ISA accuses banks of dodging FOFA

From InvestorDaily.

The industry super lobby has accused the major banks of attempting to evade the FOFA regulation within their superannuation products.

Industry Super Australia (ISA) recently posted a submission to the Productivity Commission’s inquiry into the efficiency and competitiveness of Australia’s superannuation system.

ISA called for a crackdown on big banks and other for-profit entities who, it said, have been allowed to exploit superannuation fund members in the name of increasing sales.

The lobby group said the current superannuation system is like FOFA – where for-profit companies like the big four banks have been able to circumnavigate or “work around” legislation and exploit consumers for increased sales and insurance commissions.

“From inception, FOFA has been subject to substantial lobbying efforts that seek to weaken it, and for-profit entities have immediately sought to ‘work around’ and adapt to FOFA in a way that maintains as much of their lucrative businesses as possible,” ISA said in the submission.

“For so long as the superannuation system allows participation by entities that have a strong culture of prioritising themselves rather than serving others, this will happen. The inquiry’s proposed default [superannuation] models will certainly be subject to the same dynamic.”

ISA pointed to exemptions in FOFA which currently “allow bank staff to earn volume-related bonus for selling superannuation under general advice”.

FOFA also “allows the payment of commissions on individual life and income protection insurance on policies paid for out of choice superannuation products which provides strong financial incentives for advisers to switch members out of default superannuation products,” ISA said.

ISA pointed to research from the Roy Morgan Superannuation and Wealth Management in Australia 2011 and 2015 reports which showed the big banks shifting away from selling products via financial advisers and an increase in direct sales to consumers instead.

“This activity has almost doubled across the four major banking groups from 10 per cent in the 2011 Report, compared to 19 per cent for the three years to December 2015,” ISA said.

“[This takes] advantage of the lower levels of consumer protection outside personal advice to aggressively sell super directly.”

ISA said regulation and further competition are not the answers for cracking down on misconduct from for-profit entities in the superannuation sector.

“Regulation alone has never been enough to ensure good behaviour. Regulation is particularly unreliable in relation to the finance sector because that sector is especially vigorous in its efforts to influence policy makers,” ISA said.

There is a concern that “each of the inquiry’s proposals seeks to remove superannuation from the industrial system, and envisions private sector, for-profit financial institutions bidding for and winning pools of default superannuation members,” the submission said.

“Such an outcome will deliver to the for-profit part of the super system a ready-made, government-sanctioned, and generally disengaged customer base at a very low acquisition cost.”

Instead there needs to be a focus on culture and values within organisations ISA said.

“The reason why some funds tend to consistently perform well, and prioritise members, is an amalgam of culture, values, institutional objectives, and governance.”

ANZ pays further $10.5 million to consumers for OnePath breach

The Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) has confirmed an additional $10.5 million in compensation for 160,000 superannuation customers who were affected by breaches within the OnePath group between 2013 and 2016.

ASIC has been monitoring the resolution of a number of OnePath breaches. This has resulted in ANZ (the parent company of OnePath) providing further compensation, mainly in relation to incorrect processing of superannuation contributions and failure to deal with lost inactive member balances correctly.

ASIC has also confirmed the finalisation of all recommendations made by an independent review of OnePath’s business activities. The final two recommendations were the last to be implemented after an independent review of OnePath’s compliance functions was announced in March 2016.

The independent review was sought by ASIC, following ANZ reporting a number of significant breaches. The review addressed OnePath’s life and general insurance, superannuation, and funds management activities.

OnePath has contacted the majority of affected customers and finalised the majority of these additional compensation payments. Customers who have queries about whether they are owed compensation or another form of remediation should contact OnePath on 133 665.

ASIC will continue to monitor the breaches reported to us by ANZ until the matters are resolved, including any remediation where appropriate.

Background

The ANZ Group’s subsidiaries with AFS Licences include OnePath Custodians Pty Ltd, OnePath Life Limited, OnePath Funds Management Limited and OnePath General Insurance Pty Limited.

From early 2013 to mid-2015 around 1.3 million OnePath customers were affected by breaches requiring refunds and compensation of around $4.5 million, rectifications and other remediation of around $49 million.

An ANZ spokesperson said:

In March last year we estimated we would reimburse about $4.5 million in relation to compliance breaches that affected 1.3 million customers.

Following detailed analysis this has increased $10.5 million impacting 160,000 customers.

While this work is ongoing, we don’t expect the majority of these customers to receive significant further reimbursements.

As soon as we became aware of issues in 2013 we reported these breaches to ASIC and have fully cooperated with their review of this matter.

In January 2016 we appointed PwC to conduct an independent compliance review, and reported the findings of that review in December 2016.

Beware high risk, no reward investment scams

A timely reminder from the ACCC.

