James Shipton previously worked as a commission member of the Hong Kong Securities and Futures Commission and was most recently executive director of the programme on international financial systems at Harvard Law School.
The Aussie native also worked for Goldman Sachs as managing director of the Asian executive office and head of government and regulatory affairs for Asia Pacific.
Shipton told a parliamentary committee into the oversight of Asic on Friday that he was supportive of Australia bringing in a regime similar to the UK, US and Hong Kong, where financial planners take intensive, high-level exams to obtain and retain their qualifications, reports local newspaper Sydney Morning Herald.
Financial planners in Australia are currently required to pass tests to obtain their qualifications but critics have argued that the standard of test is inferior to other countries.
His statement came days after a royal commission held its first hearing. The major public inquiry will look into alleged misconduct by the banking, superannuation and financial services sectors.
Shipton told the committee: “The US, UK and Hong Kong have broad-brush exams and I am very much in support [of that] … It’s something we will continue to have a look at.”
During his career, Shipton has passed financial services exams in all three jurisdictions, describing them as challenging.
He added: “I see competency requirements – ongoing as well as entry – as an important potential regulatory tool to apply in a number of different sectors.
Under legislation introduced in 2016, both new and existing financial planners in Australia will have to undertake continuing professional development from January 2019 and will have to pass an industry exam by 1 January 2021.
Shipton was appointed to head up Asic for a period of five years, effective from 1 February 2018.
He succeeds Greg Medcraft, who has taken up a senior role with the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
Kelly O’Dwyer, financial services minister, told reporters: “Mr Shipton’s experience cuts across academia, regulation, the financial industry and also the law. He has been engaged in this space for more than 20 years.
“He brings incredibly wide market and regulatory knowledge, as well as international experience in London, Hong Kong, Singapore and most recently the United States.”
Shipton, speaking after O’Dwyer, acknowledged that “the challenges ahead for Australia’s financial system and its regulators are significant”.
“I intend to assure that Asic will be a strong, proactive, efficient, innovative and strategic regulator, that will utilise its many regulatory tools; including gatekeeping, supervising and enforcing.”