ASIC takes action on Countplus subsidiary

ASIC takes action on Countplus subsidiary

Countplus-owned financial planning group Total Financial Solutions (TFS) has been slapped with additional licence conditions by ASIC following revelations of "concerning" advice.


The corporate regulator conducted an investigation in October 2014, which focused on financial product advice provided by one of TFS' authorised representatives.

According to a statement by ASIC, the surveillance identified "serious concerns", including a "one-size-fits-all" approach when providing superannuation rollover advice.

In addition, there was systemic failure to act in the client's best interests, especially in instances where the advice related to the client's existing defined benefit superannuation funds, as well as failure to prioritise the client's interests when providing advice, ASIC said.

Further, ASIC was concerned about the steps taken by TFS to comply with financial services laws, in particular its monitoring and supervision of the relevant authorised representative.

"Adequate supervisory arrangements must be in place to ensure advisers are providing advice that is in the best interests of their clients. We know that deficiencies in licensee guidance and supervision can lead to systemic misconduct by advisers," said ASIC deputy chair, Peter Kell.

TFS has consented to the licence conditions, agreeing to appoint an ASIC-approved compliance expert for a period of 18 months.

The expert will supervise TFS in reviewing the advice that raised concerns in the ASIC surveillance and will provide findings to both ASIC and TFS.

TFS and the expert will implement and oversee a client remediation program for affected clients.

The expert will also conduct a review of the adequacy and effectiveness of its licensee compliance arrangements.

As part of this condition, the expert will conduct an analysis of TFS' compliance arrangements, focusing on the adequacy of its monitoring and supervision of its representatives and its dispute resolution procedures, ASIC said.

ASIC added it will continue to regard the conduct of the individual authorised representative.

TFS is wholly owned subsidiary of Countplus, a publicly listed company on the ASX.

Count Financial, which is owned by CBA, is the largest single shareholder of Countplus.

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