Former advisers at Queensland-based AFSL holder MyPlanner Professional Services (MPL) reveal how a simple compliance breach back in 2017 sparked off a chain of events that would lead to a mass-exodus from its affiliated workforce and the firm’s eventual placement into administration.
Last week ASIC cancelled the AFS licence of MPL after it was placed into liquidation only a few days earlier. The cancellation comes after MPL’s majority owner, Anvia Holdings Corporation, lost its appeal to stop a suspension from ASIC that would have seen the group shut down for ten weeks.
Speaking anonymously to Professional Planner, several advisers formerly licensed by MPL spoke to the “chaos” inside the group in recent years.
“The advisers lost faith in the running of the business,” one adviser said.
In 2017 MPL was led by managing director Philippa Sheehan, with around 115 advisers onboard and an operating model based on SMSF-advice and attendant services.
In December 2017 ASIC placed additional conditions on MPL after it was found to have lacked adequate monitoring and supervision of its advisers in the wake of a transfer from a previous licensee incarnation, MyPlanner Australia. The conditions, which included extra reporting and external auditing, were placed on both entities.
A few weeks later, ASIC also moved against former Jade Private Wealth director James Fraser, who was licensed by the firm, for failing to act in the best interests of clients.
Advisers report that Sheehan made efforts to address the compliance issues and brought more resources on board, before resigning in April 2018.
At that point the licensee’s owner, David Mardell, stepped in as managing director. It’s understood that that investment products owned by a firm Mardell owns called Skyring were were on the group’s APL.
By June 2019 a 95 per cent stake in the Group was sold to New Jersey-based Anvia Holdings Corporations for $(AUD) 4.38 million, and by July 2019 former compliance manager Matthew Farley was placed in charge of the group.
Meanwhile, ASIC closed in on the group’s lingering compliance problems, saying that while it had taken some steps to rectify the issues ASIC “was not satisfied that MyPlanner Professional was meeting all of its licensee obligations”.
On February 12 this year ASIC decided to suspend MPL’s license for ten weeks because it had not complied with its general licensee obligations.
“These include adequately monitoring and supervising authorised representatives, and having adequate resources to carry out those supervisory arrangements,” the regulator stated.
MPL applied to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal for a review on the same day. By June MPL had withdrawn its application for appeal and the 10-week suspension came into effect, with the firm understood to have been been placed into voluntary administration almost immediately.
Sources said almost all the advisers had left the group by the time it was liquidated, with many incrementally put off by the introduction of Skyring products to the APL and a lack of communication from the group about the ASIC dealings.
Others say the licensee was poised to regroup after Anvia took over, but that ASIC’s attention – combined with the Covid-19 pandemic – made this impossible.
“What happened was totally unjust and brutal to all the advisers,” one adviser recalls.