ASIC announces key priorities in Corporate Plan 2023-27

The Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) unveils its forward-looking Corporate Plan, spotlighting initiatives to counter emerging threats, combat misconduct, and harness technology for a resilient financial landscape.

The Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) has revealed its strategic blueprint to navigate the intricate terrain of modern finance, embarking on initiatives to shield Australian consumers and small businesses from a rapidly evolving spectrum of financial risks.

Underpinning the strategy is the recognition that the financial landscape is undergoing substantial transformation, rife with scams, digitally-enabled misconduct, and predatory lending practices. The release of ASIC’s latest Corporate Plan outlines a proactive response to these challenges, solidifying the regulator’s commitment to upholding market integrity and promoting consumer confidence.

Joe Longo, Chair of ASIC, remarked on the organization’s achievements and the challenges ahead, stating, “Throughout the past year, we have made important progress in delivering on our long-term plans, guided by the four-year strategic priorities we announced last year: product design and distribution, sustainable finance practices, retirement outcomes, and technology risks. This plan outlines how we will continue on this trajectory, delivering stronger and more targeted outcomes alongside our ongoing regulatory and enforcement work.”

Steering Australia’s financial sector through an era of transformation and challenges

An underlying theme in the plan is ASIC’s commitment to enforcement and regulatory action. Over the past year, ASIC demonstrated its prowess as an active and effective regulator, pursuing 125 criminal actions that yielded 92 convictions and 39 custodial sentences. Civil actions saw over 130 successful claims and imposed penalties of over $500 million, reinforcing ASIC’s formidable stance against misconduct.

ASIC’s priorities at a glance:

  • Product design and distribution
  • Sustainable finance
  • Retirement outcomes
  • Technology risks
  • Core strategic projects
  • Scams
  • Sustainable finance practices
  • Crypto-assets
  • Design and distribution obligations
  • Cyber and operational resilience
  • Digital technology and data

ASIC’s plan outlines a series of key priorities aimed at safeguarding the Australian financial ecosystem:

Protecting Consumers and Small Businesses: Amid rising inflation and interest rates, ASIC’s focus sharpens on predatory lending practices and non-compliance with new consumer protections, particularly regarding small amount credit contracts and consumer leases. The regulator aims to counter conduct that disproportionately impacts small businesses and unfair contract terms, all while actively working to identify and disrupt scams.

Crypto-assets and Sustainable Finance: The ascent of crypto-assets and the ever-growing importance of sustainable finance practices have emerged as prominent concerns. ASIC pledges to combat scams involving crypto-assets, extending support to whole-of-government policy initiatives while ensuring market integrity during the transition to sustainable finance practices.

Digital Transformation and AI: The fast-evolving digital landscape has prompted ASIC to proactively engage with artificial intelligence (AI) and other emerging technologies. The regulator is committed to understanding the implications and opportunities these technologies offer, with the intent to explore their potential uses within its operations as a leading digitally enabled, data-informed regulator.

Market Resilience and Infrastructure: Recognizing the impact of technology on financial markets, ASIC will oversee the ASX’s implementation of the CHESS replacement program, ensuring regulatory expectations and obligations are met. The organization, in collaboration with the Reserve Bank of Australia, seeks to strengthen market infrastructure resilience.

Harnessing Sustainable Finance: Environmental, social, and governance (ESG) concerns are driving seismic shifts in financial reporting and disclosure standards globally. As part of its commitment to sustainable finance practices, ASIC will actively supervise entities to prevent misleading sustainability claims while facilitating industry adaptation to new disclosure requirements.

Chair Joe Longo underscored ASIC’s commitment to continuous evolution, stating, “A key priority for ASIC is to monitor the implementation of our new structure and our operational and regulatory efficiency work more broadly, to ensure we achieve our aims.” He highlighted the critical role of innovation and technological adoption within the regulator’s operations and reinforced ASIC’s dedication to safeguarding consumers, market integrity, and the broader Australian financial ecosystem.

As ASIC steers toward the future, the organization’s comprehensive approach underscores its pivotal role in fostering a resilient financial landscape. The Corporate Plan unveils a regulator that is well-equipped, forward-thinking, and adaptable – qualities that will be instrumental in steering Australia’s financial sector through an era of transformation and challenges.