Speaking at last week’s Financial Services Institute of Australasia (Finsia) conference, ASIC senior executive leader, financial advisers, Louise Macaulay said there were a number of reasons behind the regulator’s apparent fixation on SMSF professionals.
“We think [SMSFs] are a very effective retirement saving vehicle for the appropriate person [and] we are doing a lot of work in this area for two reasons,” Ms Macaulay said.
The first reason listed by the regulator was that ASIC wants to “support advisers in this area” by ensuring high quality of advice, while the second concern – which Ms Macaulay described as “not an idle concern” – was the emergence of “unscrupulous operators interested in making a buck or even outright fraud”, who are attracted to the prosperous sector.
“So those are our priorities: How can we assist SMSF advisers to give better advice? And how can we stamp out fraud and inappropriate conduct?
“We want to safeguard the reputation of this sector, which is why we established our taskforce.”
The comments indicate the regulator views the sector in a relatively positive light, despite some commentators suggesting that ASIC’s recently-proposed additional disclosure requirements as signs of an “anti-SMSF agenda”.
Financial services lawyer Peter Townsend said that advisers specialising in SMSFs are increasingly becoming victims of ‘naysayers’ – and, chief among them, the corporate regulator.
“It saddens me to see that ASIC is buying into these negative arguments by going back to its usual solution of making advisers create more paperwork – more disclosure requirements, more documents that few read or understand, even more transference of liability to advisers – and all to solve a problem that doesn’t really exist,” Mr Townsend said.
“Instead of spending time ensuring advisers tell all investors in SMSFs that they don’t have access to the statutory compensation scheme for theft or fraud, maybe ASIC could spend more time ensuring that this theft and fraud doesn’t occur in the first place,” he added.