ASIC Annual Forum 2019 - ASIC Chair's closing remarks

A speech by ASIC Chair, James Shipton at the ASIC Annual Forum 2019, Sydney, 17 May 2019

It has been an extremely important forum for discussing how we need to put people and fairness first in financial services.

It is very clear from the discussions in the last two days that more needs to be done to achieve these twin and complementary goals. It is also clear that this needs to be a viewed as an investment, and not as a cost, in improving business models and bettering business practices.

As you have heard, at ASIC we are working hard to improve the way we do things.

  • We are doing things differently
  • We are changing the way we regulate
  • We are deploying new and improved regulatory tools
  • We are working even more closely with our regulatory peers including APRA and AUSTRAC, and
  • We are putting more structure, discipline and strategy around how we decide what regulatory tools we use to respond to the challenges and harms facing the financial system.

Let me be clear - these challenges are real impediments to achieving a fair, strong and efficient financial system in Australia. Thus, they need thoughtful, considered and robust responses.

These impediments impact people - so the way we respond to them is crucial.

There have been many fascinating and illuminating panel discussions in the last two days.

For me, the one panel that brought all the challenges facing the finance sector together was the ‘Including the excluded’ session earlier today.

The sobering reality is that, just as we need to make the financial system a fairer one, we also need to work harder to include every segment of our community into that system.

This is a core challenge for all of us.

Ultimately, we need a financial system that not only serves every segment of the community but also is one where those who work in it feel proud of being a part of it.

Proud because there is a broader community purpose to what they do and proud because they are professional in how they do it.

Accordingly, pride, purpose and professionalism are at the heart of what the financial services industry needs to achieve.

Accordingly, finance needs to find its noble and human roots - something that resonated with the very thoughtful presentation by Harvard Professor Mihir Desai last night. Finance needs to be a core part of the community, and not removed from it.

If we can achieve this then we will have gone a long way for Australians to have trust and confidence in the financial system - something that is not only what Australians deserve but what is their right.

I will close by highlighting, what I thought, was a perfect articulation of the fairness challenge by Lynda Edwards in the ‘Including the excluded’ panel.  

She said that something that is done that will have a negative outcome for customers is not fair. She is right.

This is exactly the challenge, and discipline, that everyone in finance needs to address. They need the procedural discipline to ask, 'is this practice or product going to cause harm, be detrimental or have a negative consequence?’.

As I said earlier in the day, I am not convinced this level of questioning and procedural discipline has been applied by the financial industry when developing, and reviewing, business practices and financial products.

As Paul Clitheroe and I both said on separate panels – the concept of 'First, do no harm' needs to be embraced in finance.

‘Doing no harm’ is an important note to end on.

And, as I said last year, ‘let’s get on with it”!

Thank you again - I look forward to seeing you all at next year’s Forum.

Last updated: 17/05/2019 12:00