While AMP CEO Francesco De Ferrari attempts to reset the culture of the embattled institution, advisers under its umbrella have confidentially expressed their reluctance to disclose ties with the once might brand.
Yet despite the troubles AMP is going through, the same advisers are hopeful of a return to form for the company and still believe De Ferrari is the man for the job.
Professional Planner spoke to a cross section of AMP-licensed advisers about how the group’s culture issues and the ensuing media attention has affected perception of the AMP brand.
“AMP used to have a name you could leverage,” says one adviser who graduated through the group’s Horizon’s Academy and built a successful practice under a prominent AMP-owned licensee. “That’s not the case anymore.”
All the AMP-licensed advisers spoken to wished to remain anonymous, but the responses followed a similar narrative; the course of the company over the last two years has made them increasingly reluctant to be associated with a brand that used to set the standard in advice.
The fee-for-no-service scandals that erupted in the Hayne royal commission. The Boe Pohari appointment as CEO at AMP Capital after alleged inappropriate behaviour and the unexplained and immediate resignation of former AMP Australia CEO Alex Wade. The treatment of advisers during buyer-of-last-resort negotiations and a plummeting share price that refuses to find its nadir.
All of the recent events have resulted in the alienation of clients, staff and shareholders to some degree, the advisers explained.
“Look at my website,” one adviser says. “Unless it’s in the fine print I don’t mention I’m from AMP.”
‘Some good stuff’
Despite AMP’s woes, the company still hosts the largest cohort of planners in the country and many of them remain loyal to the institution.
In Professional Planner’s June 2020 licensee list AMP had 2004 authorised reps on its books; far less than the 2412 it had the year before but still around 400 more than its nearest competitor by size, IOOF, with 1412.
While the shrinking adviser numbers, burgeoning outflows and egregious headlines paint the picture of a crumbling empire, in many ways AMP is still the leader of wealth management in this country via its major brands AMP Financial Planning, Charter and Hillross.
And despite the fall, the advisers spoken to say there are positives.
“They do have some good stuff,” says one adviser, who believes the MyNorth investment platform and AMP’s in-house research teams are among the best in the industry. This adviser also counts a supportive community among other AMP-licensed advisers as a selling point.
“AMP have always tried to keep the planners together as a family,” the adviser says. “We leverage each others’ experience to grow.”
Some even privately express a measure of understanding about AMP’s stance on BOLR arrangements, with one older adviser saying the original 4x multiple was “way over” current valuations. “I can empathise,” the adviser says.
Follow the leader
Perhaps most surprising among the AMP-licensed advisers spoken to is a faith in De Ferrari to steer the institution back on course, despite the fact that he – by his own admission at the H1 results call – was ultimately responsible for the hiring of both Pohari and Wade.
“I don’t read the politics,” says one adviser. “They’ve had a big cleanout and De Ferrari is coming to clean up.”
Another, asked if AMP should keep the embattled CEO, replies: “I don’t see why not.”
“I do feel for him,” the adviser continues. “But take that with a grain of salt; he knew what he was getting into and he’s getting paid well for it.”
For many, the noise at the top is just that – a loud distraction that should be filtered out.
“My attitude is that I don’t care what AMP or anyone else does,” one adviser says. “I just focus on the client.”