ABC The Business Does Superannuation Fees

The ABC The Business segment on superannuation fees underscores the recent Rainmaker report. During the last 10 years Australians have paid around $230-billion in fees to superannuation funds and over the next 10 years, those fees are set to double.

in 2016 Australians paid $31 billion in fees on $2.2 trillion of superannuation. That amount of fees is about the same as the cost to the government of superannuation tax concessions, and more than half the $45 billion spent on income support for the elderly.

Of that $31 billion in fees, the for-profit sector (which also includes self-managed super funds) ends up with $28 billion, or 91 per cent, Rainmaker found.

AMP provides update on growth strategy

AMP is today providing an update on its group strategy and growth opportunities at its  Investor Strategy Day, being held in Sydney.  This includes discussion on the changing role of financial advisers.

The strategy will direct investment towards higher-growth businesses in wealth management, AMP Bank and AMP Capital; leverage AMP’s  strengths in overseas markets; and maintain focus on driving cost efficiency.

Key elements of the strategy include:

  • Tilt investment to higher-growth, less capital-intensive businesses. Release and recycle capital from lower-growth business lines to fund growth and returns.
  • Grow wealth management by broadening its revenue streams via increasing contributions from advice and SMSF, while continuing to invest in product and platform development.
  • Build and integrate a goals-based advice operating system across face-to-face, phone, digital and corporate super employer channels.  Explore options to extend advice capability and systems into international markets.
  • Leverage AMP  Capital’s investment management expertise in fixed income, infrastructure and real estate to selected international markets, including Europe, North America and Asia.
  • Continue the rapid growth and increasing contribution of China businesses.
  • Manage Australian wealth protection, New Zealand and mature for capital efficiency and value, emerging embedded value as soon as possible.
  • Continue focus on costs to drive operational leverage.

AMP Chief Executive Craig Meller said:

“Our  strategy continues AMP’s shift from a product and distribution business to a  customer-led organisation focused on helping our customers achieve their  personal goals.”

“We are uniquely positioned to benefit from favourable domestic and global thematics including the mandated growth of the Australian superannuation system, a  growing banking market and the structural increase in demand for investment yield as the world’s population ages.

“The strategy is focused on realising our potential while adapting to an increasingly competitive market place and technology-driven disruption.

“In  Australia, we will continue to lead the wealth management market, changing the sector’s traditional economics by driving greater revenue from advice and self-managed super fund (SMSF) services.  We will help more Australians get more advice, more often through our transformed goals-based operating system.

“We will also diversify and drive revenue growth internationally through investment management, particularly infrastructure and real estate, and by extending our unique wealth operating system to offshore players.  Our partnerships with market leaders in China  (China Life) and Japan (MUTB) provide strong platforms for future growth.

“The approach for our Australian wealth protection, New Zealand and mature businesses is to manage them for value and capital efficiency.  These businesses have significant embedded value and we continue to look for ways to economically accelerate the realisation of this value.

“The  strategy will be underpinned by a continuing focus on operational efficiency  and cost discipline right across the group.”

 

Westpac Sells 19% Of BT Investment Management

Consistent with this strategy to prioritise investment and capital management, Westpac Group has announced a fully-underwritten offer of 60 million shares (approximately 19% of BTIM’s shares on issue) to institutional investors domiciled in Australia and other relevant jurisdictions.

Following completion of the offer, Westpac’s ownership in BTIM will reduce from 29% to 10%. Westpac intends, subject to favourable market conditions, to sell its remaining 10% shareholding in BTIM in the future.

Completion of the offer is expected to add approximately 10 basis points to Westpac’s Common Equity Tier 1 capital ratio.

While BTIM will remain a strategic partner, following the selldown some changes in the arrangements between Westpac, BT Financial Group and BTIM will occur over time.

We estimate the post-tax profit on sale will add around A$100 million, or more than 1% of the banks FY17 earnings.

BT Panorama inks deal with robo-adviser

From Investor Daily.

BT has made a clear statement of intent on digital advice by signing a platform connectivity deal with Ignition Wealth.

In a deal that will be announced this morning, BT has agreed to connect advisers and accountants using the Ignition Wealth platform to BT Panorama.

A spokesperson for BT confirmed to InvestorDaily that Ignition Wealth is the first digital advice provider to have connectivity with Panorama.

The agreement between the two companies is squarely aimed at accountants who are no longer permitted to provide advice to SMSFs after the expiry of the ‘accountants’ exemption’ on 1 July 2016.

