AMP is again at the coalface with a whistleblower alleging on Four Corners on Monday night that the business was a ‘dictatorship’ and that financial advisers were pressured into selling only AMP products whether they best suited the customer or not.
The latest claims come hard on the heels of revelations extracted from AMP executives at the banking and financial services royal commission that it had lied to the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) at least 20 times.
The fallout claimed the scalps of AMP chairman Catherine Brenner and other board members and saw AMP shares fall by about 20 per cent in a month. The company also faces a shareholder class action that could cost it hundreds of millions of dollars.
Brett Strong told Four Corners he signed on as a self-employed representative of AMP in mid-2013 with the aim of growing his independent financial advice business in NSW.
When he started calling the 2000-plus clients on AMP’s books he found most had had no contact from the company in years, despite being charged a monthly fee.
“The AMP clients were being charged every month automatically and not receiving a red razoo,” he said.
AMP has admitted that over 10 years, it charged more than 15,000 customers $4.7 million in adviser fees even though their financial planner had left the business and not been replaced.
ASIC is investigating AMP and other financial bodies including ANZ, Commonwealth Bank and NAB over fees for advice that was never given.
Mr Strong told ABC’s current affairs program that AMP’s incentives made him feel like “a corporate slut, a bitch to somebody’s command”.
“A puppet would be the best way to describe it,” he said.
“Somebody above me was always going to pull my strings and I was too naive to realise it, or I was too blinded by the incentives.”
He said he resigned after he recommended a long-time client set up a self-managed superannuation fund only to have AMP pressure him to sell an AMP product that would have left his client thousands of dollars a year worse off.
An AMP spokeswoman told Four Corners Mr Strong resigned in March 2014 after it notified him “of compliance issues, including certain advice”.
“AMP will review the claims made by Mr Strong to the Four Corners program,” she said.
“We encourage any of our advisers or employees – past or present – who have witnessed behaviours they believe don’t put customers’ interests first to come forward with their concerns.”
A spokesperson for Shine Lawyers, which is leading a class action against Westpac, said: “Under the Future of Financial Advice (FOFA) enacted in 2015, an obligation is imposed on financial advisers to act in the best interest of your client and when looking at your products and the client, that must involve a consideration of a range of products that are the best fit for your client’s needs, not just the company you work for.”
Has the royal commission rocked your faith in the financial advice sector? Do you believe the banks have cleaned up their act?