ASIC’s hands tied on affordable advice

ASIC commissioner Danielle Press has suggested a large number of the changes demanded by industry in the regulator’s affordable advice consultation were “above my pay grade”, indicating major action may not be taken to address advice accessibility until the government’s 2022 review.

Addressing the Conference of Major Superannuation Funds on Wednesday, Danielle Press said the advice industry was “at a turning point” where significant legislative change may be necessary to ensure consumers continued to access the services they needed.

“The consultation we did on access to advice showed half of that was about legislative reform, which is above my pay grade and not things ASIC can do,” she said.

With financial services minister Jane Hume having announced the government would conduct its Quality of Advice Review next year, Ms Press encouraged attendees of the conference to “lean into that conversation with Treasury”.

 

“I’d encourage you to engage with that [review] process… and think about what law reform you need to make things better for clients, really make your voices heard in that process,” she said.

“We know trustees are facing a challenge as to how they make sure they’re helping members in the way they want.”

Ms Press said following ASIC’s successful case against BT for breaching general advice laws, the regulator was keeping a close eye on trustees who strayed too close to the line between general and personal advice.

“We can have a lot of debate around whether the law is right, but the judgement clearly identified the line,” she said.

“We’re hoping trustees providing advice are adhering to that law.”

As part of its expanded powers as conduct regulator for the super sector, Ms Press said ASIC had also identified issues with super fund dispute resolution for members and the adequacy of whistleblower policies to identify misconduct.

“In the nine months to 31 March, 25 per cent of funds had more than half of their complaints taking more than 45 days to resolve, which is the new enforceable standard,” she said.

Ms Press added that half of the whistleblower policies sampled across super funds had not been made public, which although not a legal requirement, was encouraged by the regulator.

“Whistleblower protections now extend to people outside employees, they also include former employees and suppliers, so we ask you to think carefully about those policies,” she said.

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