The mystery around whether AMP chief executive Francesco De Ferrari will step down has obscured a more important question: should he?
First he’s gone, then he’s not. AMP insists Francesco De Ferrari is sticking around – as of my deadline (4PM, 26 March 2021). That the situation requires a timestamp speaks to its complexity. We’re dealing with a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma – and by the time this piece goes to press it might have been solved. AMP’s erstwhile knight in shining armour could be waltzing out the doors of 33 Alfred Street, finally free of the albatross that’s hung from around his neck since he took the job in 2018.
That would be a shame.
Mr De Ferrari’s main failures have been in how he handled AMP’s people – his inability to understand the problems surrounding Boe Pahari, or the other cultural shortfalls within the organisation for which it has recently somehow received a clean scorecard.
He has always been clear-eyed about the challenges facing the business, and has attempted to cut the Gordian Knot of affordable financial advice in Australia – an attempt that has not earned him any love from within AMP’s army of advisers, who have seen their buyer of last resort (BOLR) agreements rendered more or less worthless. Mr De Ferrari’s failure to engage constructively with that adviser base is another mark against him.
But nobody is holding the decision to hock AMP Life against Mr De Ferrari. And his recent move to spin off stakes in AMP Capital’s slew of public and private businesses – businesses that he admits AMP Capital simply lacks the scale to be competitive in – was a smart play. That it would allow him to focus on Australian and New Zealand financial advice spoke to his commitment to his three-year turnaround strategy.
AMP says that its board and Mr De Ferrari are “working together and constructively discussing the future strategy and leadership of the group”. Potentially premature media coverage aside, the writing is on the wall. The real question now: who will take on the role? It’s going to be a hard fight to get permanent talent into the top job after something like this – especially when the most significant challenges still lie ahead.
But who knows? As of my deadline, Mr De Ferrari is still in a job.
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