While the Australian government considers including private companies in the crowd-sourced funding (CSF) regime, the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) has published Consultation Paper 288 Crowd-sourced funding: Guide for public companies. CP 288 includes a draft Regulatory Guide outlining ASIC’s proposed guidance for public companies which will raise funds through the CSF regime from 28 September 2017, including an explanation of the new Corporations Amendment (Crowd-sourced Funding) Regulations 2017.
The Australian Treasury has announced an independent review into open banking in Australia. Open banking will require banks to share product and customer data with customers and third parties with the consent of the customer. The Government previously announced that the open banking regime would be introduced in 2018 to help customers seek more suitable products and increase competition.
The Australian Treasury has released for consultation, draft legislation which would give the Australian Prudential Regulatory Authority (APRA) prudential regulatory powers in relation to non-bank lenders including marketplace lenders. Non-bank lenders are corporations:
- whose business activities in Australia include the provision of finance such as:
- the lending of money;
- carrying out activities, whether directly or indirectly (such as through a trust), which result in the funding or originating of loans;
- letting or hire-purchase of goods; or
- acquiring debts dues to another person, bills of exchange or promissory notes; and
- with more than $50 million in loan principal amounts outstanding or debts due to it resulting from transactions entered into in the course of providing finance.
On 13 June 2017, the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) entered into a FinTech co-operation agreement with the Hong Kong Securities and Futures Commission (SFC). Soon after, on 23 and 27 June 2017, ASIC also entered into similar arrangements with the Japan Financial Services Agency (JFSA) and the Malaysia Securities Commission (MSC). These arrangements provides a framework for ASIC to work more closely with these regulators.
As a result of these agreements, ASIC, SFC, JFSA and MSC can refer FinTech businesses to each other for advice and support via ASIC’s Innovation Hub, SFC’s FinTech Contact Point, JFSA’s FinTech Support Desk and MSC’s alliance of FINtech community (aFINity). This means Australian FinTech businesses wishing to operate in Hong Kong, Japan or Malaysia will now have a simple pathway for engaging with those countries’ regulators, and vice versa. This can provide valuable assistance for FinTech businesses operating in one jurisdiction which want to better understand the rules in the other.
AGL is currently undertaking a trial to test whether blockchain technology can assist in creating a mechanism for users to trade surplus electricity generated from rooftop solar panels. This trial will use customer data generated from a previous AGL project involving the use in households of smart air conditioners, batteries and solar panels to simulate peer-to-peer trading, demonstrating what trades would have taken place and the value they would have generated.
It is possible that ‘smart contracts’ could automatically sell excess energy in real time to other users when excess energy from solar panels is generated. The use of blockchain in this way could help individual households to trade their own energy more efficiently, making renewable energy more affordable and better integrated with power grids. This is a relatively novel application of blockchain technology, which is the distributed ledger technology underpinning the digital currency Bitcoin.
Steps have been taken this year in Japan and Norway towards the integration of digital currencies such as Bitcoin into the mainstream financial sector. Japan has amended financial laws to include coverage of digital currencies as a type of ‘prepaid payment instrument’, and an online bank in Norway has announced plans to offer clients the ability to link their bank accounts with cryptocurrency accounts.
ASIC is ramping up its focus on regulatory technology (RegTech).
On Friday 26 May 2017, ASIC released its Report 523 titled “ASIC’s Innovation Hub and our approach to regulatory technology”. This report gives an update on the work of ASIC’s Innovation Hub and outlines ASIC’s current and proposed future approach to RegTech.
The report defines RegTech as the use of new technologies to solve regulatory and compliance requirements more effectively and efficiently. These technologies could include use of artificial intelligence, natural language processing, data reporting, regulatory codification and big data analysis technologies.
As part of the Federal Budget 2017-18 released on May 9 the Australian Government announced plans to enhance the regulatory sandbox established by the Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC) last year.
The proposal includes expanding the types of products and services that will be eligible to be tested and extending the testing timeframe from 12 months to 24 months.
Currently sandbox participants can provide financial product advice about, and assist clients to trade in, lower risk financial products such as listed Australian securities, simple managed funds and deposit products. Accordingly, participation in the sandbox is typically limited to intermediary type businesses (eg robo-advisers). ASIC specifically excluded issuing financial products and lending from the sandbox to ensure that consumers received all the usual protections from the issuers. However, the Government proposes to expand the types of financial services and products that are allowed to be tested. Under the proposal, businesses will be able to:
- provide “holistic” financial product advice (presumably on a wider range of financial products);
- lend to consumers; and
- issue short term deposit or payments products (it is unclear what is meant by short term deposit products and how this will interact with the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority oversight usually required for some products of this kind).
On 9 May 2017, the Corporations Amendment (Crowd-sourced Funding for Proprietary Companies) Bill 2017 (Bill) was released for public consultation. If passed into law, the Bill will allow proprietary companies that meet eligibility requirements to access crowd-sourced funding (CSF).
As detailed in a recent blog post on the FinTech Law Watch, CSF will become available in Australia on 28 September 2017 due to the Corporations Amendment (Crowd Sourced Funding) 2016 (Cth) (Act). However, the Act limits the availability of crowd-sourced funding to public unlisted companies.
By Claire de Koeyer and Jim Bulling
The Australian Securities Investment Commission (ASIC) has entered into a Cooperation Agreement (Agreement) with Indonesia’s financial services sector regulator Otoritas Jasa Keuangan (OJK) which focuses on promoting innovation in financial services in their respective markets.
The Agreement establishes a framework for cooperation between ASIC and OJK in the expanding space of financial services innovation, including an agreement to share information on emerging market trends and regulatory issues arising from the growth in innovation.