The securities regulator will be moving to a more active, “APRA style” of regulation as part of its oversight of the advice and wealth management industry, a leading law expert has said.

While ASIC, to date, has largely left licensees to manage their own obligations and the obligations of their representatives, the regulator will now take a more active role in digging down into the activities of advisers, Cowell Clarke partner Hillary Ray, who was formerly counsel within ASIC, said.

“I think we’re going to see a lot more intensive action by ASIC,” Ray said, speaking on the sidelines of the Professional Planner Licensee Summit in the Blue Mountains, west of Sydney, this week. “ASIC is going to move to a more APRA-style of regulation. This means more onsite visits at advice practices and making more detailed enquiries of advice activities.”

She noted that new ASIC chairman James Shipton has said in his recent public appearances that the regulator plans to become more exploratory with its licensee site visits, following the revelations of the Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry.

In the last month, Shipton has delivered speeches to the Senate Economics Legislation Committee and the Australian Council of Superannuation Investors Annual Conference.

“ASIC would like to go on site visits and have much more robust discussions with the licensees,” Ray said. “I think we can expect ASIC to ask for much more granular detail about reps from licensees. So not just, ‘Yes we are monitoring financial advisers’, but also asking about advisers who have been flagged by dealer groups and what action has been taken.”

ASIC will look to define and measure culture within wealth management businesses through licensee audits and visits, she said.

Ray was joined on stage at the Licensee Summit by Louise Macaulay, ASIC’s senior executive leader for financial advice, to discuss the role of regulation in the advice and wealth management industry following the royal commission.

Ray and Macaulay mentioned ASIC’s increased powers of surveillance and monitoring and the role of licensees in reporting complaints and vetting advisers. Macaulay also touched on the mooted individual licensing regime.

“We are entering the era of far greater regulatory scrutiny and ASIC will be taking a much more hands-on approach,” Ray said.

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