Speaking to InvestorDaily about the deal, Ignition Wealth chief executive Mark Fordree said that while many clients will continue to be offered portfolios of ETFs, others will now be recommended a BT Panorama product if it is in their best interests.

The experience will be “seamless”, he said, with the Ignition Wealth engine granted permission to create BT Panorama accounts for clients.

“Our hybrid solution will allow an individual to have a complete self-service into numerous investment options including BT Panorama but not limited to it,” Mr Fordree said.

“The journey starts with Ignition Wealth, and a proportion of the clients that come through our platform may end up in BT Panorama where it’s appropriate.”

The agreement with BT was a long time in the making and it was a matter of “jumping bank-grade hurdles” at every step of the process, Mr Fordree said.

While the initial agreement with BT is limited to connectivity with Panorama, the goal of Ignition Wealth is to become completely integrated into Panorama and the BT Wealth platform.

“All the major players in the wealth management business may over the next few years have a digital platform,” Mr Fordree said.

“Whether they build it themselves or partner is the key question. We’re offering a solution to those who either don’t have the appetite or capability to build it.

“If they haven’t started already, I suspect that they’re already leaving it too late.”

In a separate statement, Ignition Wealth said the deal with BT was “the largest fintech deal in Australia to date”.

“This marks the first of the ‘big four’ to choose an independent technology provider to power their digital financial advice,” it said.

Vanguard’s UK Online Investment Platform Is Credit Negative for Incumbent Players

From Moody’s

Last Tuesday, low-cost fund provider Vanguard (unrated), announced its intention to enter the UK’s direct-to-consumer online investment market. Vanguard’s entry into the UK retail online investment market is credit negative for incumbent online platforms such as Hargreaves Lansdown (unrated) and FIL Ltd.’s (Baa1 stable) Fidelity FundsNetwork because it will likely trigger a price war that costs incumbents their profitability.

Vanguard’s online service, the Vanguardinvestor, lets UK retail investors directly access a wide range of Vanguard’s exchange-traded funds (ETFs) without using a broker or financial advisor. So far, most of Vanguard’s UK business has been sourced from brokerages and financial advisors, which typically require clients to have minimum account balances of at least £100,000. Using Vanguard’s online platform, retail investors will now be able to open an individual savings account with £500 or a monthly investment of £100. And, Vanguardinvestor will charge a flat administrative fee of 0.15% (capped at £375 per year), which is lower than the 0.45% fee that Hargreaves Lansdown, the UK’s largest online provider, charges (see Exhibit 1).

Vanguard will target investors from both the mass and mass-affluent markets – those with savings of £5,000-£50,000. These investors lost access to advice in 2013 with implementation of the UK’s Retail Distribution Review (RDR) and invest directly. In a November 2012 publication, Deloitte estimated that the RDR had created an advice gap population of as many as 5.5 million people.

Gross inflows into stock and share individual savings accounts in 2015-16 totalled £21.1 billion, and this segment has been growing (see Exhibit 2), driven by the tax-free individual savings account allowance increase to £20,000 from £15,240 in April 2017 and new products. In addition to individual savings accounts and defined-contribution pensions, general investment accounts without any tax wrapper are benefiting from investor inflows as people become increasingly aware of their investment options. Vanguard announced plans to launch a self-invested personal pension in the future.

Vanguard’s online service also targets younger investors such as millennials, who are comfortable with online services and are not yet a target for financial advisors or wealth managers. As they evolve in their careers and garner higher incomes, this demographic will be accustomed to low-cost services and investment funds. Vanguard’s online service in the UK is so far limited, but we can see it evolving toward robo-advice as it has in the US with The Vanguard’s Personal Advisor Services.

Incumbent platform providers will likely lower administrative fees and increase services to maintain market share, but this will compress their margins. Given the high and rising costs of running online services, smaller platforms with less price flexibility such as Interactive Investors (unrated) and Nutmeg (unrated) will be most challenged. Cheap online investment services will also accelerate the adoption of low-costs index trackers and ETFs among UK retail investors. Active managers such as Aberdeen, Henderson, Schroders, and FIL Ltd. Will face fee and margin pressure as a result.

In addition, the UK’s Financial Conduct Authority’s upcoming investment platform market study to improve competition between platforms and improve investor outcomes is likely to challenge most platform providers’ prices and Vanguard would be well positioned for any price war. As the best-selling fund manager in 2016 and second-largest asset manager globally, Vanguard has the scale, resources and brand necessary to disrupt the UK retail market, which was £872 billion as of year-end 2015. In the US, where Vanguard provides a similar online-value proposition, platform costs went down.