The ACCC is warning the community to watch out for investment scammers who promise the world but leave their victims with broken dreams and empty bank accounts.

“In the first half of 2017, Australians have reported losing over $13 million to investment scams to the ACCC’s Scamwatch website, making it the most profitable of all the current scams. It is likely that losses are much higher as many victims do not report scams or contact other authorities,” ACCC Deputy Chair Delia Rickard said.

Men are almost twice as likely to be targeted by investment scams and lose significantly more money than women. People aged 45 to 64 most commonly fall victim.

“These scams typically start with a phone call out of the blue. The scammers are sophisticated, convincing and persistent, which is why we sadly see people lose large amounts of money to them. They are also delivered through unsolicited emails, online forums and social media,” Ms Rickard said.

“Scammers use high pressure tactics to sell you a financial opportunity that is ‘not to be missed’, involves high and quick returns for low risks, and needs to be acted on quickly or you will miss out.”

“Whatever your motive is for the investments you make, do your research and never invest money with someone who has contacted you out of the blue, no matter who they say they are, how much money they promise you or the urgency with which they’re trying to make you act. They seem too good to be true because they are,” Ms Rickard said.

Common investment scams:

  • Unsolicited phone calls & emails offering investment opportunities with high returns. They can involve multiple calls, with multiple people who speak in investment jargon and provide you with access to professional looking websites and documents. Your initial investment may seem to show promising results quickly but soon your money and the scammer disappear and you have lost everything.
  • Unsolicited calls from scammers offering to roll your superannuation funds into a self-managed fund that will help you reduce your tax and provide great investment opportunities. In reality they are just stealing your superannuation funds.
  • Binary options trading that involve predicting the movements of commodity, asset or index prices over a short time. If you agree they direct you to a website with a login, account details and a trading platform. They appear to put your money into the account and demonstrate a number of successful trades to encourage you to invest greater sums. Then your money begins to disappear and so too does the scammer.

Protect yourself:

  • Hang up or hit delete on all cold calls and emails offering unsolicited advice on investing.
  • Visit the Australian Securities and Investments Commission’s MoneySmart (link is external) website to check companies you shouldn’t deal with and ASIC’s professional registers to see if someone you are dealing with has an Australian Financial Services License.
  • Block the scammer on your social media accounts so they can’t contact your family and friends.
  • Conduct thorough research before making any investment.
  • Never commit to any investment at a seminar – always get independent financial advice.

NAB makes corrective disclosure to customers about relationships within its wealth management business

An ASIC investigation of a number of advice licensees within the National Australia Bank Group (NAB Group), for failing to disclose relationships between advisers, advice licensees, and other members of the NAB Group that issue investment products, has resulted in corrective disclosure being made to customers.

The non-disclosure occurred when customers were advised to acquire products issued by NAB Group-related firms, including MLC-branded products. Customers were provided with Statements of Advice (SoAs) and Financial Services Guides (FSGs) by their financial advisers that did not fully disclose the connection between each customer’s adviser, the advice licensee, and recommended investments.

Disclosing associations or relationships between advisers, employers, authorising licensees and issuers of financial products to customers in FSGs and SoAs is required under the Corporations Act.

At least 150,000 customers received deficient disclosure either in SoAs or FSGs in relation to MLC-branded products and boutique investment manager products.

The defective disclosure occurred following a failure to update template documents due to a process error.

The licensees investigated by ASIC were:

  • National Australia Bank Limited;
  • Godfrey Pembroke Limited;
  • Apogee Financial Planning Limited;
  • GWM Adviser Services Limited;
  • Meritum Financial Group Pty Ltd; and
  • JBWere Limited.

Following discussions between ASIC and the NAB Group, customers who invested in MLC-branded products will receive corrective disclosure when they log in to their accounts on the MLC website for a three month period. NAB has also agreed to write to the remainder of affected customers currently invested in related products, explicitly acknowledging the issue and providing corrective disclosure.

Customers with further concerns can contact NAB’s dedicated hotline on 1800 035 687.

ASIC’s Deputy Chairman Peter Kell said, ‘This investigation is a result of ASIC’s priority of improving compliance and disclosure standards in vertically integrated financial services licensees.’

ASIC acknowledges the cooperation of NAB in this matter.

Background

This outcome is a result of ASIC’s Wealth Management Project.

The Wealth Management Project was established in October 2014 with the objective of lifting standards by major financial advice providers. The Wealth Management Project focuses on the conduct of the largest financial advice firms (NAB, Westpac, CBA, ANZ, Macquarie and AMP).

ASIC’s work in the Wealth Management Project covers a number of areas including:

  • working with the largest financial advice firms to address the identification and remediation of non-compliant advice; and
  • seeking regulatory outcomes, where appropriate, against licensees and advisers.

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.