Former head of AMP Australia, Alex Wade

AMP Australia announced the shock departure of chief executive Alex Wade this morning, with Blair Vernon, the head of AMP’s New Zealand Wealth Management division, taking on the role of acting CEO.

The shock departure – Wade has been in the role less than two years after replacing Jack Reagan, one of the early casualties of the Hayne royal commission – came with scant information from the financial services giant.

In a bluntly worded release this morning AMP said Wade will step down from his role, “effective immediately”.

While AMP chief executive Francesco De Ferrari praised the work of Vernon, who led major change at NZWM, the omission of any thanks for Wade’s service will fuel speculation about the reasons for his resignation.

“We have a strong team in AMP Australia, who have been transforming the business, managing the successful separation of AMP Life, reshaping advice and increasing our focus on clients,” De Ferrari said in a statement. “I’m pleased we are able to call on an experienced executive in Blair Vernon to lead this team and continue to drive our strategy forward.”

The New Zealand business will be led by experienced executive and current chief client officer, Jeff Ruscoe.

Wade was named as the first CEO of AMP Australia when the company combined its banking and wealth management divisions in October 2018 as part of a post-royal commission restructure.

His resignation comes as AMP fights fire on several fronts, most notably from a cohort of ex-advisers who have filed a legal challenge accusing the provider of refusing to honour their buyer-of-last-resort agreements.

The company is also dealing with a backlash regarding the appointment of Boe Pahari as chief executive of AMP Capital on July 1. AMP settled a sexual harassment claim against Pahari by a female subordinate in 2017.