By Stephen Mayne


Channel Nine finance editor Ross Greenwood has become a whole lot busier after taking over the hosting duties at Business Sunday during
its final weeks, but he still found time last week to moonlight as the
MC at the 2006 Investment and Financial Services Association (IFSA)
conference at the Gold Coast Convention Centre.

The gala dinner
on Thursday night was attended by almost 1,000 people and Ross kept
telling the industry how much money they were making during these boom
times as the proverbial hat went around raising $400,000 for the
Inspire Foundation.

Macquarie
Bank looked likely to be the biggest single donor with a $30,000
contribution, until the Dutch team at ING came over the top with a late
$50,000 pledge. Count Financial’s Barry Lambert celebrated his addition
to the Rich List with a $15,000 pledge and there was any number of
players who shelled out the seemingly mandatory $5,000-$10,000.

The
place was crawling with CEOs and politicians as senators Sherry,
Chapman and Conroy all enjoyed prime positions near the fire-breathers at the dinner, while Kevin Rudd
impressed plenty when he unveiled a well thought out policy for the funds management industry to become an Asian hub that generates more export income for the nation.

More than 100 delegates came to the session about media management with The Australian’s Anna Fenech, The AFR’s
Barrie Dunstan and yours truly. In an attempt to be a little
controversial, I told them the industry is quite unique in these
respects:

  • Pound for pound it has more spindoctors than any other industry in
    the country because the huge advertising spend creates vast amounts of
    editorial space and consumer confidence in brands is absolutely
    pivotal.
  • The trade press still breaks a majority of the stories although The AFR is fighting back with three recent hirings from these publications.
  • The big name journalists in funds management, such as Paul
    Clitheroe and David Koch, tend to become celebrities in their own right
    and often become industry participants, sometimes throwing up conflicts
    of interest.
  • About 80% of journalists vote Labor and the majority would
    be union members and supporters of industry funds, so don’t be surprised
    when they focus on the huge riches being created for the industry and
    dodgy practices such as financial planner conflicts.

There
were plenty of other interesting aspects to the conference but the
hottest issue remains financial planners and commissions. Some
observers believe ASIC chairman Jeffrey Lucy unfairly rubbed AMP’s nose in it by
spending two pages out of ten in his speech
on the enforceable undertaking, which all
the players knew about anyway. There was an expectation it would only
be mentioned in passing, but how could the corporate plod not mention
that the industry’s biggest player had just been exposed with system
flaws and a serious credibility problem?

Peter Fray

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