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Ballantyne responds to FMA churn report

[OPINION] Partners Life managing director Naomi Ballantyne says she's pleased with the FMA Churn Report, but there is more to do.

Wednesday, March 28th 2018, 10:10AM 6 Comments

by Naomi Ballantyne

Having reviewed the FMA report into replacement business only in the adviser channel, Partners Life is very pleased to note the very small number of advisers who have been identified as potential issues in respect of their practices around replacement business.

This is certainly in keeping with our experience of adviser behaviour i.e. that the vast majority take their moral obligations to their clients very seriously irrespective of any regulatory obligations.

We are interested to note that in the small group singled out for closer scrutiny, RFAs were not disproportionately represented compared with AFAs suggesting it is individual morals, rather than any regulatory standard or level of qualification, which drives poor customer behaviours.

As virtually all RFAs and AFAs receive commissions and can qualify for incentives for the sale of risk protection products following their advice process, and only a small number have been identified as having poor practices in respect of replacement business, it is also clear to Partners Life that commissions and incentives are not the cause of poor practices, rather individual morals are.

As the FMA have up to this point only focussed on advisers who are remunerated by commissions, it will be essential to investigate the advice practices of distribution channels which are not remunerated by commissions e.g. QFE and bank employees, over the same period of time before it will be possible to determine if there is any comparative differences in the quantum and nature of poor advice practices across differing remuneration structures.

By drawing a conclusion that it is commissions and incentives rather than individual morals that drives poor behaviours, while still only part of the way through their research, and given such a small number of advisers having been identified as behaving poorly, the FMA risks generating consumer distrust of the adviser distribution channel and may consequently drive those consumers to other distribution channels which have not yet been investigated in the same way, or alternatively to simply not engage in any advice process at all regarding their risk protection needs – something that would be totally counterproductive to the best interests of consumers.

Our expectations is that this next piece of research will confirm poor advice practices driven by poor individual morals will be consistent across all channels, irrespective of remuneration structures. In other words there will be individual people with poor morals and therefore, poor advice practices, across all channels.

Partners Life is in total agreement with the FMA regarding the damage that poor replacement advice can cause to consumers and we also agree that the industry alongside the regulator must find the best methods to eliminate the opportunity for poor advice practices and behaviours to impact negatively on consumers.

Our view has always been to firstly regulate a minimum process and a code of conduct that must be followed by any distribution channel irrespective of remuneration structure, when giving advice regarding existing policies and then to police or audit compliance with these requirements.

The industry must also take a stronger stance on holding their individual distribution personnel, whether advisers or employees, to character and behavioural standards which reflect our commitment to putting the client’s interests first. In practical terms this means being prepared to decline or terminate an agency, or an employment agreement, if evidence of poor morals is identified, and then to address and put right any negative impacts on the applicable clients.

While it is pleasing to see that only a small number of advisers have been identified as having poor replacement advice practices, Partners Life agrees with the FMA that our goal should be zero, and we intend to continue to work closely with MBIE and the FMA to find the best solution(s) to reach this goal across all distribution channels.


Naomi Ballantyne ONZM, is the Managing Director at Partners Life.

Tags: Churn FMA Naomi Ballantyne

« Adviser pays $30k after relationship 'breaks down'Churn battle: Ballantyne v Everitt »

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Comments from our readers

On 28 March 2018 at 11:22 am Backstage said:
The above is a very good sum up and I agree. Having previously read the Trowbridge report and then the MJW report i found both to be loaded with assumptions. Neither provided any statistical relationships to support what can only be described as assumptions about commissions and behavior. So raising the standard of advice and conduct should be the focus in the short term and this monitored to measure impact.
On 28 March 2018 at 1:22 pm Seen It All Now & Then said:
Doesn't this turn the whole regulatory assumptions on it's head.

If the cause of advisors falling foul of the regulations are those of low moral standing then regulating at the advisor level will never achieve the goal of "zero".

You can't legislate / regulate moral actions.

Surely the onus must rest with the insurers / product providers. They can identify the "moral recidivists". In fact most advisors could tell you who the few bad eggs are - they are well known.

Because providers are prepared to give them agencies they continue to perpetuate their behaviour.

If providers were held to a greater degree of account for the agencies they sign up then this would quickly disappear.

As Scott Black said The insurer receiving the business calls it new premium it's the insurer losing it that describes it as churn.

Without an agency agreement the moral fortitude of these individuals would not haunt the rest of the advisors.
Insurers should be held accountable
On 4 April 2018 at 2:24 pm Do what is right said:
I find any comment coming from Naomi and Partners regarding the ceasing of churn a challenge. Partners are recognised generally as a supporter of business churn by their actions and incentives. Despite constantly denying this as their business model, we know that is exactly how Partners grew so quickly. Jacinda Adern telling us that adding excise to petrol is not a tax has the same 'feel' as Partners telling us they do not endorse churn. The real issue!! By supporting churn, you are supporting morally challenged advisers. They would not exist if companies took a serious stand against their behaviour. But they won't for their greed to have more new business revenue means that they will accept deliberate churning of policies. When a company cannot speak with honesty, why are they surprised when advisers act with the same values?
On 4 April 2018 at 6:36 pm Adviser1 said:
Well to be fair Partners Life does offer some innovative benefits some of the other insurers simply don't offer.

Without product innovation we'd still have 1980's policy wordings and ultimately less claims paid. As every good adviser know's if the benefits and advantages to the client outweigh the disadvantages and risks then surely it's the right thing to do.

I also can't recall Partners Life every offering 'take over terms' like some other insurers who won't be mentioned.
On 4 April 2018 at 9:25 pm Ron Flood said:
Adviser 1. Innovative benefits started with the birth of Sovereign Part 2(Club Life) and were simply added to, for a point of difference, with the birth of Sovereign Part 3 (Partners Life).

At each birth, a massive amount of business was moved from other providers and easily justified by Advisers due to the improved benefits on offer.

Although most Advisers are ethical and replace cover for the right reasons there are still others, who can't prospect or get new clients and continue to replace business for their own financial gain.

The blame for churn sits squarely on the shoulders of unethical advisers, not the insurers.

I would hope that the names of the four advisers, given private warnings by the FMA, have been circulated to all insurers to take further action where appropriate. Their actions, and the actions of the other 20 advisers in the final cut, has clearly tainted the way the FMA now looks at all of us.

On 4 April 2018 at 9:36 pm Adviser1 said:
Yes Ron valid points. I would also hope the insurers are doing their part and cancelling agencies or not accepting business from blatant 'churners'. As you say it gives us all a bad wrap.

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