Regulators need to sharpen up communication

Financial services regulators

The SMSF Association has called on financial services regulators to improve their communication regarding the sector so as to eliminate any negative and unwarranted misconceptions and worries in the minds of stakeholders.

During an address at Pritchitt Partners’ New Year function, SMSF Association John Maroney used the ATO’s recent activity scrutinising the investment strategy of particular funds to illustrate this point.

“The ATO caused a bit of a kerfuffle when it wrote to 18,000 self-managed super funds saying it was concerned about the levels of exposure to a single asset class. It turns out [the ATO] was just focused on funds that have over 90 per cent of their assets in a single property with gearing,” Maroney told the event in Sydney last week.

“Now we’re concerned about property shops and other things, but we think the ATO could have clearer communication rather than frightening everyone in the whole system.

“[Why] frighten 1 million people when the concern was [over] a particular subset that perhaps needed to think again about whether their investment strategy and the way they were executing that was fine?”

He said the ATO is not the only regulator he thought needed improvement in the area of communication and to this end was also critical of a paper the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) released late last year about the SMSF sector.

“We are less supportive of things like what ASIC published last year as an SMSF fact sheet, which we thought was quite unbalanced and inappropriately used some of the tax office statistics,” he said.

He pointed out his calls were not downplaying the role of the regulators.

“Regulators are an important, necessary part [of the industry], but the more they can constructively engage and really try and target their efforts to where the problem is and not have a broad-brush approach [the better],” he noted.

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