BTFG to open life APL

02-Nov-2017

By Sarah Kendell

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BT Financial Group has confirmed there will be a minimum of three insurers on its approved product list (APL) by March 2018 after facing public criticism for including only its own insurance products on the APL for its salaried advisers.

In a statement, the firm said while it was confident current provisions for advisers to recommend off-APL products meant there was no danger it was in contravention of the best interest duty, BT had recognised the need for “more products formally being on APLs going forward”.

“BT financial advisers … can recommend products both on and off the APL, depending on what they believe best meets the needs of their clients,” the firm said.

“Over the past four years, every adviser request to use a product not on the APL was approved, with seven different insurers being recommended more than 1600 times over the last 12 months alone.”

It added that although Westpac Life was the only insurer on its APL currently, the in-house insurer was ranked first in IRESS research for life and total and permanent disability cover, and had been awarded life insurance company of the year by both the Association of Financial Advisers and RFi.

By combining “a high-quality insurer” with “a robust and streamlined off-APL process”, current practices around life insurance advice within BT were well within best interest provisions, it said.

However, BT general manager of advice and private wealth Jane Watts said the insurer was now seeking to include at least two other insurers on its APL by the end of the first quarter of 2018 and the process of vetting insurers would start in the coming weeks.

“We will be going through a rigorous selection process supported by independent input to make sure the insurance options on our APL meet the demands we expect around the quality of product we recommend to our clients,” Watts said.

“We are doing this methodically to ensure we get great-quality additional cover on our APL and we will take the time to make sure our advisers are highly trained in them so we deliver a strong outcome for our customers.”

The group further confirmed adviser training on the new insurers would begin early next year and it was committing to getting the approval process for off-APL products down to one working day.

The announcements come after the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Corporations and Financial Services raised concerns about BT’s APL in its ASIC oversight hearing last week.

Asked if he thought it was appropriate the firm had only its own insurance products available for advisers to recommend, ASIC deputy commissioner Peter Kell said: “If you are providing personal advice to a client that is designed to be in their best interest, it is going to be a lot more difficult if you only have one product on your list.”

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