Regulator confirms AFA investigation

Auckland financial adviser and former Sunday Star-Times finance columnist Andrew Hrothgar Robinson has become the second authorised financial adviser to lose his professional status following the launch of an investigation by the Financial Markets Authority.

Robinson, who wrote investment columns for the Business Section's money pages between early 2003 and early 2004, is being investigated after a complaint to the FMA by a client concerned about money he had placed with Strategic Planning Group Ltd.

The FMA confirmed an investigation was under way and said Robinson's status as an authorised financial planner had been cancelled.

In order for people give advice to retail investors on complex investments such as funds, shares, bonds and property it is necessary to have the AFA accreditation.

The only exception is for people who are advising sophisticated wholesale clients with $500,000 or more to invest.

AFA registration was introduced in mid-2011 in a bid to drive unqualified advisers from the industry in the wake of the multibillion-dollar losses caused by the finance company collapses.

The other man to lose his AFA accreditation was suspected Ponzi-scheme operator David Ross, whose AFA status was suspended on December 17, just four days before Robinson's.

Robinson had only received his AFA on November 20, 2012.

In a statement, the FMA told the Sunday Star-Times it was "investigating the affairs of Andrew Robinson", and said Robinson was co-operating with it.

It added: "As at 21 December, 2012, FMA cancelled Mr Robinson's authorisation as an authorised financial adviser and he ceased to be registered as a financial services provider."

Sunday Star-Times has been unable to contact Robinson, an Englishman who came to New Zealand around 12 years ago, but Mark Turnock, one of the other two shareholders in Strategic Planning Group, confirmed the investigation was under way.

"I have been advised to refer any calls to the FMA. I can't make any other comment," Turnock said.

He added that Robinson was out of the country, but he understood he would be returning shortly.

Robinson owns a third of the shares of Strategic Planning Group, which was based in the central Auckland suburb of Ellerslie until the middle of last year, when it moved to Onehunga.

Insurance adviser Lisa Cocks and finance broker Turnock own the other two one-third shareholdings.

It appears that Cocks provided insurance advice to clients and Turnock provided advice on sourcing finance, while Robinson was the investment adviser for the firm.

The SPG website is currently closed "pending reconstruction", but its June 2010 website says the three-person firm offered "advice on wealth creation, finance solutions, risk management, tax minimisation and asset protection".

Robinson, who resigned as a director of SPG in December 2011 despite retaining his one-third ownership, was titled "investment strategist", boasting the firm had "access to the whole marketplace of investment product".

The 2010 website said SPG provided "specialist advice to those individuals who hold significant investment portfolios".

Sunday Star-Times understands the FMA complaint was made by a client with a seven-figure sum invested.

It said SPG portfolios were based on a core/satellite approach - "that is, you will have an exposure to a core fund where regular savings could be directed . . . and a range of satellite investments which might include direct shares, holdings in private enterprise companies, investment property, currency investments, one-off capital protected investments and fixed interest options. It is these satellite investments that will create the most wealth over time".

Robinson operated by using the Prospero client portfolio administration system provided by Grosvenor Financial Services.

Grosvenor's David Beattie told Sunday Star-Times Grosvenor had cancelled Robinson's agency with Grosvenor and was in the process of helping people with portfolios on Prospero to find new advisers.

Beattie said clients had been contacting Grosvenor for some months towards the end of last year unable to contact Robinson.

"He had been difficult to get hold of and a number of clients were ringing us directly when they couldn't get hold of him," Beattie said.

"We were aware he went over to the UK to look after his ill mother," Beattie said.

Sunday Star Times