AIA self-reported breach details, and more daily news

After AIA reported their shortcomings to the FMA as part of their submission for the FMA/RBNZ conduct and culture review of life insurers, the FMA filed charges in the Auckland High Court claiming that three causes of action under the Fair Dealing provisions (Part 2) of the Financial Markets Conduct Act 2013 (the FMC Act) were breached. The FMA based their case on:

  • purported enhancement of policy benefits
  • charging premiums after the termination of a policy and treating policies as terminated when they should have remained in force, and,
  • incorrect inflation adjustments.

AIA has said that a Notice of Admission will be filed and has agreed to admit to the breaches. A penalty hearing before the High Court will be held where the FMA will ask that AIA should be ordered to pay $700,000 as penalty.

“Life insurer AIA has admitted making false and/or misleading representations to customers in proceedings brought by the Financial Markets Authority (FMA) - Te Mana Tātai Hokohoko.

The case was filed in the Auckland High Court and alleges three causes of action under the Fair Dealing provisions (Part 2) of the Financial Markets Conduct Act 2013 (the FMC Act).

AIA has agreed to admit all causes of action and will file a Notice of Admission of the breaches in the High Court.  The matter will proceed to a penalty hearing before the High Court where the FMA will seek declarations of contravention, and where the parties will submit that AIA should be ordered to pay a pecuniary penalty of $700,000.

The FMA case is based on three core breaches regarding incorrect and misleading communication to customers holding various life insurance and associated policies:

  • purported enhancement of policy benefits
  • charging premiums after the termination of a policy and treating policies as terminated when they should have remained in force, and,
  • incorrect inflation adjustments.
  1. Passback benefits:

AIA wrongly told certain customers they were entitled to passback benefits (cover enhancements to an existing policy), without clarifying that the benefits only applied to post-2003 policies. The information customers received in anniversary letters misrepresented the benefits, and in some cases misled them about their policies.

  1. Termination Dates issues:
  • Premiums beyond termination: AIA continued to charge premiums when customers had no cover. Letters were sent to certain customers with policies approaching the end of their duration, specifying when cover would cease, but the letters contained the incorrect date.
  • Cover Cessation: AIA wrongly ceased cover for certain customers while their policies remained in force, which resulted in some customers, whose claims had been accepted, being underpaid on those claims. Customers were informed by cover cessation letters.
  1. Inflation Adjustments: AIA applied incorrect inflation adjustments to premiums. Many AIA customers choose to have their sum-assured adjusted in line with inflation, with premiums increased accordingly. Policy anniversary letters were sent to customers where the inflation adjustment had been incorrectly applied, and, as a consequence, some customers were charged excess premiums.

AIA self-reported the breaches to the FMA, when asked to provide information as part of the joint FMA/Reserve Bank of New Zealand conduct and culture review of life insurers in 2018. AIA has told the FMA that remediation for affected customers has been completed, and the FMA will be seeking confirmation of this as part of the process.

In deciding to bring this action, the FMA took into account a number of factors, including AIA’s self-reporting, its remediation efforts, the nature of the alleged misconduct, and the number of affected customers.

The FMA considered the seriousness of the breaches, and the length of time it has taken to deal with impacted customers, warranted enforcement action. The FMA is determined to hold such misconduct to account and send a strong message of deterrence to the market. The FMA case only captures breaches that occurred from 1 April 2014 – when the FMC Act came into force – but some breaches occurred prior to this and continued after the Act came into effect.” Click here to read more

AIA have emphasises that they self-reported the issues and completed remediation: 

AIA NZ and the Financial Markets Authority (FMA) have reached an agreement with regards to issues that AIA NZ self-disclosed to the FMA in June 2018 at the commencement of the joint FMA/RBNZ Conduct and Culture Review.

“After conducting an internal review, we found a small number of instances where we may have fallen short of our own standards and commitment to being as transparent as possible with our customers.  Since self-disclosing these issues to the FMA, we have worked relentlessly to remediate these complex issues, whilst engaging and cooperating with the FMA throughout. We have also worked swiftly with the FMA to come to a resolution” says Nick Stanhope, AIA NZ CEO. 

