CVs are being hastily re-written to emphasise business-change and FS experience.

So far from shunning change, IT contractors should embrace it. It pays the bills, and it might just pay for that investment property you've always wanted.

William Knight

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