9 Mar 2013

Forsyth Barr lost clients over Credit SaILS

11:49 am on 9 March 2013

Forsyth Barr says its involvement in marketing and selling the failed financial product, Credit SaILS, cost it clients and money, but investors can trust it.

On Thursday, the Commerce Commission released its investigation into the financial product which resulted in the regulator reaching a settlement of $60 million with the five companies that marketed it, including Forsyth Barr, last year.

The investigation highlights internal emails from the investment and broking house that complained documents marketing the product did not contain enough sizzle, and that more flies could be caught with honey than vinegar.

Forsyth Barr chief executive Neil Paviour-Smith said new rules mean risks are given greater prominence now, but the emails selected have been taken out of context.

"When you get emails from one staff member to another where there's potentially some lively debate going on about something or a project or whatever, sometimes the language does get pretty colourful. I'm disappointed to see that language but it's a reality of probably every workplace."

Mr Paviour-Smith said he does not believe the context in which the emails were presented described how the offer was put together.

He also rejected the commission's findings that it was misleading and deceptive to say Credit SaILS was AA capital protected, when investors lost their initial investment, and that the product was unsuitable for average investors.

While it was the main marketer of the product in New Zealand, Credit Agricole invested the money, and Mr Paviour-Smith said Forsyth Barr made strenuous efforts to get investors' money back.

He said the firm's reputation took a hit, with investors walking away.

Mr Paviour-Smith said he stands by the advice that every one of the firm's advisors would give to a client or a prospective client.

"The nature of our business in dealing with investments, there will be investments that fail, there will be investments that underperform, that's the reality of it and it doesn't mean that there is bad advice being provided."

The commission warned financial advisors to ensure the information they give investors about investment products is accurate, up front and in plain language.