Advisers left in the dark over ASIC inquiry 

Alex Burke,  Senior Writer,  No More Practice Education

Since announcing its consultation on promoting affordable advice in November last year, ASIC hasn't said much about the next steps in the process.

The deadline for submissions was closed on January 18, after which ASIC said it would host a series of industry roundtables to discuss issues raised in the first quarter of 2021. Of particular interest to the regulator – in addition to the supply-and-demand concerns raised due to the shrinking size of the advice industry – was the provision of scaled advice and how the regulatory framework could be further clarified.

While ASIC has said the initial consultation represents just a small part of the broader advice affordability project, its stated goals – identifying impediments to affordable advice and practical steps for increasing affordability – imply a fairly wide regulatory remit.

And you could forgive the average adviser for being somewhat apprehensive about what all this could entail, given how beset the industry has been by reform and change over the past decade – especially in light of the recent news that FASEA is being wound up with a new and distributed professional standards system emerging in its place.

Why, then, have the submissions to the review – officially CP 332: Promoting access to affordable advice for consumers – not been made publicly available? Understanding the issues being discussed may enable further discussion or, at the very least, reduce ambient anxieties about what the outcome of this project will look like.

Certain industry bodies and businesses have published their own submissions: the AFA, for one, highlighted the urgency of fixing the occasionally "duplicated and conflicting" professional obligations advisers have to deal with. On the superannuation side, the AIST's submission suggested a "good starting point" would be the reduction of ambiguity regarding what constitutes general versus personal advice.

In our own research, we identified standard, ASIC-approved ROA templates along with the separation of “complex” and “simple” personal advice (where advisers are exempted from the best interests duty for the latter) as key priorities.

Other issues included the abolishing of SOAs and ROAs where there are no commissions, asset-based fees or ownership links to a product provider and greater consistency regarding the ASIC funding levy.

While it remains to be seen which (if any) of these issues are tabled during the upcoming roundtables, the potential regulatory ramifications of this review are significant. Given that, do you think there should be a greater level of transparency regarding this project?

 


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