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ASIC signals advice guidance changes on the cards

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The corporate regulator has flagged possible changes to the way its guidance is “structured and set” for the provision of advice to consumers, following a consultation with advisers, academics and other industry stakeholders.

Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) Commissioner Danielle Press says the consultation seeking feedback on ways to promote access to affordable advice for consumers drew an “extraordinary response” from the industry.

She says the regulator has since given the industry associations a high-level briefing on what it has found in the consultation and “some of the things [it] is considering and hoping they can give us feedback on”.

“We've identified a number of problems, particularly in the way our guidance is structured and set,” Ms Press says in an answer to a question that she took on notice during a Parliamentary Joint Committee on Corporations and Financial Services hearing last month.

“We think there are some solutions to them, but we would like to talk to the industry about whether that is helpful or not.

“There is a lot of guidance that is quite complex, long and turgid in this industry.

“I think there are better ways to do some of that: shorter examples, shorter guidance and potentially using podcasts and video-type guidance, not compliance teams, to talk to the advisers.

“We think that's a really important shift in the way we're thinking about the way we're regulating the industry.”

She says the high-level briefing has also been provided to Treasury and that “a number of things around law reform” have come up in the consultation.

ASIC says many respondents listed issues with the provision of a statement of advice (SOA), which is a mandatory set of documents that must be given to retail clients who have received personal financial advice.

“Respondents have raised that Government should reconsider the SOA requirements and expand the situations when a [record of advice] is permissible instead of an SOA,” the regulator said.

“Respondents want more guidance on providing ROAs and have generally submitted they would like to see ASIC promote its use.

“We are considering possible guidance on ROAs and plan to raise ROAs as a key topic for discussion in the roundtables for exploring issues raised in [the consultation].”

A ROA is similar to a SOA except that it is shorter and less formal. It is often given to existing clients to confirm changes to, or implementation of, advice provided in a previous SOA.

ASIC says an initiative is already underway to improve its regulatory guide on Giving Information, General Advice and Scaled Advice after many respondents describe the guide as difficult for users to understand.

A majority of the submissions preferred the term “limited advice” in response to a question in the consultation that asked what was their preference for describing limited advice. Limited advice is often described as “scaled”, “single-issue”, “piece-by-piece”, “transactional” or “episodic” advice.