“Our remediation process is complete and, if a customer was impacted by one of the issues, they have already heard from us directly and we have put the issue right.  As part of this remediation, we have also reviewed our systems and processes to ensure this does not happen again. We always strive to do the right thing by our customers and community, and this situation is no different,” concludes Stanhope.

In other news

RBNZ: Review of the Insurance Solvency Standards webinar to be held on 5 August at 10am

FMA: FMA pings adviser for unauthorised advice

From Stuff: Taranaki widow battled for almost a month to get funeral insurance payout after husband's tragic death

From Good returns: CoFI debate back on agenda


Partners Life share Customer Outcome Matrix update, and more daily news

Partners Life has released more information on the Customer Outcome Matrix (COM). Partners Life has implemented the system changes that allows full automation of the process. From 10 May 2021, advisers will be able to view the results of COM in MPL. Although bonus rates are underpinned until 30 September 2021, Partners Life has said that they aim to provide at least 3 months visibility to the COM reporting on any upcoming bonus commission changes.

“We have communicated regularly on the progress we have made on the Customer Outcome Matrix (COM) and are very excited to announce that we are now implementing the system changes to ensure the full automation of the process. This means that advisers will be able to view the results of COM in MPL from Monday 10 May 2021.

We have always maintained that we have wanted to provide at least 3 months visibility to the COM reporting prior to any Bonus Commission changes coming into effect, allowing you sufficient time to review your own reporting and to be able to understand the feedback and how this relates to your engagement and servicing of clients.

Please remember, as previously communicated, bonus rates are underpinned until 30 September 2021.”

In other news

Asteron Life: to celebrate underwriting rules on AsteronConnect, weekly draws will be running from 6 May – 4 June. Winners will receive $200 to use at local restaurants. 

Asteron Life: draft e-Apps which are completed but not submitted by 9pm 9 May 2021

will no longer be visible in AsteronConnect as some of the questions are changing

Asteron Life: AsteronConnect  webinars will be held on Monday 10 May, 3pm-4pm and Thursday 13 May, 9.30am-10.30am


CoFI submissions available online

Submissions on the Financial Markets (Conduct of Institutions) Amendment Bill have been released on the Parliamentary website. Available via weblink at https://www.parliament.nz/en/pb/bills-and-laws/bills-proposed-laws/document/BILL_93443/tab/submissionsandadvice?Criteria.PageNumber=1

The release of the submissions was highlighted for us in the Investment News e-mail received recently, with the specific COFI story available at https://investmentnews.co.nz/investment-news/amp-finds-cofi-hard-to-swallow-industry-calls-for-sweeteners/

Noting that there are 53 submissions, I am, of course, glad to see the quote from one of our preferred compliance consultants (Rob Dowler) who had their submission selected and included in the Investment News article.

I encourage readers to consider the article. In particular the central question of having different principles for each participant, and the limited range of initial participants. Contrast that with the suggestions for a single set of requirements for fair treatment, and extending these to a wider range of companies. 

As submissions are supported by the exploration at Select Committee hearing next week it will be interesting to hear if the definitions of incentives may come in for some discussion. Regular readers will know that we consider the definition to be too vague for distributors to have long-term confidence in the approach to remuneration - discouraging investment and delaying a shift to more spread commission models preferred in Australia.

 


Deep dive into client base valuations - and a comment on risk

We worked alongside Kurt Owen of Base to offer advisers insight into the factors considered when determining the value of an adviser’s client base and overall business. Click here to understand what does into an accountant’s valuation of a client base with input from a life insurance expert.

Please bear in mind that this is a framework presentation and the material in the presentation is illustrative only. The market has received some substantial shocks, and with new draft conduct law on the horizon, which appears to establish a framework that could ban commission, there are substantial risks in the medium term outlook. 

Annotation 2020-03-18 143637


Three draft laws affecting financial services progressing through the house...

