ASIC sets up SMSF taskforce
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Kate Kachor is a journalist with InvestorDaily, a Morningstar publication.
ASIC has formed a taskforce on self-managed superannuation funds (SMSF) to examine the advice that is being provided to investors and consumers who are considering setting up their own super fund.
ASIC commissioner Peter Kell last week informed a parliamentary oversight committee into ASIC of the details of the new taskforce.
"This taskforce we have established has only just been set up," Kell told members of last Wednesday's Parliamentary Joint Committee on Corporations and Financial Services oversight of ASIC hearing.
"We want to do some work, for example, on what is a reasonable balance or a reasonable amount of money that people should have before they should sensibly consider going into an SMSF and use that research as a vehicle for highlighting some of these issues.
"We want to make sure in our discussions with the advisory community, including the accounting community, that they are providing the right information to clients."
He said the taskforce was established because the corporate regulator had concerns about Australia's $400-billion SMSF sector.
"We do have some concerns about some of the advice that is being provided in this space and whether people have sufficient understanding of the responsibilities and sufficient resources to get into that particular vehicle in all cases," he said.
"As part of that, we would be intending to increase some of the information that goes out through MoneySmart and other channels to potential SMSF users to make sure that they do understand what is involved in that area. So it is certainly a growing focus for the commission."
In response to a question about how ASIC intended to liaise with providers of SMSF advice, ASIC chair Greg Medcraft said the corporate regulator's surveillance of financial advisers would come into play.
In Australia there were 3300 "financial services adviser licences" for personal advice, Medcraft said, making reference to the surveillance chart the corporate regulator published last week.
Of this number, ASIC would monitor the top 20 every 1.7 years on average, with the next 30 advisory groups monitored about every 3.8 to four years, he said.
"But the next 3200 licensees we basically see only on a reactive basis," he said.
"I guess the warning we have to Australians is frankly what we have is a system that is based on self-execution and relies on people to do the right thing. It is so important - I will not emphasise this more - that it is up to the gatekeepers to do the right thing.
"The amount of surveillance we do is based on the resources we have. We try and do risk-based surveillance, so we target the largest licensees, and for those where we have complaints we go reactive. But in terms of proactive surveillance with the resources we have, for the first time you can see exactly what we do."
As well as releasing details of its taskforce, ASIC commissioner Greg Tanzer said the regulator was on track with its SMSF auditors' register, with a tender out to providers to find an appropriate competency exam.
"We are currently building a register to enable auditors of self-managed super funds to register from 31 January, and those plans are well in train," Tanzer said.
ASIC said it expected the register would attract auditors in "the order of 6000 to 8000. It might go up to 10,000".
Asked about the requirements for auditors seeking to join the register, Tanzer said ASIC was in the process of finalising the details.
"There are competency requirements, which may include the exam, depending on the level of competency that you have," he said.
"But we are going through the business now of setting exactly what those requirements would be in terms of your particular specialty with respect to a self-managed super fund.
"You have the advantage with an auditor that they have to be a qualified auditor in the first place in order to register. The professional qualification sits there, and on top would go these competency requirements that relate specifically to the competence with respect to self-managed super funds."