AMP culture ‘rife’ with bullying: employees

Exclusive

Michael Roddan

AMP suffers from a culture “rife” with bullying and intimidation by senior managers, according to current and former employees, who have rated the troubled corporation as the worst place to work of all major listed Australian financial institutions.

According to hundreds of reviews by present and past staff members lodged on workplace rating website Glassdoor, AMP has been given a score of just three out of five based on a range of metrics, including its culture and values, senior management and career opportunities.

AMP CEO Francesco De Ferrari addresses staff via a virtual town hall.  

That rating, which has fallen from its level close to the average Glassdoor company score of 3.5 in late 2018, is far lower than employee ratings given to other large financial institutions, such as Commonwealth Bank’s leading 4.1 score, 4 for Westpac and ANZ, and 3.6 for National Australia Bank.

It is also markedly below the employee ratings for Insurance Australia Group, Challenger Group, Suncorp and Bendigo and Adelaide Bank.

AMP Capital, the asset management arm of the ASX-listed group, receives a lowly 3.2 rating.

A revolt by staff at AMP was triggered this month following revelations by The Australian Financial Review that the company’s board and management promoted Boe Pahari to be chief executive of AMP Capital despite him copping a $500,000 penalty after the company settled a sexual harassment claim brought by a female subordinate in 2017.

After widespread outrage, in which employees voiced their anger and concerns about the direction of the company directly to the group’s eight-member executive team, chief executive Francesco De Ferrari pledged to establish a group-wide integrity office, a new “cultural taskforce” to boost female employees in leadership positions and the appointment of consultants to help them achieve the goal.

The ructions have also led to major investment consultant JANA suspending its ratings for AMP Capital, warning major superannuation fund clients against placing money with the company because it “seriously misjudged the expectations of staff, clients and the broader market” in promoting Mr Pahari.

Despite the efforts of AMP’s board and management to lift staff morale, many believe there are deeper issues at the 170-year-old company than the instance of Mr Pahari’s promotion.

AMP Capital boss Boe Pahari received counselling over remarks he made to a woman colleague in 2017, and the company reached a financial settlement with her.  Reuters

Almost a dozen current and former AMP employees have told the Financial Review of repeated instances of bullying by senior managers at the firm – a trend also borne out by reports from anonymous AMP staff published by Glassdoor.

The majority of reviews on the site are neutral in tone, pointing out the pros and cons of working at AMP. And there are many positive reviews, which congratulate the company on its “inclusive culture”, good “work-life balance” and “competitive remuneration”. But several more recent reviews, which raise serious concerns about the health of the workplace at AMP and AMP Capital, and the “political” behaviour of upper management, have dragged the scores of the two businesses down.

An AMP spokesman declined to comment.

One former senior analyst who worked at AMP’s Sydney office wrote on Glassdoor that they had suffered “bullying tactics” by their manager, who “treats his employees like pets”. The employee, who noted their review was “specifically for AMP Bank”, said they regretted their time at AMP.

A Sydney-based head of strategy employee said the company was “male dominated” but that also “senior females were aggressive” in order to stay at the top of the business.

We have meetings now referred to as the bully meeting.

— AMP Capital employee

A former software engineer in Sydney said there was a “toxic and political culture” across the business. “You can feel it no matter what your level,” they said.

An analyst at AMP’s Circular Quay office in Sydney said it was the “worst organisation I have ever worked for”, that “bullying in some areas of the business is rife” and it appeared to be “condoned by senior management and HR”.

“There is still a boys club mentality in some areas. There is no focus on positive culture or communication, or empowering workers,” the employee said.

One AMP Capital staff member said the place needed to ensure “workplace bullying and public humiliation” were no longer tolerated.

“If you disagree with senior management on any issue, you will be bullied in front of your peers and eventually forced out (as demonstrated by their high turnover rates) regardless of your seniority. Only those who go with the flow will see themselves promoted,” the employee said.

Another said managers would focus on “empire building” by hiring friends rather than promoting based on merit, and cited a “poor (bordering on Machiavellian) handling of a sexual harassment case”.

The Financial Review has separately spoken to numerous employees who have complained about the culture at AMP, including one who cited a senior manager notorious for bullying subordinates or members of the executive.

‘Known cultural issues’

Two AMP employees said they were aware that AMP human resources division, People & Culture, was currently swamped with employee concerns about bullying and harassment following the promotion of Mr Pahari. and that they believed it showed the company would not take future complaints seriously.

Another employee said there were “known cultural issues” in the AMP Australia division, which runs the banking and wealth operations of the group.

One AMP Capital employee said they had been bullied “for years” and that both men and women were subjected to the behaviour, but that the company did not take whistleblowing complaints seriously.

“We have meetings now referred to as the bully meeting. I see consultants bullied if they don’t do what people want them to do,” they said.

Another AMP Capital employee said “the male cronyism was toxic” and that the human resources division was often caught between doing the right thing or toeing the line when it came to workplace complaints.

One former AMP Australia employee, who left the company because of “cultural stuff”, said they had “never went to a workplace and felt so bad before” and that senior managers would often fiercely criticise their subordinates in public forums.

The Financial Review‘s revelations have triggered widespread staff discontent about Mr De Ferrari’s eight-person executive team, where head of corporate affairs Helen Livesey is the only female member.

During a virtual town hall meeting earlier this month, Ms Livesey said there were “many people who are in AMPA [AMP Australia] who would say that there is behaviour that needs to be addressed in the organisation” and that she was the “the most vocal member of GLT [global leadership team]” about what constitutes acceptable behaviour.

In an all-staff email obtained by the Financial Review, AMP Australia boss Alex Wade earlier this month admitted he had been too slow to deliver on overhauling “behaviours” in the company’s sprawling wealth and retail divisions, and said “we will do better, and I will do better”.

AMP’s male-dominated board signed off on Mr Pahari’s promotion ahead of respected internal candidate Carmel Hourigan, the current AMP Capital global head of property, despite being briefed extensively on Mr Pahari’s workplace incident.

The investigation by the Financial Review found the allegations brought against Mr Pahari were the subject of a 2017 independent investigation by top British QC Andrew Burns of London-based Devereux Chambers.

The woman was forced to contract external lawyers to help resolve the harassment claim and her severance with the firm after AMP’s People & Culture function failed to internally address her concerns following the independent review.

In 2018, AMP lost three female board directors and chairwoman Catherine Brenner. Last year AMP Bank boss Sally Bruce was replaced by former Credit Suisse banker Mr Wade, whose responsibilities were expanded, while AMP Life insurance boss Megan Beer’s division was sold to a different company.

This year chief risk officer Jenny Fagg was replaced by Phil Pakes, leaving Ms Livesey the sole woman on Mr De Ferrari’s eight-member global leadership team.

Michael Roddan is a senior companies reporter based in Sydney. He has worked as a business and economics reporter for The Australian and Business Spectator. Connect with Michael on Twitter. Email Michael at m.roddan@afr.com

Read More

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here