Last Update: 07.01.2014
About the FMA
Supervision of the financial market in Austria
A stable, competitive and financial system founded on integrity provides the basis for a functioning economy, sustainable employment and secure levels of affluence. The task of supervising the financial markets is therefore a crucially important one in all national economies.
As an integrated supervisory institution, the FMA, which was founded in 2002, brings together responsibility for supervising all significant providers and functions under one roof. The authority supervises banks, insurance undertakings, Pensionskassen (pension companies), corporate provision funds, investment firms and investment service providers, investment funds, financial conglomerates and exchange operating companies. It also monitors activities to ensure that trading in listed securities complies with legal requirements and the principles of fairness and transparency (supervision of the market and stock exchange). It ensures that prospectuses concerned with the public sale of securities appropriately explain the opportunities and risks of investment to the general public (prospectus supervision). It acts to ensure that the principles of sound company management and advice are upheld (supervision of compliance and rules of conduct), that the unauthorised trading and offering of financial services is prevented and punished, and that all financial institutions have the necessary systems in place to take preventive action against money laundering and terrorist financing.
As an integrated financial supervisory authority, the FMA is able to accommodate all official processes under one roof. As a public body, the FMA has full sovereignty. It is able to issue binding standards, such as regulations and decisions, or impose sanctions such as the withdrawal of licences to operate, relieve chief executives of their office or impose administrative penalty fines of up to € 150,000. In addition, it monitors the companies that fall within its supervisory remit over their entire life cycle, from granting the licence that allows them to trade, through the ongoing supervisory cycles while they are active to liquidation, withdrawal or return of trading licences.
Tiered structure of supervision
Any efficient and effective supervisory system builds on the work of “upstream” supervisory instances. This is referred to as the tiered structure of supervision. The first tier of monitoring and control is provided by each financial institution’s own internal auditing department. The institutions’ supervisory boards and auditors form the second tier, which, while appointed by the individual companies, is composed of independent, third-party experts. The state system of supervision takes over at the third stage.
In Austria, the job of supervising the financial markets is carried out by three institutions. In outline form, the tasks are as follows:
- The Federal Ministry of Finance (BMF) develops and defines the legislative framework, which is then adopted by the Austrian parliament (legislative process).
- The Oesterreichische Nationalbank (OeNB) monitors the stability of the financial market at a macro level. It is responsible for the supervision of payment systems, and is also involved in the supervision of banks.
- The Financial Market Authority (FMA) monitors and checks the individual financial institutions and participants in the markets (micro level).
All three institutions cooperate closely, and form the Austrian system of supervision of the financial market.
In addition, the Austrian supervisory institutions also collaborate in numerous international bodies, especially European ones, in order to establish consistent standards of supervision and to represent the interests of Austria as a financial centre. More concerted international cooperation within the context of day-to-day supervisory operations is increasing in importance, given the globalisation of the financial sector.