Super fintechs may get regulatory breathing space

The Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) has moved to clear the way for financial services technology start-ups by canvassing a "regulatory sandbox" approach which would allow companies to test certain financial services for six months without holding an Australian Financial Services Licence (AFSL).

The regulator has canvassed the new approach within an industry consultation paper released this week which substantially reflects the policy approach outlined by the Government before the calling of the 2 July Federal Election.

ASIC has outlined the options it is considering as being:

  • Option 1 — provide additional guidance about how we assess whether a responsible manager has the appropriate knowledge and skills under Option 5 of RG 105 (including what we may consider to be appropriate knowledge and skills);
  • Option 2 — modify our guidance under Option 5 of RG 105 to allow heavily automated (but small-scale) businesses to rely, in part, on sign-off from an appropriately experienced third party in order to meet their organisational competence obligation;
  • Option 3 — provide a conditional, industry-wide exemption to allow new Australian businesses to test certain financial services for six months without holding an AFSL (also referred to as the "regulatory sandbox exemption");
  • Option 4 — a combination of Options 1-3; and
  • Option 5 — maintain the status quo.
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Commenting on the options paper, ASIC Commissioner, John Price said the regulator had sought to identify the major obstacles via its so-called innovation hub.

"We believe the measures proposed in this consultation paper will help to lower barriers to entry faced by fintech start-ups by providing cost reductions and promoting efficiency in the provision of financial services whilst maintaining the fundamental principles of the regulatory and licensing framework," he said.

Price said the proposed licensing exemption compared favourably to measures in other jurisdictions as it would allow some fintech businesses to commence testing of certain product offerings in the absence of detailed assessment by the regulator.

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