NAB to sell its Private Wealth business in Singapore and Hong Kong

NAB has today announced it had entered into an agreement to sell its Private Wealth business in Hong Kong and Singapore to OCBC Bank.

As at the end February 2017, the business to be sold comprised a US$1.7 billion mortgage portfolio and a US$3.05 billion deposit portfolio, with about 11,000 customers across Hong Kong and Singapore. The transaction is expected to complete before the end of 2017 and will not have a material financial impact on NAB.

NAB Executive General Manager for International Branches Peter Coad said the sale simplifies NAB’s Asian business so that it can focus on better serving its business, corporate and institutional customers.

“As Australia’s biggest business bank, NAB is focussed on helping our business customers in Australia and New Zealand access Asian markets, and on connecting Asian-based businesses to opportunities in Australia and New Zealand. The sale of our Private Wealth business, which is largely a retail business for Private Wealth clients in Hong Kong and Singapore, means our banking offer in Asia remains very focused on business, corporate and institutional customers,” Mr Coad said.

OCBC Bank was established in Singapore in 1932. OCBC Bank and its subsidiaries offer a comprehensive range of commercial banking, specialist financial and wealth management services, including consumer, corporate, investment, private and transaction banking, and treasury, insurance asset management and stockbroking services.

 Neil Parekh, NAB General Manager Asia (ex- Greater China) said the transition of customers is expected to complete by the end of the year, and work is underway to support NAB staff through this period of transition.

“We will work closely with OCBC Bank during the transition to completion to ensure a smooth process for customers moving to a business with a comprehensive product offering, as well as supporting our people as we work through impacts and options,” Mr Parekh said.

Federal Court declares Melbourne licensee breached FOFA laws

For the first time we get a read on how the Future of Financial Advice (FOFA) reforms will be interpreted by the courts.

ASIC says the Federal Court has found that Melbourne-based financial advice firm NSG Services Pty Ltd (formerly National Sterling Group Pty Ltd) (NSG) breached the best interests obligations of the Corporations Act introduced under the Future of Financial Advice (FOFA) reforms.

This is the first finding of liability against a licensee for a breach of the FOFA reforms.

This matter relates to financial advice provided by NSG advisers on eight specific occasions between July 2013 and August 2015. On these occasions, clients were sold insurance and/or advised to rollover superannuation accounts that committed them to costly, unsuitable, and unnecessary financial arrangements.

NSG consented to the making of declarations against it and after a hearing on 30 March 2017 the Court was satisfied that declarations ought to be made.

The Court found that NSG’s representatives:

  • breached s 961B of the Corporations Act by failing to take reasonable steps to ensure that they provided advice that complied with the best interests obligations; and
  • breached s 961G of the Corporations Act by failing to take reasonable steps to ensure that they provided advice that was appropriate to its clients.

Those breaches amounted to a contravention by NSG of s 961L of the Corporations Act, which provides that a financial services licensee must ensure its representatives are compliant with the above sections of the Act.

The Court made the declarations based on the following deficiencies in NSG’s processes and procedures:

  • NSG’s new client advice process was insufficient to ensure that all necessary information was obtained from, and given to, the client;
  • NSG’s training on legal and regulatory obligations was insufficient to ensure clients received advice which was in their best interests;
  • NSG did not routinely monitor its representatives nor identify deficiencies in the knowledge or skills of individual representatives;
  • NSG did not conduct regular or substantive performance reviews of its representatives;
  • NSG’s compliance policies were inadequate, and did not address its representatives’ legal or regulatory duties, and in any event, were not followed or enforced by NSG;
  • there was an absence of  regular internal audits, and the external audits conducted identified issues which were not adequately addressed nor recommended changes implemented; and
  • NSG had a “commission only” remuneration model, which meant that representatives would only be compensated by way of commission for sales of life insurance products and superannuation rollovers.

ASIC Deputy Chairman Peter Kell said, “This finding, the first of its kind, provides guidance to the industry about what is required of licensees to ensure representatives comply with their obligations to act in the best interests of clients and provide advice that is appropriate”.

ASIC has sought orders that NSG pay pecuniary penalties in relation to the declarations made. A date for the hearing on penalty will be fixed by the Court.

Background

On 3 June 2016, ASIC commenced proceedings against NSG in the Federal Court (refer: 16-187MR).

Separately ASIC announced:

ASIC has banned Mr Adrian Chenh and Mr Bill El-Helou from providing financial services for a period of five years each following an ASIC investigation.

