Winds of change create a fresh breeze for investors

Written on the 7 October 2009

SPECTACULAR crashes by listed financiers have created a ‘tread with caution’ landscape as investors seek added security.

AXA Financial Planning managing director Craig Barker, says it often takes a crash to initiate change. He is calling for increased transparency in the way that the industry operates.

“It has always been a festering sore for the industry, but when there are 15 or 20 per cent returns, it doesn’t come to the fore. It’s only when the market crashes do we see calls for industry regulation,” he says.

“We see it as an opportunity to sort the industry out and welcome any changes that can make the industry more professional. A lot of these products and commissions are sold by accountants and lawyers. It does come down to quality advice and who consumers trust.

“People ask us why we have started in this market, but this is the time when people need sound advice. Many Queenslanders have been hit hard with the collapse of some organisations, so as local advisors we have banded together to offer the very best financial advice possible, and restore some of the trust that has been lost”.

Barker is one of six local financial planners who jettisoned senior roles with Suncorp to create the first AXA Financial Planning office on the Gold Coast.

The AXA team says negatives associated with high profile collapses such as MFS, City Pacific and Storm Financial are slowly turning.

“We have identified that some customers are not clear with what advice they are being charged for and in some cases they are paying for advice they just don’t receive,” says Barker.

“Since opening our new office, we have been inundated with clients wanting us to decipher the fees and charges they are currently paying with their existing providers.”

Barker highlights the recent Storm Financial case, where the Commonwealth Bank and Bank of Queensland have been implicated.

An alleged deal between Storm Financial founder Emmanuel Cassimatis and the CBA significantly increased the investment risks for Storm customers. The bank failed to tell investors of the risks. At a federal parliamentary committee inquiry in Sydney last month, CBA staff detailed a litany of failings in the bank’s practices with Storm Financial.

The committee has also heard evidence that CBA home loan customers processed through Storm Financial’s ‘production line’ were not required to formally sign loan applications. CBA was the largest lender to many elderly clients who signed up to the risky business model. Many mortgaged their homes to raise money for a margin loan to invest in the sharemarket.


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