AMP's leadership woes frustrate investors

·2-min read

Wealth management giant AMP may have avoided a board spill at its annual general meeting, after securing the votes of more than 75 per cent of shareholders in favour of its remuneration report.

But the strong protest vote - more than 23 per cent shareholders voted against - is a clear indication of shareholders' growing frustration with the leadership musical chairs that has afflicted the 172-year old company in recent years.

Facing her first AGM as AMP Chair on Friday, Debra Hazelton, acknowledged the difficult task at hand and had to repeatedly urge investors to remain patient.

"We do acknowledge there's been a lot of change of leadership that is unsettling, and most of that goes back to the longer term context of a very challenging transformation," she said early in the meeting.

That "transformation" has been ongoing since 2018, when the financial services royal commission found widespread misconduct within the company, including billing 'fees for no service' and charging dead clients life insurance premiums.

It triggered the exit of then-CEO Craig Meller as well as AMP's first female chair Catherine Brenner, led to heavy loss of business and helped wipe out billions of dollars in shareholder value.

The financial services giant hasn't really recovered since.

AMP shares have floundered since 2018, losing nearly 80 per cent of their value. On Friday, the stock hit a record low of $1.10.

The company was again hit by scandal last year. New chairman David Murray resigned after shareholders revolted over the appointment of Boe Pahari to head its key AMP Capital unit despite misconduct allegations against him.

Pahari, who was demoted at the time, resigned earlier this year but has left shareholders furious over speculation that he will walk away with incentives of more than $50 million.

"How can shareholders feel confident that the board really has the skills to hold the ship together?" a furious shareholder asked on Friday.

AMP's struggle with leadership has continued, with current CEO Francesco De Ferrari announcing his resignation earlier this month - less than three years after taking over.

Shareholders have questioned the appointment of his replacement, Alexis George, who is yet to resign from her role as deputy CEO of ANZ and did not attend AMP's shareholder meeting on Friday.

"How many times do we have to hear the same excuses? CEOs get paid a ridiculous amount of money and then leave without demonstrating value to the business," another shareholder pointedly asked Ms Hazelton.

She could only urge patience.

"We are very conscious of the disappointment of many shareholders," she said.

"Turning the business around requires time and effort. But we are committed to building that long term sustainable value."