A Comprehensive Guide to European Financial Licences

Europe begets leading financial services in terms of infrastructure, trading skills as well as human resources. Authorities in Europe boast exceptional quality over a wide range of financial licensing services, including popular options like banking, securities, forex, investments and payment systems. The authorities also possess a vigorous legislative framework. These characteristics make the European Union (EU) a prime location in providing financial licences. This article aims to provide some information regarding the myriad of licence types, as well as their regulatory agencies to provide licence-seekers a comprehensive glance at Europe’s vast financial licensing industry.

New European Financial Regulations

The European Securities and Markets Authority’s (ESMA) new regulations on leverage ratios in March have led interested licensees to explore higher leverage and relatively easier to obtain securities licences. In light of such regulations, there is a need to reassess the competitiveness of European supervisory authorities’ abilities to license according to demands. Ryan Tay, General Manager of DesFran Singapore and APAC, maintains that a raise in initial margin might “hurt small retail investors” but selected European licences are “brands in their own right” and such licences will still seem attractive to businesses.

Amongst the licences available, it is important to choose one based on its applicability within one’s business in order to reap the most benefits from the licence itself.

Applicability of Licences

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) of the UK, Cyprus Securities and Exchange Commission (CySEC) and Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority (FINMA) are all suitable choices for ventures into the foreign exchange market. They possess better marketing strategies and are more reputable amongst investors and business owners. Ryan also commented that longstanding “exemplars such as the FCA have established frameworks” that that make the application process transparent. On the other hand, for businesses focusing on securities investment funds, a case can be made for European licences from the Financial Supervisory Authority (FI) of Sweden, Commission de Surveillance du Secteur Financier (CSSF) of Luxembourg, Financial Market Authority (FMA) of Liechtenstein and Malta Financial Services Authority. Companies that are interested in financial licensing but have budget considerations could potentially look at offshore centres. For instance, the Financial Supervision Commission (FSC) of the Isle of Man supervises only forex future contracts and not spot exchange transactions.

European financial licences
An overview of the financial licences available in Europe


Estonia has recently joined the ranks of popular locations for licence-seekers. The Financial Supervisory Authority (FSA) provides licensing services for businesses focused on investments, payment systems, securities brokerage as well as cryptocurrency trading. However, the agency does not cover companies that conduct pure forex trading. It should be noted that the FSA is stringent about potential licensees obtaining relevant approvals from Estonia’s Financial Intelligence Unit. The companies are also strictly expected to follow their anti-money laundering laws.

The search for an authority that can grant a licence covering the main services of the company can be a tedious process given the extensive menu of European financial licenses available, and the varying merits each licence bears across various contexts.

At DesFran, our group of experts with deep experience in licence application can help licence-seekers maximise their resources and develop customised solutions for any licence application. In addition to European licence applications, DesFran is also able to help clients with applications in Oceania and other regions of the world. Contact DesFran for your licence application needs today.

Translated by Joyce Sun. This article first appeared in WeChat as a Chinese editorial.


About the Authors

Alin Liu is Research Analyst in DesFran’s Strategic Communications and Research team. Alin has extensive knowledge in information search, mining, and analysis. With her wealth of experience in the finance industry, she has been researching and publishing market insights for DesFran’s clientele in China. Alin graduated from Yangzhou University with a Master’s degree.

Joyce Sun is Strategic Communications and Research Intern at DesFran. Joyce enjoys learning as she writes financial news blurbs and editorials involving financial regulatory developments due to her keen interests in equities and finance-related topics. She is a final year honours student at the National University of Singapore hoping to pursue a career in the finance industry, and to continue developing her knowledge in investments.

Joey Tan is Strategic Communications and Research Manager at DesFran. Joey has a flair for creatives and is always keen on improving and upgrading herself within the realm of the financial services industry. She manages the strategic communications and marketing initiatives in DesFran and has a keen interest in financial licensing and regulations. Joey is a sociology graduate from the University of Buffalo.

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