Archive:October 24, 2016

Are robo-advisers required to act in their clients best interests?
A digital currency for Australia
ING takes first step towards open banking in UK

Are robo-advisers required to act in their clients best interests?

By Jim Bulling and Michelle Chasser

In Australia, robo-advisers providing personal financial product advice must comply with the statutory fiduciary duty to act in the client’s best interests. The Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) has made it clear that the duty is technology neutral and applies to robo-advisers as well as traditional advisers. ASIC also clearly stated its position that robo-advisers are able to comply with the duty (Regulatory Guide 255)

Robo-advisers in the US do not currently have the same clarity as their Australian counterparts. US advisors are subject to fiduciary duties from a number of sources depending on the type of advice given and the type of adviser giving it. The Massachusetts Securities Division (MSD) has stated that robo-advisers and traditional advisers have the same fiduciary duty. However, MSD and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) have raised questions over robo-advisers’ ability to comply with the duty and hold themselves out to be fiduciaries. MSD is particularly concerned that from its research it appeared to be usual for robo-advisers not to perform any significant due diligence on their client’s circumstances which is needed to make appropriate investment decisions. The SEC is currently working on a fiduciary rule for advisers with plans to release the proposal in April 2017.

In the UK, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has developed the Principles for Businesses (PRIN) which includes the requirement to pay due regard to the interests of customers and treat them fairly. The FCA has stated that the PRIN applies to all regulated firms including robo-advisers. The FCA established an Advice Unit to provide particular guidance to robo-advisers in June 2016.

A digital currency for Australia

By Jim Bulling and Meera Sivanathan recently launched Australia’s first digital dollar. The e-currency, which is digitally ‘minted’ as electronically signed coins and banknotes can be used on various devices including smartphones and computers. currently operates under an exemption ruling by the Reserve Bank of Australia, which limits the total obligations to make payments under the facility to $10 million.

There is no doubt that digital currencies have potential uses in several areas of the Australian economy. More recently, Australia’s big banks have indicated interest in possible adoption of digital currencies. Keeping this in mind, there are a few key opportunities and risks associated with the use of digital currencies that corporations might wish to consider: Read More

ING takes first step towards open banking in UK

By Jonathan Lawrence

The Dutch multinational banking and financial services corporation, ING, is returning to the UK by launching a mobile app to help customers manage their money across multiple accounts. Last week ING unveiled Yolt, an app that aggregates data from accounts at different financial institutions, with their customers’ approval. As ING does not provide loans or take deposits in the UK, its new app will only include information on accounts held at other banks and credit card companies. It is one of the UK’s first examples of a bank providing a platform for customers to manage money held by rivals.

The UK Competition and Markets Authority called in August 2016 for high-street banks to adopt a digital standard called “open banking” by 2018. This will allow customers, if they agree, to have their account details and transaction history shared with third parties. For more details on the CMA report, click here.

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