CBA to hunt down former advisers for missing files

CBA has said it will ramp up efforts to track down some formerly-aligned advisers and their missing paperwork, which continues to be an obstacle in the bank's client compensation scheme.

According to the fourth report by Promontory Financial Group – which was appointed to oversee the Open Advice Review program – the bank will start contacting former Financial Wisdom (FWL) advisers individually as well as their aligned entities.

The report stated that as of 31 December 2015, CBA is still unable to locate the hard-copy and electronic files for about 1,000 cases across both FWL and Commonwealth Financial Planning licensees.

"For former FWL advisers that currently practice in larger third-party advice entities, the bank commenced contacting the relevant third-party entities to inform them of the need for the bank to contact their advisers," the report said.

"The bank has then been working through a central contact point at the third-party entities to obtain the necessary customer files of each adviser.

"For all other former FWL advisers (not working in a large third-party advice entity), the bank plans to contact these advisers directly on an individual basis from February 2016," it said.

For cases involving customers of current FWL advisers, CBA has successfully obtained most of the relevant paperwork, with all but two registered cases having files retrieved as of 31 December 2015, the report said.

The bank has also developed a different assessment process for dealing with cases with limited or no documentation.

ifa understands that Financial Wisdom changed its policy in 2011 to require copies of all advice documents prior to an adviser departing the group. A considerable portion of the compensation program review period (2003-2012) sits outside of ASIC's statutory 7-year document retention period.

Meanwhile, the amount of compensation that CBA has repaid to customers has climbed to $2 million – more than double the amount offered since the program's inception.

The bank has so far reviewed nearly 2,000 cases and compensated at least 69 customers. It had offered $2.89 million to 171 customers, but 17 had rejected the offer while 96 are still reviewing theirs. Those who were offered reimbursement had either received poor advice or were charged an incorrect fee, the report said.

The previous period, which ended 31 August 2015, saw the bank having offered $950,252 to 53 customers and paid out $488,815 to 19 customers. Promontory attributes this hike in payment to the bank speeding up its assessment process.

"The current period saw the bank significantly accelerate the number of cases it had assessed in the program," the report said.

"This acceleration can largely be attributed to the various initiatives and investments made in the program's infrastructure earlier in 2015."

CBA's Open Advice Review program had come under scrutiny last year after former employee Russell Phillips approached a Senate committee with claims that the program was not in the favour of clients.

The bank later responded with a lengthy letter countering the accusations.

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