AustralianSuper has publicly endorsed the CFA’s Asset Manager Code of Professional Conduct, as part of a bid to get the code more widely adopted by fund managers.

The code outlines the ethical and professional responsibilities of firms that manage assets on behalf of clients and is an attempt to get uniformity of basic standards worldwide.

Over 1000 investment management firms worldwide have signed up to the code – the full list can be seen here, but the only domestically based and Australian owned signatories are: AustralianSuper, CFSGAM, Constellation Capital Management, Fortius Funds Management, IFM, Magellan, Redpoint Investment Management and Wingate.

One barrier to take up is the desire of fund managers to stick to their own tailored code of conduct, according to Mark Delaney, deputy chief executive and chief investment officer at AustralianSuper, who also sits on the CFA Asset Manager Code global advisory committee.

AustralianSuper enforces the code for all its external managers as a part of a wider set of standards it has created and Delaney says it aligns with the commitment to protect and maximize members’ retirement outcomes.

Another barrier to higher take up is the need to get buy-in from not only chief executives at fund management firms, but the heads of compliance and legal, says Anthony Serhan, president of CFA Society Sydney.

Fund manager compliance departments were already busy in such firms, he said, but the goal is worth it.

“You do not just want companies signing it and not thinking about implementation,” he said. “They should look at the code and say ‘to what extent do our internal codes cross-check with this?’ And ‘are we happy to put in place other protocols to make sure we can comply?’”

The move from AustralianSuper coincided with a speech given by Greg Medcraft, chair of ASIC to a Senate Estimates hearing, in which he revealed that financial services firms would soon be liable to losing their licences if their culture was found to be inadequate.

“Areas we are planning to target are those where poor practices may increase the potential for poor conduct, and therefore increase the risk to investor and consumer trust and confidence,” said Medcraft.

He added that culture will now be incorporated into ASIC risk-based surveillance reviews.

The CFA’s Asset Manager Code states that fund managers have the following responsibilities to their clients.

  • To act in a professional and ethical manner at all times
  • To act for the benefit of clients
  • To act with independence and objectivity
  • To act with skill, competence, and diligence
  • To communicate with clients in a timely and accurate manner
  • To uphold the rules governing capital markets