BT Financial Group (BTFG) today rejected ASIC’s interpretation of what constitutes general versus personal advice and will vigorously oppose the action ASIC has brought against it.
BTFG believes it has met all requirements under a general advice model and has not failed any ‘best interest’ obligations. It is important Australians have good quality advice, guidance and information in language they can understand. ASIC’s interpretation of how general advice can be offered would be a bad policy outcome for Australians. The legislation and ASIC’s own public guidance recognises that there are a range of customer engagement activities to help them manage their finances. BTFG Chief Executive, Brad Cooper, said this is an important test case for the Wealth industry. “More and more we are finding people want to have a natural and practical conversation without having to pay for comprehensive personal advice. “Super fund consolidation is in the best interests of many Australians and along with regulators and industry, we have built programs to inform and support customers to consolidate or roll-over their superannuation. ASIC’s own MONEYSMART website recognises the benefits of super consolidation.” In 2016 there was more than $14 billion in lost super, down from $21 billion in 2011 and therefore programs designed to help people find and manage their super are essential to ensure people get the maximum benefit from their retirement savings. In 2015 the Australian Tax Office (ATO) published on its own website information encouraging those with multiple super accounts to consider consolidating into one preferred account. “BTFG conducts superannuation campaigns with the purpose of assisting its customers to consolidate their superannuation accounts. These campaigns involve existing customers contacting BTFG to request more information in relation to their decision to consolidate,” Mr Cooper said. “We reject ASIC’s legal interpretation that some customers may have thought they were receiving personal, rather than general advice.
“In each of the 15 conversations ASIC is using as the base of its case, our customers were given a ‘general advice warning’ as is standard and a required part of our process. “We are disappointed that we have not been able to resolve the difference of opinion as to the operation of the law with ASIC. We look forward to having the issue determined by the Court to obtain important clarity for the industry. “We stand behind our work to assist customers to consolidate their superannuation accounts and to benefit from reduced duplication of fees and easier management.
“We take our obligations to provide compliant general advice to customers very seriously. These customer interactions have all been conducted in accordance with the spirit and requirements of the law and have provided real benefits to our customers.”
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Information is current as at 22/12/2016.