WEEKLY WRAP: PEOPLE, PRODUCTS AND COMPANIES – Meet MLC's new insurance chief

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MLC appoints new insurance GM

MLC has appointed Elio Garino to GM retail insurance operations. He is responsible for driving service and operational excellence across the new business and underwriting, in-force administration and insurance capability teams at MLC Insurance.

“We are delighted to have Elio on board to drive continuous improvement and maintain our focus on the customer experience,” said MLC Insurance EGM Duncan West. “He has a proven track record of building capability and creating operational efficiency to deliver great customer service.”

Elio has more than 20 years’ experience in financial services and has most recently been working in the NAB retail bank. Prior to joining NAB he was GM, financial protection operations, at AXA with overall responsibility for the service and operations areas of AXA’s life insurance business.

Elio succeeds Frank Lombardo who is now chief operating officer for NAB business.

ISN announces new chair

The Industry Super Network (ISN) has announced the appointments of The Hon Steve Bracks AC as new chair and The Hon Peter Collins AM QC as new deputy chair.

Bracks’ first duty as chair was to announce a new proposal by the ISN regarding governance and disclosure arrangements for the superannuation industry.

The proposal recommends universal governance and disclosure standards for the entire super industry, including the disclosure of director information and remuneration, fees paid to material professional and financial service providers, and related party transactions. It also calls for integrity in business conduct, in particular that related party transactions be made at ‘arm’s length’.

Bracks said that industry super funds have always worked in the best interests of members and that this included striving to achieve good governance practices. However, as the system matures, in order to ensure member confidence and trust in super, a system-wide approach was required.

“Improved governance and disclosure arrangements across the super industry are imperative for public accountability,” he said. “It is therefore necessary that the law require a level of transparency and integrity from the system that is consistent with the public interest and that will match the anticipated growth of the industry in future.”

Advance Asset Management adds portfolio manager

Advance Asset Management has added a specialist to their line-up of portfolio managers and appointed Mary Feros as Australian equities portfolio manager.

With over 20 years’ experience in financial services and investment management, Feros will be responsible for the Australian equities component of Advance’s multi-manager business. In previous roles, Feros has overseen multi-billion dollar portfolios that have delivered strong relative performance in a variety of market environments.

“We are delighted to have someone of Mary’s calibre join our specialist investment team. Mary brings with her an impressive track record in the asset management industry and, more specifically, a deep level of research knowledge within Australian equities,” said Patrick Farrell, head of Advance Asset Management.

AMP unveils upgrades to North platform

AMP’s market North platform has rolled out a number of enhancements to improve performance and cement its position as a full-service online platform.

Key features include:

  • The introduction of family fee aggregation (FFA), allowing up to four family members to take advantage of lower fees by combining account balances. FFA is available for spouses, including de facto and same sex, parents, children, siblings, grandparents and grandchildren.
  • An upgrade of the technology infrastructure that supports the platform, providing a significant increase in capacity to support future growth in North transactions. Early results show a 20% improvement in the average response time across all North Online transactions.
  • The ability to generate up-to-the-minute online notifications to keep clients and advisers updated on the dividend and distribution dates of each fund on North’s investment menu.
  • A range of additional administrative enhancements to improve account management functionality for both clients and advisers.

New branding has been rolled out across all North’s communications, collateral and online sites – this forms part of AMP’s commitment to remove the AXA brand from the Australian and New Zealand markets by March 2013.

Former Westpac group exec joins Centric Wealth

Centric Wealth has announced that financial services company director, Richard Thomas, has become a member of its board.

Chairman David Shein said the experience of Thomas would be invaluable in taking Centric Wealth forward in the current economic environment.

“We are pleased to welcome such an outstanding financial services expert to the Centric Wealth board. Richard’s depth of experience will be of exponential value for our group, as we continue to capture market share and deliver outstanding value to our clients,” he said.

Thomas is a professional Company Director with more than 45 years’ experience in banking, finance, insurance and wealth management. He retired from Westpac  in 2000 as group executive, Australian banking services.

 Lonsec awards ‘recommended’ to Bennelong Kardinia fund

The Bennelong Kardinia Absolute Return Fund has been awarded a ‘recommended’ rating by Lonsec. The Fund is managed by Bennelong Funds Management’s boutique, Kardinia Capital, which is headed-up by investment professionals Mark Burgess and Kristiaan Rehder.

In Lonsec’s report, the fund is described as “an attractive offering for investors seeking an absolute return focused strategy, with a strong focus on capital preservation”.

The underlying strategy was launched in May 2006 by another trustee and managed by portfolio managers Burgess and Rehder before they established Kardinia in August 2011. In addition to their combined 38 years’ experience in the financial services industry, both portfolio managers are co-invested in the fund.

90 West Asset Management confirms $100m institutional mandate

Australian-based global natural resource fund manager, 90 West Asset Management Ltd has announced the commencement of a large investment mandate from one of Australia’s leading industry superannuation funds.

Clive Landale, 90 West MD, said the $100m equity mandate was an important endorsement to the strength of the investment team and process – as well as the investment opportunity global resources offers.

