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Josh Frydenberg rebuffs calls for financial planning commission

'We have no plans for a royal commission:' Assistant Treasurer Josh Frydenberg. Photo: Angela Milne 'We have no plans for a royal commission:' Assistant Treasurer Josh Frydenberg. Photo: Angela Milne
The government is resisting renewed calls for a royal commission into financial advice after revelations of misconduct at National Australia Bank, saying it is already responding to problems in the industry.

After several senators this week pushed for an inquiry spanning financial advice, products and institutions, Assistant Treasurer Josh Frydenberg on Friday said the government had no such plans.

Mr Frydenberg said investigating NAB's wealth arm was a key focus of the Australian Securities and Investments Commission, and the government was committed to lifting professional standards and ethics across the industry.

"We have no plans for a royal commission," Mr Frydenberg said. "As you know a number of these concerns date back to a time when Labor was in office, from 2009 onwards. ASIC is investigating, I've spoken to ASIC, they've told me it's a high priority for them."

The comments are the first from Mr Frydenberg about the royal commission calls since Fairfax last week revealed NAB paid out $10 million to $15 million in compensation to 750 customers over the past five years.

Nationals senator John Williams earlier this week argued the NAB revelations bolstered the case for a royal commission and he was hopeful some government colleagues who previously dismissed calls for such a probe would change their minds.

And Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said Friday that Labor supported a royal commission.

Mr Frydenberg also said the government was responding to several reports with impacts for advice, including a bi-partisan inquiry in December that recommended higher educational standards.

"We are determined to ensure a greater level of professional standards, education and ethics in the sector, and you will be hearing more about that over the coming months," Mr Frydenberg said.

Calls for a royal commission emerged last year, focusing on the Commonwealth Bank after its planning scandal. But senators argue misconduct at Macquarie and NAB show the problems are industry-wide.

The other three large financial advice businesses - AMP, Westpac's BT and ANZ Bank - did not answer questions from Fairfax about whether they had instituted file reviews in response to problems in the industry, or whether they had paid out compensation to advice customers in the past five years.

BT chief executive Brad Cooper said in a statement that the company had provided almost 200,000 pieces of advice in the last five years and the quality of advice was regularly reviewed.

"Like any business, continuous improvement is always an ongoing goal. But let's be very clear, if an adviser is found to be doing the wrong thing by the customer we do not hesitate to take action against that adviser and ensure any impact on the customer is put right. If it is a significant breach we immediately report it to ASIC," he said.

An ANZ spokesman said it regularly reviewed its planners' advice as a result of its compliance program. "While we have not identified anything of concern, if we find issues with advisors we report it to ASIC immediately."

An AMP spokeswoman said there were "sometimes instances where we find the advice may not have been up to the standard we expect" and customers were restored to the position they would have been in if the appropriate advice had been given.

Author: Clancy Yeates
Source: Sydney Morning Herald


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