Australia faces significant challenges as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, and a textbook approach to planning and strategy will not adequately address these challenges.
The Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) has adapted its strategic planning process to address the COVID-19 pandemic, setting priorities according to the most significant threats.
In its Interim Corporate Plan 2020–21, ASIC outlines its strategic priorities in light of the pandemic. These priorities will evolve and be expanded upon when ASIC details its longer term priorities in the 2020–24 corporate plan later this year.
Why does ASIC need to reassess its priorities due to COVID-19?
ASIC states that there are heightened consumer and corporate vulnerabilities as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Increasing consumer vulnerabilities include:
- Increasing economic uncertainty.
- Widespread job losses.
- Increased instances of scams, fraud and cybercrime targeting vulnerable consumers.
- The marketing of high-cost, short-term credit products that may not be suitable.
- Rising insurance premiums, which may cause policyholders to reduce coverage or allow policies to lapse.
Increasing corporate vulnerabilities include:
- Some businesses may struggle to survive an extended shutdown period.
- Declining numbers of registered liquidators, which may lead to an incapacity to respond to the potential significant increase in insolvencies.
- Increased vulnerability to cyber attacks due to the rapid increase in remote working.
ASIC is focusing on five key priorities to address the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Protecting consumers from harm
- Taking action against predatory lending.
- Disrupting the mis-selling of harmful products and the provision of poor advice.
- Targeting scams and cyber misconduct.
- Ensuring that businesses offer appropriate support and provide accurate information to consumers.
- Engaging with industry stakeholders.
- Provision of information to consumers to help with financial management.
Maintaining financial system resilience and stability
- Ensuring the smooth and continuous operation of markets.
- Responding to market abuse.
- Monitoring and enforcing continuous disclosure requirements.
- Supporting the efficient administration of companies in insolvency.
- Enabling the sound and fair operation of managed investments.
Supporting Australian businesses
- Providing temporary relief to facilitate the operations of businesses, such as capital raisings to help listed companies raise capital quickly.
- Providing relief in further areas such as extended deadlines for lodgement of financial reports.
- Publishing guidance on the financial reporting and audit implications of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Combating conduct of serious harm
- Receiving and acting on reports of misconduct and whistleblower reports, including those related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Targeting scams and misleading conduct.
- Seeking court-based outcomes against wrongdoers that pose the greatest threat to vulnerable consumers.
- Targeting illegal phoenix activity.
- Targeting market misconduct such as insider trading.
- Combating misconduct that relates to superannuation and insurance.
- Addressing new types of misconduct, such as those using emerging technologies.
Additionally, ASIC continues to work on previously prioritised enforcement matters such as those arising from the Royal Commission, and other high deterrence matters.
Building organisational capacity
ASIC will identify and address operational vulnerabilities, exploring innovative ways to identify threats such as through use of data analytics and social media tools.
ASIC will also focus on ensuring that it can continue to operate effectively throughout these challenging times through the use of remote working arrangements, and by providing staff with the means to effectively conduct investigations and litigation in a COVID-19 environment.