AMP engages Symmetra and Oliver Wyman for cultural change

28 September 2020 3 min. read

Embattled AMP has appointed two consulting firms to help accelerate its cultural transformation, as it looks to fend off mounting criticism of its internal corporate culture. Symmetra and Oliver Wyman will work to help AMP build a more respectful and inclusive workplace.

Australian origin business AMP is financial services group active in retail banking, wealth management, and (international) investments. Over the course of its 170-year history, AMP has grown to provide retail clients with financial advice and superannuation, retirement income, banking, investment products and life insurance. It also provides investment management services across a range of asset classes, both in Australia and globally.

Since late August, the firm has been thrust into internal crisis, following the resignation of its Chairman and the demotion of the Chief Executive Officer for its funds management unit. The senior changes were announced after allegations emerged regarding inappropriate conduct of the latter. Chaired by David Murray, AMP’s board had appointed Boe Pahari to head AMP Capital two months earlier, despite an internal investigation regarding comments made by Pahari to a female colleague in 2017 finding he had breached the company’s code of conduct.

AMP engages Symmetra and Oliver Wyman for cultural change

As pressure continues to mount on the beleaguered group following the scandal, the firm has appointed global inclusion and diversity consultancy Symmetra to undertake an “objective” and comprehensive review of its corporate culture. The investigation’s scope will scrutinise AMP’s conduct, policies, leadership, governance and behaviour, in an effort to accelerate a rapid “cultural transformation.”

Led by CEO Heather Price, Symmetra was originally launched as a diversity consultancy in post-apartheid South Africa in 2003, before relocating to Sydney. The boutique specialises in delivering end-to-end solutions that transform leadership and culture. It has worked with clients across multiple industries, and boasts the expertise needed to advise on how to make change succeed, while building internal capability to ensure clients can maintain new ways of working.

New AMP Chair Debra Hazelton said of the Symmetra appointment, “The board and I acknowledge the critical need to create a more diverse, inclusive and safe workplace… By articulating the Board’s beliefs regarding the preferred organisational culture, we intend to provide foundational support for Francesco [De Ferrari]’s number one priority – to create a culture built on mutual trust and respect, which in turn drives high performance.

Earlier in the year, AMP CEO De Ferrari had overseen the establishment of an Inclusion Taskforce around the time AMP conducted its H1 2020 results call – during which De Ferrari batted off consecutive questions about the cultural settings of the executive team. In a statement accompanying the Symmetra announcement, De Ferrari – who has since appeared before a federal parliamentary inquiry to insist there was no systemic cultural problem at his company – talked up the “many positive elements” of the AMP culture, before admitting there was room for improvement.

“The workplace conduct review and inclusive leadership program we’ve announced today are an important investment in our people and will help us create the high performing, inclusive culture we want for the company,” De Ferrari added.

A Culture Working Group has also been established to work on culture, governance and strategy, which will be led by new AMP chair Debra Hazelton and supported by consultancy Oliver Wyman. Consultants from Oliver Wyman will support the Culture Working Group in its work to formalise the shared beliefs of the board, providing a framework for systems and expectations driving culture, governance and strategy.