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'All hands on deck' virus response delaying APRA agenda

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Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA) Chairman Wayne Byres says much of the planned policy and supervisory agenda for this year is likely to be pushed into 2021 as the COVID-19 response requires “all hands on deck”.

Chairman Wayne Byres told a Finsia webinar today that the crisis had moved quickly since APRA first published its agenda for this year in January.

“Eight weeks later we announced most of it would be deferred until at least the end of September,” he said today. “Realistically, many items will not restart until 2021.”

Mr Byres says the deferral has allowed banks and insurers to dedicate time and resources to maintaining their operations and supporting customers, while also allowing APRA to intensify its focus on monitoring and responding to the impact on entities’ financial and operation capacity.

“For the industry and APRA, COVID-19 has been a case of ‘all hands on deck’,” he said. “We will come back to our broader agenda once we have a better sense of the landscape ahead of us.”

My Byres says Australia has been fortunate to enter the year with the financial sector in good health.

“It has also been very resilient from an operational perspective. Both those things have proven very valuable in navigating the past few months.”

Mr Byres says banks have played a role as a ‘shock absorber’ for the economy, and other sectors have also contributed to the immediate virus response, helping soften the blow of a very severe economic contraction.

“Insurers have been able to support customers by modifying terms and conditions to help

those affected by the virus, and the superannuation sector has been playing a role in promptly dealing with payments under the Government’s early release scheme,” he said.