Parliament recommenced this week with first reading being completed on 12 Feb for three Bills relevant to the financial services sector:

  • Financial Markets (Conduct of Institutions) Amendment Bill completed first reading, referred to the Finance and Expenditure Committee with report back due by 23 June 2020. (see more details in the blog post below).
  • Fair Trading Amendment Bill read for the first time, referred to the Economic Development, Science and Innovation Committee with report back due by 12 August 2020.
  • Financial Market Infrastructures Bill read a first time, referred to the Finance and Expenditure Committee with report back due by 12 August 2020.

Dates for closure of submissions on each are yet to be announced, but the likelihood of enactment before the election can potentially be gauged from the report back dates.

Consultation on the legislation being proposed for insurance contract changes is expected later this year.

My compliance guru, Rob Dowler, advises me that he has completed drafting his submission on the Conduct Bill some time ago while awaiting the call for submissions. He advises that his key submission points will be:

  • Why is a “conduct licence” being introduced rather than simply legislating requiring compliance with the proposed conduct requirements?
  • Why restrict the application of the legislation to licensed banks, insurers and non-bank finance companies? Why not capture all financial service providers? In fact, why not capture all commercial enterprises?

Good points. I know that quite a few industries share some of the information asymmetry that makes financial services a sector where the utmost good faith needs to be shown when dealing with customers: many technology companies offer similarly intangible services that have a lot of hidden complexity and are not fully understood by consumers. 


Conduct of Financial Institutions

The Bill passed its first reading in the house. I am grateful to the FSC for this summary of key points from the proceedings in the house. Link to the draft law is below as well. 

Financial Markets (Conduct of Institutions) Amendment Bill Legislation

Key points in the introduction to the House:

The Bill seeks to address the regulatory gap as there is currently no explicit legislative mandate for the regulation of the general conduct of financial institutions. The Bill is intentionally fast tracked to protect consumers and to maintain confidence.

  • New conduct regime requiring licensed entities and intermediaries to have policies, processes, systems, and controls in place to ensure they're considering consumers' interests and treating them fairly in all aspects of their business.
  • Requires banks, insurers, and non-bank deposit takers to be licenced by the FMA in respect of their general conduct (with ongoing supervision), and licensing gives consumers confidence that licensed entities have been checked and meet the appropriate standards of conduct. Licensing will provide the FMA with a full range of tools to monitor, supervise, and enforce the new regime.
  • Where more detailed obligations are required, regulations can provide more guidance. A principles approach is intended to enable institutions to determine their own policy systems and controls.
  • Gives a regulation making power relating to incentives as a mechanism through which sales incentives based on volume and value targets will be prohibited. This prohibition applies not just to licensed entities but also to all intermediaries. Includes any and all incentives, whether monetary, such as commissions, bonuses, or other non-monetary rewards. This approach was taken as conflicted remuneration and incentives are seen as one of the biggest issues driving poor outcomes for consumers in the financial sector. It is intended that this prohibition on target-based incentives will address the fact that targets create an increasingly strong incentive to sell and therefore can encourage the person making the sale to prioritise their own interests over those of the customer. This prohibition still allows people to be remunerated for sales, but removes the particularly problematic target-based remuneration.

National Response: Not support the Bill (in current form).

  • Duplication with FSLA.
  • Note quoted Chapman Tripp.
  • Expressed concerns with the blanket regulation making power in relation to incentives and who they apply to without further scrutiny by government.
  • Argued that there are better and less onerous ways of ensuring an obligation to ensure a customer is not going to be harmed simply by the existence of incentives, when incentives are essentially part of a sales business.

From 1 February, OnePath becomes Cigna

Cigna formally absorbs OnePath from 1 February. Quoting from an email sent to advisers recently they announced: 

"We’re pleased to let you know that we have received approval from the Reserve Bank of New Zealand, and on 31 January 2020 the OnePath business will be transferred to Cigna. This means the two businesses will begin operating as one – Cigna"

Congratulations to Cigna on the successful completion of the merger. Adviser familiar with other mergers will be able to appreciate how quickly, and in many respects smoothly, this has gone. Also announced under the same email are changes to the agency agreements. These, like AIA's recent changes, introduce new obligations for both advisers and Cigna. These relate to the expected requirements under the Conduct of Financial Institutions Bill. Although these requirements will probably undergo some change, the transfer of all OnePath business to Cigna means that a new agreement was required.