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The general test is that you need an AFSL if you carry on a financial services business.
The first step is determining whether you are providing a financial service. The most common financial services are:
Financial services are only provided in relation to financial products.
What is a financial product? A financial product includes shares, options, superannuation products (including SMSFs), insurance products, units in a unit trust, derivatives and foreign exchange products.
What isn’t a financial product? Direct real property and bullion are not financial products and can be held and dealt with without an AFSL. However these assets are often purchased or funded in ways which renders the underlying structure a financial product (i.e. through a unit trust).
If you are providing financial services in respect of financial products, the next step requires an analysis of the financial services provided and whether they are exempt from the AFSL regime.
If you are providing a financial service which is not exempt, then you need an AFSL to engage in that activity. Depending on the financial services provided, you may alternatively be able to provide the activity as an authorised representative of another AFSL holder instead of holding your own AFSL.