If you are an Australian Financial Services Licensee or Credit Licensee, it is important that you are aware of the Australian Securities and Investments Commission’s (ASIC) Indigenous Financial Services Framework (Framework). In early 2023, ASIC released the Framework in an effort to assist First Nations people to achieve positive financial outcomes. The Framework was developed in response to the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander consumers and investors who have been adversely affected by misconduct in the financial services industry. All Licensees should ensure that their services meet the consumer protection obligations under the law.
Through a broad consultation process, ASIC identified key areas of concern they aimed to address with the new Framework:
- First Nations people had unique, well-established economies prior to colonisation that continue today and should be understood and maintained;
- First Nations people have been prohibited and excluded from participating in the Australian financial system;
- Financial wellbeing affects all aspects of First Nations people’s lives; and
- First Nations people have many different versions of financial success that need to be accepted in the wider community.
ASIC has used the above findings to guide the development of the Framework and has established several long term goals which will require participation from each of ASIC’s stakeholders. These goals are outlined in ASIC’s Reconciliation Action Plan 2023 -2026 and include:
- Reducing the impact of harm and misconduct on individuals and communities;
- Providing accessible and appropriate financial products and services;
- Increasing holistic service provision and delivery; and
- Establishing positive and culturally appropriate experiences when engaging with the financial services industry and other service providers.
Impact on the Financial Services Industry
The Framework has outlined key areas which participants in the financial services and credit industries should begin implementing into their systems. ASIC is encouraging all stakeholders in the financial services or credit industries to engage with the findings of the consultations and develop an understanding of First Nations people’s perspectives and experiences. This understanding should be ingrained into a financial firm’s conduct, and products and services should be adapted to align with ASIC’s findings.
ASIC plans to continue to develop this Framework and will continue to hold consultations with First Nations people as well as hold tailored industry workshops. These workshops will detail how the financial services industry can use platforms and information sharing to strengthen knowledge of systemic issues and emerging themes, allowing further understanding of First Nations consumers’ satisfaction with financial services and products.
ASIC’s approach to helping First Nations people is highly dependent on the financial services industry. Financial firms are encouraged to commit to continuous improvement of their customer service to include culturally appropriate conduct and hold themselves accountable for the quality of their service with First Nations people. ASIC notes that strong regulatory action and enforcement is critical to ensuring fair service to consumers and the protection of their rights. Therefore, all licensees should read the Framework and ASIC’s Action Plan to ensure they are following ASIC’s advice and guidelines in helping to achieve positive financial outcomes for First Nations people.
In 2009, ASIC established the Indigenous Outreach Program (Program) to help build and maintain relationships in urban, regional and remote communities across Australia. The Program involved a specialist team that provided advice and support to ASIC to ensure their engagement with First Nations people was culturally appropriate. The team worked with industry, service providers and other government agencies to facilitate positive financial outcomes for First Nations people. Fast forward to 2019 and ASIC adopted a more proactive approach to the Program and began consulting and collaborating with First Nations people.
Between 2019 and 2022 ASIC held several consultations with a number of key stakeholders to increase ASIC’s awareness of the needs, experiences and perspectives of First Nations people that actively engaged with the Financial Services industry. The phases of these consultations included:
- First Nations Leaders Roundtable;
- First Nations Financial Counsellor and Financial Capability Worker Network;
- National Service Provider Consultations;
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community consultations;
- Government engagements; and
- Financial Services industry workshops.
- ASIC’s Indigenous Financial Services Framework
- ASIC’s Indigenous Outreach Program
- ASIC’s Stretch Reconciliation Action Plan 2023 – 2026