Neil Macdonald

The reality of falling adviser numbers and a changing business landscape led to the AMP financial planning associations joining together according to The Advisers Association chief executive Neil Macdonald.

The Authorised Representatives Association, which represented Charter Financial Planning advisers, merged with TAA at the end of June, bringing together all three major AMP adviser associations. The Hillross Advisers Association merged with TAA in February 2020.

Macdonald tells Professional Planner TAA had merger discussions with ARA in late 2018, around the same time discussions with the Hillross Advisers Association merger took place.

“At that stage [ARA] decided they were happy having their own association,” Macdonald says. “Clearly over the last few years the AMP business has changed a lot and numbers of advisers have gone down as well. We re-opened the conversation about a year ago.”

Research from Wealth Data shows the total of number of licensees under an AMP licensee was 2,789 as of 1 January, 2018 and has since diminished to 1,046.

Getting everyone on board

Macdonald says figures are still being audited but roughly 80 per cent of Charter planners are in the association versus 100 per cent from AMP Financial Planning and 97 per cent for Hillross.

He added that TAA already dealt with a broad group of advisers.

“One of things people forget is an organisation like AMP Financial Planning has a broad cross section for the firm’s within there; the biggest has over 100 advisers and the smallest is a single adviser. You have firms that specialise in self-managed super funds and other firms that might specialise in business-to-business type stuff.”

Within the homogeneity, Macdonald says, there’s differences between specialisations as well.

“The key thing we have common things that apply to everybody and from an efficiency and running the association perspective it just made sense to coordinate them.”

Macdonald says the relationship with AMP is “pretty good these days”.

“There’s still a few things bubbling away in the background like the class action,” Macdonald says referring to the legal case related to changes in the Buyers of Last Resort policy. “In terms of engagement, it’s very good.”

Nation of collaboration

Macdonald says TAA has pushed for collaboration with the other major associations, not just the AMP affiliated ones.

“We think collaboration is really important to get common voice on the key things.”

He pointed to the contributions on the Joint Association Working Group which identified overlapping areas of agreement from the associations for the combined Quality of Advice Review submissions.

“Recognising not all consumers are the same and the shift to professionalism is really important.”

Echoing similar comments made by AMP Advice chief Matt Lawler on regulation, Macdonald says there’s too much regulation that isn’t adding value.

“How we move to something that recognises professionalism and recognises that consumers don’t want 100-page documents and they don’t want to wait two months to get it either.”

However, he says what is lacking is tangible solutions to these problems.

“There’s a lot of people complaining about what’s there, but they’re not coming up with solutions. Our preference is to come with solutions rather than problems.”

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