AMP has attempted to draw a line under its many misfortunes, but redemption won’t come easy for a company facing a challenge of this scale.
It was a jovial Francesco de Ferrari who fronted AMP’s annual general meeting on Friday, showing no signs of any enmity between him and the board to whom he recently handed his resignation. Mr de Ferrari happily aided AMP’s company secretary in the pronunciation of Italian shareholders’ names and offered clear-eyed assessments of the challenges facing the wealth giant.
What he didn’t offer was a clear-eyed assessment of how AMP plans to overcome those challenges as it moves ahead with a proposed demerger that will split the 172-year-old company in two and essentially force it to make Australian wealth management a viable business – or die.
That’s the other big question. But chair Debra Hazelton also refused to be drawn on whether there was a “Plan B” should this latest in a series of turnaround attempts fail, saying the current strategy was “progressing extremely well” and that it had already delivered on a significant number of its market commitments.
“Building on these foundations, we’ll look to capitalise on execution momentum. Our focus will turn to delivering the reinvention of wealth management of Australia, the growing of the New Zealand business, the de-merging of AMP Capital private markets to accelerate its growth, and creating a simpler, leaner business,” Ms Hazelton said.
All of that might have been easier to swallow if new chief executive Alexis George – who is currently working through her notice period as deputy chief of ANZ – was present at the meeting. While Ms George doubtless has a lot to cover off on, it’s difficult to assess AMP’s fortunes in the absence of the person chosen to reverse them.
Ms Hazelton instead read a statement from Ms George, saying that she “feels humbled” to be joining the wealth giant and acknowledging “the scale of the challenge”. If one had to guess as to the cause of Mr De Ferrari’s good mood, it’s that that challenge no longer falls on him.