Modernising Business Registers Business Advisory Group key messages 16 June 2021
Welcome and introductions
Mary Arrowsmith opened the meeting and welcomed guests and members.
No conflicts were declared.
New member Joseph Vartuli from Creditor Watch was welcomed.
Matthew Addison’s appointment to the role as chair of the Council of Small Business Organisations Australia (COSBOA) was acknowledged.
Alexi Boyd is stepping in for Peter Strong from COSBOA while he takes leave.
Senior Accountable Officer, Michelle Crosby thanked Business Advisory Group (BAG) members for their role in helping to build the registry of the future.
It was noted the program has been talked about for many years and Michelle called out that members, business and industry have advocated strongly and helped to make the Modernising Business Registers (MBR) program a priority for government.
Michelle sees the registry business in two parts. Firstly, the important role of helping businesses meet their obligations to government, and secondly the use of the data. Michelle reminded members of how important data was in helping government agencies to support Australian businesses during the bushfires and COVID-19.
It was noted BAG members are the voice for the people they represent, and we need members help to make contact and support the 2.7 million directors to get registered.
Private beta phase 1 has gone well and it was acknowledged the testing has helped us identify some things to work on, but this was an expected outcome of the private beta.
Michelle noted work is underway to simplify the proof of record ownership (PORO) process and the feedback we have received has helped to influence our teams and the broader ATO that oversees the work.
Treasury updated members on two matters.
Point 1 – there are three links to MBR in the Budget measures:
- Modernising Business Registers Communications Program – improving the way in which businesses will interact with government (not covered through MBR).
- Financial Advisors Register – while this is not a Budget measure it reaffirms part of the budget. There will be more consultation around this in due course.
- Corporate Collecting Investment Vehicles – was a 2016–17 Budget measure. The government has now reinvigorated this measure and it is scheduled to commence from 1 July 2022. The consultation process will look at the impacts for MBR.
Point 2 – The Delegation Model that was put in place to commence MBR, but as companies onboard they will no longer be operating under the delegation model, the Registrar will have this in his own right. Treasury is working on how they keep delegation on for everything else while leaving the Registrar with authority of the Companies register. Treasury will come back to members to advise the way forward.
A question was asked regarding further legislative instruments regarding director ID and companies data base (Tranche 2). Is there a roadmap for when legislative instruments come forward?
- Treasury advised the disclosure frameworks and data standards related to the companies’ register are now Registrar instruments, so in terms of a roadmap this sits with ATO.
Mary Arrowsmith noted ATO are looking at how we sequence the delivery of the companies register and align the forward program underneath those legislative instruments. The ATO law team are working through this and we will bring this topic back to members for discussion at a future meeting.
Director ID update
Damien Hobbin noted the director ID private beta is going well and we have gained valuable insights.
We are doing some work with the Design Working Group around validate API’s. The focus groups have helped to uncover a number of options that are being worked through.
We are moving into quarter 2 technical deployment this weekend which will see some elements of the non-digital components of the director ID application be deployed. This will allow us to open private beta phase 2 and address issues identified in phase 1 which prevented some people from being able to apply.
We are currently reaching out to members and their groups to invite directors into phase 2 testing.
Tammy Gardner noted the six week period for private beta testing phase 1 will close at the end of the week. To date, we have successfully issued 49 director IDs, with six participants being moved phase 2 private beta due to technical issues.
- Some participants were challenged during the PORO process (this is where people are asked to answer two of six secret questions that only they should know). We are working very closely with the digital identity group to understand how we can improve the help text around this. In addition, this feedback is helping to shape how we update our website material to guide people through.
Around June or July the PORO process will be streamlined with the requirement to answer two of six questions reducing to answering just one of the six questions.
A member raised a question regarding the process for overseas directors. Tammy noted foreign directors is part of the private beta phase 2.
- ATO to reach out to member out of session regarding foreign directors.
A member raised concerns from her group about director ID numbers being applicable to company secretaries. It was noted this would require a legislative change.
Treasury noted the concerns around company secretaries including the government’s position on the director ID regime at this stage is for directors of companies. The explanatory memorandum does include flexibility to extend the regime to other office holder roles but that would require legislative change. A disclosure framework provides the Registrar flexibility in what information is publicly available such as date of birth and residential address which may reduce the need for a number specifically for company secretaries. Treasury is always willing to revisit the policy position.
