The Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) has temporarily banned Brisbane-based financial adviser Christopher Ramsay from providing financial services after “failing to act in the best interests of his clients”.
Additionally, Mr Ramsay was found to have given inappropriate advice.
He has been banned for five years, ASIC said on Monday.
Mr Ramsay was an employee representative of Westpac Banking Corporation between 2010 and 2015, and was an authorised representative of GWM Adviser Services from 2015 to 2017. GWM is a company wholly owned by NAB.
ASIC said, “Mr Ramsay failed in his obligations when he provided advice to his Westpac and NAB-subsidiary GWM clients to switch their superannuation and insurance products.
“In some cases he failed to make appropriate inquiries to assess whether the clients' existing products met the clients' needs.
“In other cases, ASIC found that Mr Ramsay provided misleading information to support his recommendations for clients to switch products.”
For example, ASIC continued, the financial adviser had provided misleading fee comparison tables that suggested a recommended fund was cheaper than clients’ existing funds.
In the instances of poor advice, it was either not the case that the recommended fund was cheaper, or Mr Ramsay was comparing dissimilar fee structures.
ASIC also found that he had provided clients with statements in advice documents that said the client’s insurer did not offer income protection insurance, even though the client’s insurer did.
“Clients paid substantially more for some products than they had previously paid and had understood they would pay,” ASIC said, laying this development at the foot of the former financial adviser’s failings.
“In some cases, the higher cost of products recommended significantly reduced the clients' superannuation savings without the clients' knowledge.”
ASIC noted that Mr Ramsay has the right to appeal.
Earlier this year, ASIC blasted the country’s five biggest financial services firms for failing to adequately manage conflicts of interest.
Arguing that “improvements are needed”, the watchdog said that ANZ, CBA, NAB, Westpac and AMP and their subsidiaries, which includes GWM Adviser Services, have areas for improvement.
ASIC found that where clients were advised to switch to in-house products, in 75 per cent of files reviewed, the advisers “did not demonstrate compliance with the duty to act in the best interests of their clients”.
“Further, 10 per cent of the advice reviewed was likely to leave the customer in a significantly worse financial position,” ASIC continued, noting that it would ensure remediation occurs.
However, in its release on Monday, the watchdog did not specify which superannuation funds Mr Ramsay switched clients onto.
The ban comes just days after the banning of Charter Financial Planning’s Brenton John Poynter.
ASIC found that Mr Poynter had deducted $39,700 in fees from 10 clients’ investment accounts for financial advice that had not been provided.
Charter Financial Planning operates as a subsidiary of AMP.