AMP narrowly avoids board spill at AGM

·3-min read

AMP has narrowly avoided a second strike against its 2020 remuneration report, but shareholders still managed to lodge a strong protest vote against the performance of the troubled wealth management giant.

About 76 per cent of shareholders voted in favour at Friday's annual general meeting, while slightly more than 23 per cent voted against the remuneration report that included retention payments to senior AMP staff and payouts to outgoing chief executive Francesco De Ferrari.

A strike is recorded against a company's remuneration report when at least 25 per cent of shareholders vote against it.

Last year, 67 per cent of AMP's shareholders voted against the 2019 pay report. Two years of consecutive strikes triggers a vote to spill the board.

The Australian Shareholders Association and proxy adviser ISS had recommended voting against the report.

A relieved AMP chair, Debra Hazelton, on Friday acknowledged the shareholder anger.

"We are committed to working very hard to address your frustrations, regarding culture and performance," she in her closing remarks at the company's annual general meeting, which was held virtually this year.

"We will continue to rebuild your trust and confidence to restore AMP to sustainable long term returns, I am sure of that."

The voting results followed a lengthy set of questions from shareholders that focused on the ability of the board to hold together the 172 year old wealth manager, questions on the performance of key senior executives and returns to investors.

ANZ deputy CEO Alexis George will replace Mr De Ferrari in the third quarter of this year.

Ms Hazelton called on shareholders to be patient amid the "extremely complex" transformation strategy that she said would deliver long-term value.

AMP shares have floundered since 2018, when the financial services royal commission found widespread misconduct within the company, including charging "fees for no service" and charging dead clients life insurance premiums.

The stock has lost nearly 80 per cent of its value since then.

AMP shares are down more than a quarter this year alone. By 1310 AEST on Friday were trading 2.6 per cent lower at $1.10 each.

Earlier this month, AMP decided to spin off and list its private markets investment arm AMP Capital after a potential sale to US suitor Ares Management fell through.

That business manages about $50 billion in infrastructure and real estate assets and has a global reach that includes North America, Europe, the Middle East, Asia and Australia and New Zealand.

It follows the $3 billion sale of the AMP's life insurance business to Resolution Life last year.

Ms Hazelton also flagged a restart to AMP's share buyback that was put on hold last year and expects a return to shareholder payouts as business conditions improve.

The wealth manager announced an up to $200 million share buyback in August 2020, but put it on hold the next month after announcing a review of its business portfolio.

"The buyback was put on hold during the portfolio review, but following our demerger announcement, we now intend to recommence the program," she said.

"Returning capital to shareholders in this way is highly value accretive given the current share price."

Ms Hazelton committed to the board looking at reviving dividends.

"We truly recognise the importance of dividends to our shareholders. They will be dependent on economic and business performance," she said.