ASIC’s investigation found that Mr Chenh and Mr El-Helou provided advice to clients that was in breach of the best interests duty introduced under the Future of Financial Advice (FOFA) reforms.

ASIC found that Mr Chenh and Mr El-Helou had:

  • failed to act in the best interests of clients in that the advice provided did not leave them in a better position;
  • failed to provide advice that was appropriate to the clients; and
  • failed to provide financial services guides, product disclosure statements and statements of advice.

An additional finding was made that Mr El-Helou was not adequately trained, or not competent, to provide financial services.

ASIC deputy Chairman Peter Kell said, ‘Financial advisers must act in the best interests of their clients and provide advice that is appropriate. ASIC is committed to raising standards in the financial advice industry.’

Mr Chenh and Mr El-Helou both have a right to appeal to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal for a review of ASIC’s decisions. Mr Chenh has exercised his right of appeal and filed an application for review on 21 March 2017.

Background

ASIC has commenced proceedings against NSG Services Pty Ltd (formerly National Sterling Group Pty Ltd) (NSG) for breaches of the “best interests obligations” contained in the Corporations Act, and is seeking declarations of breaches and financial penalties (refer: 16-187MR).  A hearing on liability occurred on 30 March 2017.

Both Mr Chenh and Mr El-Helou, previously representatives at NSG, gave financial product advice, particularly in relation to superannuation and insurance.

A disconnect between the growth objectives and asset allocation of SMSF trustees

Self-managed superannuation fund (SMSF) trustees have high growth expectations for the next 12 months yet as many as 55 per cent have moved to a more defensive asset allocation amid continuing market volatility, according to AMP Capital.

Statistics from AMP Capital’s latest Black Sky Report show that while SMSF trustees expect a 10.9 per cent return on their portfolio this year (6 per cent capital and 4.9 per cent income), only 18 per cent of trustees have made changes to position their portfolio for growth.  This is, however, an increase of five percentage points from 2015.

Further to this, nearly half of SMSF trustees surveyed for the report say their aim is to have a fully diversified portfolio yet more than 50 per cent of their portfolio is invested in just one investment type outside of managed funds.

AMP Capital Head of Self-Directed Wealth and SMSF Tim Keegan said: “If trustees continue to be exposed to significant portfolio concentration risk and remain in more defensive assets without seeking financial advice, they may struggle to achieve their retirement goals.”

AMP Capital’s Black Sky Report is developed each year to provide a snapshot of trustee investment trends.  It also helps to arm financial advisers with insight and knowledge of where SMSF trustees are looking for specific advice.

The 2017 report has identified the biggest investment challenges for SMSF trustees as market volatility (according to 18 per cent of trustees surveyed), investment selection (11 per cent) and regulatory changes (10 per cent).

Mr Keegan said: “It’s clear that many SMSF trustees need help especially around portfolio construction and understanding the regulatory changes that are coming into play.  With nearly 60 per cent of SMSF trustees remaining open to using the expertise of a financial adviser, it’s clear this is a huge opportunity for advisers to tap into.”

The research also revealed that SMSF trustees continue to find managed funds attractive, with 47 per cent each investing approximately $280,000 in them.  Thirty per cent of SMSF trustees made their most recent managed fund investment after receiving advice from their financial planner.

Mr Keegan said: “There is an increasing appetite among SMSF trustees to invest in Australian equity funds, both active and passive.  Advisers can be proactive in recommending high-quality unlisted managed funds as well as introducing trustees to the increasing range of active exchange traded funds that are now available on the market.”

Active ETFs replicate managed fund strategies but are able to be bought and sold during the trading day like any share on the Australian Securities Exchange.  AMP Capital, in alliance with BetaShares, launched three active ETFs during 2016: the AMP Capital Dynamic Markets Fund, the AMP Capital Global Property Securities Fund and the AMP Capital Global Infrastructure Securities Fund.

According to Mr Keegan: “With expectations for growth at an all-time high, regulatory uncertainty at its peak and new products such as active ETFs becoming increasingly popular, there is more need than ever for SMSF investors to turn to financial advisers for support.”

For the third year in a row, AMP Capital has released the Black Sky Report, which uses research and data from leading research house Investment Trends to uncover the latest SMSF investor trends and insights.

The research is based on a quantitative online survey of nearly 800 AMP Capital SMSF investors conducted by Investment Trends.  The 2017 Black Sky Report can be downloaded here.

