AMP chair Catherine Brenner and chief counsel Brian Salter’s resignations yesterday had been very widely telegraphed outside the Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry.

The main discussion point was this: why on earth did they wait so long before tapping the proverbial mat?

What’s chilling is the realisation that what AMP needs is an impartial, independent and well-resourced review of how it got into this mess, starting with charging clients for advice they never got; a situation AMP management knew of.

Of course, they tried that with lawyers Clayton Utz: only they couldn’t keep their hands off the conclusions and it was subject to 25 revisions agreed between AMP and the lawyers.

As counsel assisting Rowena Orr QC put it to Commissioner Ken Hayne on Friday: “AMP adopted an attitude towards the regulator [ASIC] that was not forthright or honest and demonstrated an attempt to mislead.”

It’s pretty draining for the normal reader to see Australia’s best-known life insurance company accused of lying. What it must be like for its many honest employees and advisers doesn’t bear thinking about.

Stand by for AMP’s annual meeting on May 10, where protest votes and angry speeches will be the order of the day.

Taking a helicopter view, it’s scary to realise there’s no perfect model out there unless we entirely replace trailing commissions with fee-for-service, systematically demolish the vertically integrated model and at the same time hugely reinforce the oversight of advisory businesses and advisors that claim to be independent.

No pressure, as they say.

Mixed blessings

The royal commission has done a sensational job of using case studies to highlight the shortcomings of the vertically integrated (thanks AMP, CBA, Westpac) and the independent model (see Sam Henderson and Terry McMaster) for financial advice.

As we look back over the past two weeks of hearings, we’re in the situation now where Hayne must be wondering where to start, never mind go, with his eventual recommendations.

Governments swallow royal commission recommendations like oysters, adopting them wholesale because to do otherwise would be political suicide.

That’s a mixed blessing for the commissioner, who knows better than anyone that he’d better get it right.