ASIC Chair James Shipton said he is “excited” about the use of artificial intelligence that can monitor phone conversations in financial services, but has insisted that he doesn’t want to create a “police state” in Australia.

Speaking at a CFA conference in Sydney, Shipton said the regulator was trialling the use of voice signal analytics technology that can listen and analyse conversations that would take humans “hours upon hours” to do. He said the technology could help ensure an execution of professionalism in the industry.

“That’s not just good for us, that’s good for the industry itself,” he told delegates. “We don’t want to create a police state with any of this. What we do want is to create an environment where there is confidence and assurance, through the use of technology tools, a professional culture and a focus on non-financial risk.”

The corporate regulator received $6 million in funding last year to trial the use of AI and other technologies in its operations. ASIC commissioner John Price said in March that they were looking at ways of using AI to detect misleading online advertising for financial products.

Shipton said ASIC envisages a future where AI ­– including machine learning, text and voice analytics – becomes a “seamless component” of financial services that will “improve risk and compliance outcomes at scale with greater efficiency and at a reduced cost.”

“I am generally excited about the regtech piece and artificial intelligence,” Shipton said. “A member of parliament was saying the other day that he gets excited when the regulator gets excited, so that must really mean that it is exciting. I think he is right.”

Speaking more generally, Shipton said the “art” of regulation was about applying different tools and using different combinations to fix various problems. He added that they had “tremendous support” from the government, thanks to a $400 million boost in funding over four years.

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