Financial Services Conduct and Culture Review
The Reserve Bank of New Zealand (RBNZ) and the Financial Markets Authority (FMA) today briefed the Finance and Expenditure Select committee on the Australian Royal Commission (RC) into Misconduct in Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry, and the response by regulators in New Zealand.
The Australian RC was established on 14 December 2017 in response to a series of known, misconduct incidents widespread within financial services over a lengthy period. The RC is expected to issue an initial report in September 2018 and a final report, with recommendations, by February 2019.
New Zealand regulators’ response
New Zealand regulators have been monitoring the RC since it was initiated, and have discussed matters with Australian regulators on a number of occasions. The FMA has been implementing and supervising conduct regulation in NZ since the passing of the Financial Markets Conduct Act in late 2013. This was followed by the publication of the FMA Conduct Guide in February 2017.
Our concern about the RC’s impact on confidence in our financial institutions and the potential for complacency in the New Zealand industry led us to take action. On 30 April, the RBNZ Governor and the FMA Chief Executive met with 16 chief executives of New Zealand banks, including the four major Australian-owned banks. We sought assurance that the issues identified in Australia were not evident in New Zealand.
Following the meeting with bank CEOs, the RBNZ and the FMA, with the support of the Commerce Commission, wrote to 10 locally-incorporated New Zealand banks with major retail operations on 3 May, initiating a “review of conduct and culture by New Zealand financial services entities”. Banks were given a deadline of 18 May to respond. Notwithstanding that insurance has not featured in the RC at this stage, we wrote similarly to 15 major life insurance companies on 23 May, asking that they respond by 22 June.
In our monitoring work to date we have not seen evidence of widespread, systemic issues to warrant a commission of inquiry in New Zealand. However, the work we have initiated may test this view.
Assessment of bank responses
11 banks provided their responses by the 18 May deadline. A joint working group of FMA and RBNZ staff is reviewing the responses. The Commerce Commission is also reviewing matters relevant to its remit.
- The submissions are generally extensive and for the most part appear relevant to our request.
- Preliminary assessment has identified some variance in detail and the extent of work already completed and expected to be conducted in the future.
- Some responses indicate a proactive approach to conduct risk, while other banks have not yet begun to fully embed conduct risk, governance or oversight into their operations. We will be following up with all the banks on these aspects.
- The responses also cover:
- a description of internal and external reviews conducted in recent years
- future programmes of work to address a number of areas and provide additional assurance
- examples of issues identified and their remediation processes.
Following the initial assessment, we will be requesting further information and verification where necessary. A high bar will be set in meeting our expectations and demonstrating a sufficient level of assurance in regard to good conduct and culture.
Currently we consider it is appropriate to prioritise our work on banks and life insurers, we haven’t made any decision as to whether to expand that focus in the future.
It is important to note that a number of relevant legislative frameworks are already under review, and both the FMA and RBNZ have significant existing work programmes across a number of relevant sectors.
As we progress our inquiries, we will also identify any areas within the framework for regulation of retail financial services where we consider there are regulatory or supervisory gaps or inefficiencies. We expect to report on these findings in October/November. This timing partly reflects the timing of the initial report from the RC, by 30 September, 2018.
Supplementary information on existing reviews:
- The Financial Services Legislative Amendment Bill currently before the Economic Development Select Committee will strengthen the financial advice regime.
- A review of Insurance Contracts law has been commenced by the Minister of Commerce and Consumer Affairs.
- MBIE is also undertaking a review of the regulation of consumer credit under the Credit Contracts and Consumer Finance Act that will address irresponsible and predatory lending.
- Bank incentive structures for sales are being reviewed by the FMA and will be reported on by the end of the year.
- FMA has just reported on its review of soft commissions offered to advisers by insurance providers. A report on the FMA review of insurance replacement business practices of authorised firms is to be published in early July.
- Last year the RBNZ undertook a thematic review of the bank director attestation regime. Primary responsibility of bank directors and senior managers for managing risks is a fundamental element of prudential regulation and supervision. As a consequence of the review RBNZ has adjusted its annual engagement plan to increase the number of director meetings.
- The RBNZ engages regularly with bank boards to discuss how they manage risk within their businesses.
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