This week SiN gained an insight into the latest strategic planning process being undertaken by the Australian Restructuring Insolvency & Turnaround Association (ARITA) and ARITA chief executive John Winter, who was in Melbourne yesterday at the ARITA Tas/SA State Conference, confirmed the existence and content of the agenda.
“The current strategic plan was 2017 so it’s an appropriate time,” Winter said. “We’ve retained the strategy advisers we previously used – Norton Crumlin who are well known to the profession including Jack Crumlin – a former IP and member.”
So, what is the agenda, and what’s Winter’s take on it?
1) Expansion beyond Australia?
“This was already in our existing plan but was not a high priority. Our focus will always be on Australia first and foremost to support our members. But our members are increasingly looking to Asia and so we want to pivot to be able to support that.
“It will never be a boots on the ground strategy considering we only currently have a Sydney office now – we’d support other local offices before that ever happened and even that’s not within our current capacity.”
2) Should ARITA’s current assertive stance with regulators be maintained?
“We aim to strongly represent the needs of our members in every domain. We’ve got a great working relationship with both ASIC and AFSA as well as Treasury and the Attorney General’s Department (AGD). But we each have our own constituencies and respect that each has to advocate for those constituencies. However, we won’t ever resile from representing our members’ best interests. That’s why they join.”
3) Media and public perceptions of the insolvency profession – is there a strategy to attempt to improve that perception?
“Absolutely. We all know this is the profession’s greatest challenge. It’s always going to be difficult changing the perception of practitioners when we are dealing with people going through such profound loss. Our focus is on advocating people seeking help earlier in the financial distress spectrum so we can help save people and businesses before it’s too late.
“In 2017 we are going to focus on “community education” to help improve people’s understanding of insolvency through a number of plain English guides. We want members to be able to rely on these to help educate those caught up in an insolvency and prevent the need for complaints,” Winter said.
4) Discipline: can more be done to try and achieve consistency of outcomes?
“Our outcomes are consistent. We are cognisant of precedent in all of the Professional Conduct Committee (PCC) decisions. Part of our strategic planning will be a deep consideration of what we do in the conduct space with the Insolvency Law Reform Australia (ILRA) coming in and ASIC user pays. These twin issues may call for a significant rethink,” Winter said without further elaboration.
5) Should ARITA be doing anything about pre-insolvency advisors and if it should, what are options are open to it?
“This is completely an issue for government and regulators. Our focus is on making government aware of just how badly pre-insolvency advisors are eroding and undermining the market. We are deeply concerned that the ASIC’s user pays funding is actually going to promote the pre-insolvency offering by loading up costs on those who are doing the right thing as opposed to these dodgy providers,” Winter said.
No doubt there’ll be some who’ll take issue with aspects of the above responses, particularly in regards to the organisation’s relationship with ASIC which some ARITA members fear is not so much assertive as adversarial.
The challenge is getting the balance right but we’ll have to wait until November and the delivery of the Crumlin review to get a better picture of the course ARITA intends to plot on the journey to 2020.