Whose AFSL are union officers working under?

The Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) has signalled it may review the activities of union superannuation liaison officers and whether they are providing financial advice if it is deemed a priority issue.

However the regulator has also signalled that the activities of the union liaison officers may, in any case, be picked up as part of its current review of intra-fund advice.

The regulator has revealed its attitude in an answer to a question on notice from Tasmanian Liberal Senator, David Bushby in which he had questioned whether union liaison officers had been providing personal advice, general advice or both and whether the unions concerned held an Australian Financial Services License (AFSL) to cover the provision of such advice.

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ASIC responded that the issue of whether the superannuation liaison officers are providing financial product advice depended upon the role and function they were performing.

"It is possible that the liaison officers described could be providing both types of financial product advice," the ASIC response said. "As long as the AFSL authorises a person to provide advice in certain areas, such as superannuation, and the adviser meets all of the requirements under the Corporations Act (for example, the best interests test, and holds the appropriate qualifications), ASIC would not take any further action. However, if we received a complaint that the advice provided was inadequate, we could consider taking further action in these circumstances."

It said trustees holding an appropriate authorisation on their AFSL may now opt to provide intra-fund advice and added that ASIC undertaking "review work this year which will look at how trustees are implementing new intra-fund advice models.

The ASIC response said the regulator was unaware of any trade unions holding AFSLs but noted that "the authorisation to provide advice may come from the superannuation trustee or, in some instances, another third party licensee".

"Provided appropriate licences and authorisations are in place, ASIC can monitor compliance with relevant advice-related obligations," it said.

"ASIC cannot comment on this specific arrangement but in general we undertake proactive and reactive reviews of advice providers. If a need to target a specific area was necessary we would consider it in line with ASIC's priorities."

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