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APRA proposes stronger requirements on remuneration to enhance conduct, risk management and accountability

The Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA) has released a draft prudential standard aimed at clarifying and strengthening remuneration requirements in APRA-regulated entities.

In a discussion paper released today for consultation, APRA has proposed creating a new prudential standard to better align remuneration frameworks with the long-term interests of entities and their stakeholders, including customers and shareholders.

Draft prudential standard CPS 511 Remuneration introduces heightened requirements on entities’ remuneration and accountability arrangements in response to evidence that existing arrangements have been a factor driving poor consumer outcomes.

The proposed reforms address recommendations 5.1 to 5.3 from the Final Report of the Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry, which were endorsed by the Government in February. 

The package of measures is materially more prescriptive than APRA's existing remuneration requirements and will place Australia in line with better international remuneration practice.  

Among the key reforms, APRA is proposing: 

  • To elevate the importance of managing non-financial risks, financial performance measures must not comprise more than 50 per cent of performance criteria for variable remuneration outcomes; 
  • Minimum deferral periods for variable remuneration of up to seven years will be introduced for senior executives in larger, more complex entities. Boards will also have scope to recover remuneration for up to four years after it has vested; and
  • Boards must approve and actively oversee remuneration policies for all employees, and regularly confirm they are being applied in practice to ensure individual and collective accountability.

APRA flagged its intention to strengthen prudential requirements on remuneration in April last year following its Review of Remuneration Practices at Large Financial Institutions. The need for a strengthened approach was further underlined by the findings of last year’s Prudential Inquiry into the Commonwealth Bank of Australia, as well as the recent industry self-assessments examining issues on governance, accountability and culture.

APRA Deputy Chair John Lonsdale said it was clear that existing remuneration arrangements in many entities were not incentivising the right behaviours.

“Remuneration and accountability frameworks play an important role in driving employee behaviour. Where policies are poorly designed, or not followed in practice, companies may incentivise conduct that is contrary to the long-term interests of the company and its customers." 

“In the financial sector, APRA has observed an over-emphasis on short-term financial performance and a lack of accountability when failures occur, especially among senior management. This has contributed to a series of damaging incidents that have undermined trust in both individual institutions and the financial industry more broadly. Crucially from APRA’s perspective, these incidents have damaged not only institutions’ reputations, but also their financial positions,” Mr Lonsdale said.

Mr Lonsdale said CPS 511 would complement the Banking Executive Accountability Regime to lift industry standards of accountability and reduce the likelihood of misconduct.

“Limiting the influence of financial performance metrics in determining variable remuneration will encourage executives to put greater focus on non-financial risks, such as culture and governance. As our recent response to the industry self-assessments made clear, this remains a weak spot in many financial institutions."

“Introducing the minimum holding periods for variable remuneration ensures executives have ‘skin in the game’ for longer, and allows boards to adjust remuneration downwards if problems emerge over an extended horizon.

“APRA will not be determining how much employees get paid. Rather, we want to empower boards to more effectively incentivise behaviour that supports the long-term interests of their entities. By reducing the risk of misconduct, we hope to see better outcomes for customers and higher returns for shareholders in the long-term.

“We recognise that some aspects of this proposal are far-reaching and will require major changes to industry practices. APRA will listen closely to feedback from impacted stakeholders to determine if our proposed approach is correctly calibrated to achieve its intended outcomes,” he said.

A three-month consultation period will close on 23 October. APRA intends to release the final prudential standard before the end of 2019, with a view to it taking effect in 2021 following appropriate transitional arrangements.

Copies of the discussion paper and the draft Prudential Standard CPS 511 Remuneration are available on the APRA website at: Consultation on remuneration requirements for all APRA-regulated entities.

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Contact APRA Media Unit, on +61 2 9210 3636

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For more information contact APRA on 1300 558 849.

The Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA) is the prudential regulator of the financial services industry. It oversees banks, mutuals, general insurance and reinsurance companies, life insurance, private health insurers, friendly societies, and most members of the superannuation industry. APRA currently supervises institutions holding around $9 trillion in assets for Australian depositors, policyholders and superannuation fund members.