Former Aon Hewitt financial adviser banned for two years

ASIC has banned Thanh Huu Tran, a former authorised representative of Aon Hewitt Financial Advice Limited, from providing financial services for a period of two years. This follows an ASIC surveillance which found that Mr Tran is not adequately trained or is not competent to provide financial services.

ASIC’s surveillance focused on Mr Tran’s part in 2016 conduct by Futura Financial Group Pty Ltd (a company of which Mr Tran was a director) that resulted in 331 Aon Master Trust (AMT) default superannuation members not switching to an AMT MySuper product. The AMT MySuper product generally has lower fees and costs than AMT’s legacy default employer superannuation product, partly because MySuper products are prohibited from paying commissions to financial advisers.

ASIC’s surveillance found:

  • Futura sent letters to 424 clients stating that if they did not respond to the letter within 30 days their superannuation accrued default amount and future contributions would not go to a MySuper product.
  • Following the issuing of the letter, Futura then sent an email and a text message to those clients for whom they had email and mobile phone contact details.
  • Mr Tran then instructed a staff member to log in to the adviser portal of the AMT website to make investment choices on behalf of clients who did not respond to the letter, email or text message. Where Futura received an automated notification to indicate the message failed to deliver to the mobile or email, no changes were made to the relevant client’s account.
  • As a result, 331 clients’ default superannuation balances and future contributions were invested in the AMT’s legacy default superannuation product, instead of transitioning to MySuper, even though the clients had not given their instructions for this to happen.

Mr Tran’s conduct effectively required the clients to ‘opt-in’ to MySuper, even though the government had designed the MySuper system as an opt-out scheme.

Mr Tran has the right to appeal to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal for a review of ASIC’s decision. The banning order for Mr Tran has been recorded on ASIC’s publicly available Financial Advisers Register, which consumers can access to check the qualifications and credentials of financial advisers.

ASIC’s MoneySmart website has useful information for consumers on superannuation. The website also has information about what consumers can do if their adviser has been banned.

Client remediation program

Aon Hewitt Financial Advice developed a remediation program for the 331 clients affected by the conduct. This resulted in approximately $366,000 compensation payable to affected clients.

Aon Hewitt also wrote to affected clients providing them with information about their existing super account and AMT MySuper, encouraging them to consider whether to stay in their existing account or transition to AMT MySuper, and offering financial advice to help clients decide. Of the minority of clients who responded to Aon Hewitt, most indicated they now wished to switch to MySuper. For the larger group of affected clients who did not respond, the current trustee of the AMT (Equity Trustees Ltd, which was not the trustee at the time of the 2016 conduct) has decided to take steps to now move these clients to MySuper.

Background

Mr Tran was an authorised representative of Aon Hewitt Financial Advice Ltd between 6 July 2011 and 26 November 2018. In 2016 Mr Tran was a director of Futura Financial Group Pty Ltd, which was a corporate authorised representative of AHFA between 29 January 2016 and 26 August 2019.

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