Make ASIC a ‘proactive’ watchdog: Kell

ASIC deputy chairman Peter Kell has made the case for stronger banning powers, tougher supervision and higher penalties for wrong-doers.

Speaking to at the Thomson Reuters Regulatory Summit in Sydney last week, ASIC deputy chairman Peter Kell called for a "better toolkit" to lift the standards in the banking, wealth management and insurance sectors.

Pointing to the "unprecedented public scrutiny" of financial services in recent years, Mr Kell urged the government to see through the reforms that are currently underway to strengthen ASIC.

The ASIC Enforcement Review Taskforce, announced by financial services minister Kelly O'Dwyer in October 2016, has sought consultation on a design and distribution obligation and a product intervention power.

Both powers were key recommendations in David Murray's Financial System Inquiry and have been strongly advocated by ASIC.

"Without a flexible power that included remuneration, we may not be able to choose a targeted option and would be in the incongruous position of having to consider a blunt, wide-reaching tool, such as an outright ban, even when a less interventionist approach would be more appropriate," Mr Kell said.

Mr Kell also called for stronger enforcement powers for ASIC.

"The public rightly expects we will take strong action against corporate wrongdoing. We remain firmly committed to a power to ban individuals from managing financial services firms, making management accountable for poor conduct within a firm," Mr Kell said.

"ASIC sees this power as vitally important and an important recommendation out of the Murray inquiry. It is crucial to the effectiveness of such a banning power that the trigger for banning managers and senior executives is available, not just the frontline advisers or distributors," he said.

[Related: ASIC 'troubled' by surge in interest-only loans]

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