Matt Lawler. Photo Frankie The Creative and Weave.

In October and November last year AMP held more than two dozen roundtables with the principals of practices in its network to ask them their preferred options for a potential restructuring of the advice operations.

Unsurprisingly, there was no unanimous view among the principals. Some said they prefer the security and the backing of a licensee owned by an institution. Some said they thought they could fulfill their fiduciary obligations to clients more effectively if the licensee was spun out to create a stand-alone professional services firm.

What is perhaps more surprising is that AMP is even talking about strategic alternatives at all. Not that long ago, the once-mighty financial services giant looked to have one choice: go out of business slowly, or quickly.

But now, it is thinking deeply and speaking publicly about its long-term position in advice. AMP chief executive Alexis George discussed it during the company’s 2023 full-year annual results announcement earlier in the month; and at the 2024 AMP Advice Live event in Adelaide this week, group executive for advice Matt Lawler sat down with Professional Planner to discuss the changes in the business in the two years he’s been there, and its future.

Lawler spoke to the publication shortly after demographer Bernard Salt told about 450 AMP advisers at the event that throughout human history “on the other side of calamity” there is always renewal, and a resumption of growth. Salt noted that significant calamities generally take about five years to recover from.

It’s just over five years since the devastating final report of the Hayne royal commission gave AMP, and others, an absolute pasting over their historical conduct in delivering financial advice. The timing was not lost on Lawler.

“That’s a great analogy,” he said.

“It’s about reinvention. AMP, and AMP Advice in particular, is a very different business now than it was a few years ago.”

Adviser re-engagement

Lawler said engagement with practice principals has been “really important for us to get a baseline for where advisers would like us to go”.

“There’s no point in us doing anything if the practice principals say, well, you know, we’re walking down the road, all excited about something, and we turn around and there’s no one behind us,” he said.

Lawler said no decision on the future of AMP’s advice business will be made without full consultation with the advice practices in its network. But he’s open-minded about the two options it’s mulling: remaining fully owned by AMP; or being spun-out into a standalone entity in which AMP retains a significant, though minority, interest in a similar model being pursued by Insignia Financial.

“We haven’t gone as far as how would you structure the equity holdings underneath,” he said. “We’ve still got work to do before we get there.”

Lawler said they are looking at these as alternatives, but the focus is to get the business in a sustainable position first.