Westpac-owned BT Financial Group (BTFG) chief investment officer, Martyn Wild, left the firm last Friday following alleged “inappropriate behaviour towards two female staff”, according to Australian Fairfax Media reports.
The Fairfax report cites a memo from BTFG head, Brad Cooper, saying that after discussions with Wild, who is also a director of BT Funds Management NZ, they both “agreed his position with the company is untenable”.
A statement attributed to Cooper, says BTFG hired legal firm Clayton Utz to review the complaints against Wild.
“While some allegations were not substantiated, we immediately took disciplinary action, including a first and final warning in relation to those that were substantiated,” Cooper said in the statement.
“However, in light of recent developments we’ve agreed with Mr Wild that he will leave the business effective immediately.”
Wild, to be replaced in the short term by BTFG head of asset allocation, Corrin Collocott, served less than a year in the role he assumed after shifting across from half-sister firm BT Investment Management.
He was head of diversified strategies at BTIM, the ASX-listed funds management business which remains part-owned by Westpac. Prior to joining BTIM, Wild was head of investment solutions at Russell Investments Australia.
Wild’s departure coincided with an update from BTFG confirming the bank-owned firm’s commitment to the wealth management sector.
The statement says the Westpac subsidiary was “continuing to invest to grow the business”.
Cooper said in the release the wider corporate strategy was focused on supplying cradle-to-grave financial services.
“Having a strong wealth and insurance operation is imperative to deliver this and BTFG has invested to transform its operations to help more Australians plan for their best financial futures,” he said in the statement.
Despite near-term risks such as “volatility and the uncertainty and costs associated with regulatory change”, the longer-term outlook for the Australian wealth business was healthy, Cooper said.
Westpac is currently involved in a couple of court battles with the Australian financial regulator, including what amounts to a test case over the new advice ‘best interests’ duty.
The Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) has alleged Westpac breached the best interests duty when staff recommended clients consolidate superannuation funds in a bank-owned product.
Westpac chief, Brian Hartzer, told the Australian parliamentary hearing into banks early in March the advice was ‘general’ rather than ‘personal’ in nature and not subject to best interests.
Hartzer told the hearing that if ASIC won the case it would “effectively be close to impossible to provide general advice”.