EUROPE – The European Union and Switzerland have agreed to exchange information, undertake cross-border onsite visits and provide mutual assistance to bolster the supervision of alternative investment funds, the European Securities and Markets Authority (ESMA) has said.

The authority said it had approved the memorandum of understanding (MoU) signed between the Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority (FINMA) and the EU securities regulators for the supervision of alternative investment funds, including hedge funds, private equity funds and real estate funds.

Under the co-operation agreement, Swiss and EU regulators will be able to supervise fund managers that operate on a cross-border basis in the EU and Switzerland, while EU authorities will share relevant information received from FINMA with other EU authorities.

This co-operation will apply to Swiss alternative investment fund managers that manage or market alternative investment funds in the EU, as well as to EU alternative investment fund managers that manage or market alternative investment funds in Switzerland.

Professor Anne Héritier Lachat, FINMA chair, said the agreement was "timely" with respect to the transposition of the Alternative Investment Fund Managers Directive (AIFMD) in EU member states in July 2013.

According to ESMA, the co-operation agreement signed between the EU and Switzerland will reinforce the AIFMD and the Swiss Federal Act on Collective Investment Schemes.

Steven Maijoor, ESMA chair, said: "ESMA sees this agreement as a signal of third countries' willingness to co-operate to meet the AIFMD's requirements.

"However, further work needs to be done with non-EU authorities to achieve our goal of completing all MoUs by the July 2013 deadline."

Under the AIFMD, the fund industry from a non-EU country whose securities regulator does not have such co-operation arrangements in place by July 2013 will be prohibited from offering or managing AIFs in the EU.

ESMA, which has negotiated the agreement with FINMA on behalf of all 27 EU national authorities in charge of securities markets regulation, is now looking to sign similar agreements with non-EU authorities that are members of IOSCO.