Westpac Affirms Wealth Management Focus

Westpac briefed the market yesterday on BT Financial Group, its wealth management division and reaffirmed that Wealth remains a strategic priority for the Group and it was continuing to invest to grow the business.

They showed this picture of financial products over the lifetime.

They argued that there will be strong growth in superannuation (faster than credit growth) and returns above the the Institutional Bank.  18.5% of Westpac Group customers have at least one BT Financial Group product although individual segment shares are small.

Finally, they reinforced their mobile strategy.

BT Financial Group (BTFG), Chief Executive, Brad Cooper, said the Group’s strategy was to provide superior service and that required looking after all of a customer’s financial needs throughout their life.

“Having a strong wealth and insurance operation is imperative to deliver this and BTFG has invested to transform its operations to help more Australians plan for their best financial futures,” he said.

Mr Cooper said while the industry is facing some near term headwinds from volatility and the uncertainty and costs associated with regulatory change, the longer term prospects are very positive. This is particularly true with superannuation balances expected to grow at around 8% per annum over the next decade.

“There is an increasing awareness of the need to fund retirement by Australians. Currently financial advice is only being accessed by one in five people. Add to that superannuation assets doubling to around $4 trillion over the next nine years and there is an obvious need to help more Australians into a dignified retirement,” he said.

“We have been improving our market leading wealth solutions across our business to better help customers through all life stages. Customers are rightly demanding more convenience, flexibility and the ability to be helped on their terms and we have reshaped our business and built the tools to meet these needs.

“This has included a new flexible advice model that offers everything from general and single-topic advice to full personal advice delivered when and where the customer wants, a partnership with Allianz to broaden our general insurance product set, and a new Super Check service that has helped 5,400 customers consolidate around $100 million of their retirement savings.

“Our investment in BT Panorama has created the most advanced Wealth platform in the country for both advisers and customers. For the first time, customers can view and transact seamlessly right across all their financial services in one place. This includes banking transactions, savings, credit cards, home loans, insurance, superannuation and investments.

“Within Panorama, customers can pick and choose from a wide range of investment options – from the simple, through to the more advanced – based on an individual’s objectives, financial situation and needs,” he said.

Mr Cooper also referenced BTFG’s life insurance business as a standout industry performer. Our customer focused strategy and prudent approach to risk has seen us avoid the more recent claims issues experienced by other life insurance participants.

“Life is an integral part of our product set and our business is strong,” he said.

“We have a disciplined approach to how our products are distributed, with most sold through an adviser, as we believe that life insurance is a complex product that needs either personal or general advice to support it.

“Additionally, our strong policy framework and transparent claims management processes has further strengthened our business. Our claims philosophy has consistently focused on customer wellbeing, with attention given to early intervention and rehabilitation so customers can return to work as quickly as possible. This approach has seen us routinely recognised by claimants, and the industry, as having the best Claims team,” he said.

Suncorp wealth arm placed on ‘negative watch’

From InvestorDaily.

Suncorp’s life insurance and superannuation division has been placed on ‘negative watch’ by S&P after the bank revealed it is considering “strategic alternatives” for the business, including divestment.

In a statement released yesterday, S&P Global Ratings said the strategic importance of Suncorp Life and Superannuation Limited (SLSL) has “weakened” following statements made in Suncorp’s annual result.

In last week’s annual result announcement, Suncorp revealed it is implementing an “optimisation program” for its Australian life insurance business as well as “exploring strategic alternatives”.

In response, S&P has lowered its financial strength and issuer credit ratings on SLSL to ‘A’ from ‘A+’, which it said “reflects a reduced level of uplift in the rating from group support”.

S&P said it has also placed Asteron Life’s ‘A+’ rating on watch with “negative implications, reflecting uncertainty as to the level of integration of the entity with the group”.

The research house said Asteron Life is now only “strategically important” for Suncorp – a downgrade from its previous “core status”.

“This downgrade follows Suncorp’s announcement that it has undertaken a strategic review of its Australian life insurance operations, which includes potential divestment of the operations. As such, we no longer consider SLSL as being highly unlikely to be sold,” said S&P.

“The weak operating performance of the life operations relative to group expectations has  triggered the group’s strategic review. This weaker performance also contributes to our assessment of slightly lower group support for SLSL compared with that for Asteron Life,” said S&P.

“We expect the continued strength in [Asteron Life]’s inforce premiums, operating experience and emergence of planned profit margins to support the financial contribution of the group’s New Zealand life operations, in contrast to SLSL’s weaker operating performance.”