"90 West was formed in 2008. Our investment manager, David Whitten, has been successfully investing in this asset class for more than 30 years and I have involved in the Resources markets as a farmer, adviser and investor for over 30 years,” he said.

“Nevertheless, for a relatively new firm such as ours, this mandate from an established industry superannuation institution is testament to the great deal of work that has occurred over the past 12 months.”

van Eyk Advice looks to build adviser numbers

Investment research firm van Eyk has been encouraged by the strong interest from advisers in an alternative to the institutionally-owned advice model and will aim to build the number of advisers at its retail financial planning arm van Eyk Advice.

This follows the completion of the establishment phase of van Eyk Advice earlier this year.

van Eyk chief executive Mark Thomas said industry consolidation driven by the buying up of independent advice groups appeared to have emphasised to advisers the value of a research-driven advice group not tied to a big institution.

He said the results of a recent sounding of the financial planning community had been very encouraging and van Eyk Advice would step up its efforts to attract and engage with more advisers. 

“van Eyk Advice can fill a gap in the marketplace for a non-aligned advice group that develops and follows through on its own ideas,” he said. “It will be an attractive proposition to like-minded planners who are not comfortable being part of a large conglomerate.”

Dalton Nicol Reid added to The Emerald Wrap platform

Dalton Nicol Reid’s Australian Equities Socially Responsible, High Conviction and Income SMA portfolios are now available on The Emerald Wrap platform.

“We’re delighted to be part of a positive initiative that supports portfolios being run in a socially aware and ethical manner. We believe there is demand for quality socially responsible products and services and the introduction of a first class investment platform based around responsible investing is a welcome development”, said CEO Harley Dalton.

The Emerald Wrap was launched in late March 2012 by The Emerald Club, with a desire to make responsible investing more attractive to Australians. The platform has received early success with support from Premium Wealth Management, Sentry and Dover Financial Advisers, and a diverse mix of IFAs.

“We will continue to educate advisers that you don’t need to forgo outperformance when investing in ethical securities, it’s just another option for clients,” said Dalton.

Premium Wealth Management adds third Queensland advice firm for 2012

Premium Wealth Management has added another Queensland-based practice to its dealer group, the third such firm to join the group this calendar year.

Boston Private Wealth is located in Sanctuary Cove and is headed by Neil Heriot. Heriot has been operating as a financial adviser for more than 25 years. Boston manages the financial affairs of more than 100 clients and has been a long-time advocate of a fee for service model.

Premium CEO Paul Harding-Davis said, although Premium had not been specifically focusing on the Queensland area, the state is well-known for its boutique advice firms and the flexible business model of Premium was well suited to firms who wanted to retain control of the way in which their business is managed.

ANZ insurance wins industry awards

ANZ has announced its Australian OnePath insurance business was awarded first place in NMG Consulting’s Group Life Client Survey ‘End Customer’ category and third place in the ‘Intermediaries’ category.

NMG’s research and consulting study is an independent industry assessment of the competitiveness of group insurers operating in the Australian market. It serves as a baseline from which financial service providers are able to benchmark and improve on key service areas.

The index identifies and measures perceptions of actual clients and intermediaries on a range of quality measures across seven capability areas.

ANZ’s head of group risk Robin Knight said: “We’re pleased to have been awarded first place in what is a highly respected independent industry award.”

AMP Flexible Super enhances investment menu

AMP has added new funds to AMP Flexible Super’s investment menu, its flagship super and retirement product, reflecting growing demand for greater asset classes and investment strategies.

AMP has added Kapstream Absolute Return Income, Magellan Global, PIMCO Australian Focus and Super Easy Alternative to the AMP Flexible Super range.

The funds were chosen to complement the existing core offerings, provide alternative income strategies and cost-effective, multi-strategy alternative investments.

AMP Director Contemporary Wealth Management Products Chris Jansen said the enhancements offered wider choice for advisers and customers.

“We are continually looking to expand our offering in the AMP Flexible Super range to ensure customers have the most appropriate options to suit their investment needs,” he said.

“These additions, part of our ongoing review of the investment menu, deliver our customers greater choice to diversify their allocation.”

The additional investment options will be available on AMP Flexible Super, Flexible Lifetime – Super (FLS), Flexible Lifetime – Allocated Pension (FLAP), SignatureSuper, SignatureSuper – Allocated Pension and CustomSuper.

AUI winds up mortgage fund

Australian Unity Investments (AUI) has made the decision to close its Mortgage Income Trust (MIT) and Wholesale Mortgage Income Trust (WMIT), and return all capital to investors through regular payments over the next three to four years.

Mark Pratt, general manager of property, mortgages and capital markets, said the business had taken every possible step to keep the trusts open, however market sentiment since the global financial crisis, exacerbated by the introduction of the bank guarantee, meant they were unlikely to regain their former appeal.

“These circumstances mean that, despite our best efforts to achieve the level of liquidity needed, closing the trusts has become the most equitable outcome for investors,” he said.

“We have been in regular contact with investors and we understand that liquidity is their over-riding concern. As a result, and given that redemption requests are continuing four years after the bank guarantee was introduced, we believe the best course of action is to formally terminate the Trusts and return the balance of the capital to investors.

“We expect to return capital to all investors in the trusts over the next three to four years.”

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