A member noted they have received a request to participate with up to five members in the next round of testing, however their directors have hidden addresses due to the nature of their work.
- ATO to reach out to member out of session to understand the concerns around address disclosure.
Supporting directors to apply
Eleanor Beer introduced Ashely Lock and Suzie Holmes as new leads in director ID space as the team transitions to delivery. Eleanor made special mention and thanked Julia Donohue who is finishing at the end of June. Julia has been instrumental to the work so far.
Assistant Commissioner Martin Jacobs will be director ID business lead.
Ashley Lock gave an update on private beta phase 2 and testing the end to end integration of our systems from telephony through to outbound mail services, and also testing the revised and new web content to support beta participants applying digitally as well as non-digitally. Ashley noted we would welcome any feedback from members.
Suzie Holmes gave an update on the overarching communications approach for the MBR Program which is to support and assist the business community through the changes to the existing registry experience, and also to communicate their obligations. The comms approach is heavily tied to milestones of program and communicating at the point of change.
- The next comms milestone is for director ID transitional arrangements. Predominantly this will be focussed on intermediaries in recognition that agents represent the majority of directors and they inform and support clients.
- The team noted they would like to consult with MBR BAG members and other key stakeholders to help shape material to support their clients. The team will share draft content for feedback out of session.
Initial data on director population
Eleanor Beer took the members through a high level view of the early work being done on director population data analysis.
Michael Van Belkom and Rob Tristram took members though the current state versus future state of the Australian Business Registry Services (ABRS) website.
There are two core principles for the website:
- easy to navigate and the look and feel is consistent.
- to declutter the existing business registry website eco system.
The team have identified some challenges they would like members input and feedback on:
- Challenge 1 – during the transition users and businesses will still need to use alternative website to access the services they need. How do we effectively explore ideas to make this simpler?
- Challenge 2 – how might we design an intuitive website and structure content that makes navigation effortless. What works well on existing websites and what are the pain points?
- Challenge 3 – how might we design a smooth and seamless experience as visitors move between consuming content and searching / interacting with the registry data?
Members asked who the website is being designed for, because agents are interacting with the websites on behalf of their clients.
- It was noted the website is being designed for multiple visitors with different users having different needs. The primary users identified are businesses, intermediaries and industry professionals with other important user groups who are more the consumers of the data.
Individual Registry Record
Allan Gaskill took members through the Individual Registry Record (IRR) which aims to understand the users of the register, and to identify their connections.
The IRR will evolve over time to become the ‘record of truth’ that provides the Registrar with a single view of an individual across the registry and deliver better services to users.
Members raised concerns around potential privacy issues with the IRR and what could be publicly searched.
- It was noted the Registrar will likely have a complete view of the client and the attributes provided and then the disclosure frameworks will dictate what information is suitable for different users.
Members called out the ’tell us once’ principle and asked what will and will not be updated through IRR.
- It was acknowledged the messaging will need to be clear around what will and won’t be updated.
Members called out complexity of some structures and noted this will need robust testing.
- It was acknowledged complex structures will be included in testing.
Members will be invited to consult further on the IRR through future focus groups.
Linking of director ID
Beatrice McAlister gave an update from the focus group on linking the director ID.
Beatrice called out the ‘moment that matters’ is when we marry up the director ID held in IRR with the entity record. This is when we verify a real person is connected to a company record.
It was noted it is a company’s obligation to keep the information about the director on the entity current, it is the responsibility of the individual to keep their IRR records up to date, however there is no legal obligation to do so.
We heard from members the expectation is the IRR is the ‘master record’ or point of truth about a client.
Options for linking existing records are:
- automatically on migration through systems
- where we cannot match automatically it can a manual process.
For a new director:
- manual linking during registration or director appointment.
Potential matching pre migration might be done through communications channels, via the annual statement / review, or a bulk process for agents.
It was noted directors will never be linked without their knowledge and a notification will be sent to the director using their contact details on the IRR record. The agent will also be notified.
It was acknowledged that agents want the options for cleaning up data and verifying a director. This option is being explored with the legal team due to privacy concerns.
Intermediary experience – insights from out of session focus groups
This agenda item held over due to time constraints – the insights from the focus groups will be shared with members out of session.
Wrap and close
Mary thanked everyone for their time.
Summary of key topics discussed at the Modernising Business Registers Business Advisory Group meeting 16 June 2021.