Scott Hartley and Alexis George

New AMP Australia CEO Scott Hartley has begun meeting with advisers at the institution to discuss the advice business model and map out a way forward for the institutional advice provider.

Hartley, who took over as head of AMP’s banking and wealth unit in mid-February, has been a visible presence amongst advisers according to Neil Macdonald, head of AMP FP and Hillross adviser association TAA.

“It’s early days but he’s hit the ground running and engaged with us as an association,” Macdonald says. “He’s been to our TAA board meetings and he’s out speaking to advice practices.”

Macdonald reports Hartley has been “engaged” with AMP advisers on two topics in particular – making sure AMP presents competitive products and solutions for clients, as well as the future business model for AMP’s advice network.

An AMP spokesperson confirmed Hartley has been meeting with AMP advisers and adviser groups to discuss the next steps for the group.

“Scott has been meeting with AMP advisers and the associations to communicate his commitment to partnering with them in delivering high quality, professional and sustainable financial advice,” the spokesperson said.

“Those meetings have allowed Scott to hear first-hand the challenges that advisers have faced in changing and adapting to new regulations and standards, and to see that with much of the hard work done to date, the AMP advice network is well positioned to succeed in the new regulatory environment.”

Challenges and opportunities

The appointment of ANZ’s Alexis George in the CEO role and Hartley as the head of AMP Australia have been generally seen as positive steps, yet the future of AMP’s wealth division remains unclear.

AMP will likely continue to trim its advice network and consolidate smaller practices into larger “beachhead” businesses. IOOF is set to take AMP’s crown as the largest advice provider in the country this year and AMP Financial Planning is – for the first time in years – no longer the largest licensee in the industry.

It’s not known, however, whether this downsizing is being done with a view to sell the advice arm or restore it.

Selling AMP Wealth remains problematic, especially after the reluctance of Ares Management to take over the wealth division as part of its original offer.

Restoring the brand will also be difficult. Aside from the broader challenges facing the industry, the ongoing legal stoush over buyer-of-last-resort agreements continues to cloud the adviser cohort. More importantly, the brand’s reputation is at low tide after the fee-for-no-service scandal uncovered by the Hayne Royal Commission and its treatment of advisers.

Despite the issues, AMP does have positives to build on; it has a world-class proprietary investment platform in MyNorth and could end up with a much more robust clutch of advice businesses when its reinvention project is done. Add to that a new leadership spine headed up by Hartley, George and board chair Debra Hazelton.

Not everyone can see the bright side, however. One adviser who left AMP in 2020 says the leadership change comes “too late to salvage” the institution. “I think George will probably carry on the same path and tidy it up to sell the business,” said the adviser, who asked to remain anonymous.

According to TAA’s Macdonald the group’s remaining advisers remain positive about the future.

“The advisers themselves are incredibly resilient,” he says. “They want clarity and direction on strategy, but they adapt incredibly well.”

Tahn Sharpe is a Sydney-based financial services journalist with a background in financial planning. He writes on advice, superannuation, investment, banking and insurance issues, is a certified SMSF Adviser and holds an Advanced Diploma of Financial Planning. Contact at [email protected]
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