AMP says it will stop sending high-selling life insurance advisers on overseas trips in the wake of an industry-wide investigation by the regulator which pointed to links between incentives and bad behaviour.
Last month, the Financial Markets Authority sanctioned 11 life insurance advisers and said it was investigating a further three after a closer look at 24 advisers found half lacked care and diligence in their advice, and most failed to recognise conflicts of interest.
The FMA zeroed in on the 24 advisers after an investigation into the sector in 2016 raised concerns that some advisers were likely to be acting in their own best interests by replacing insurance policies to boost commissions or get free overseas trips.
Insurance firms can pay up to 230 per cent of the first year's premium upfront to advisers who switch a customer to them, a figure which makes New Zealand an outlier globally.
Advisers who sell a certain number of policies within a timeframe can also qualify for overseas trips.
But AMP managing director Blair Vernon said it would stop offering overseas trips to advisers as it no longer believed they were appropriate.
"AMP is committed to promoting and supporting appropriate and transparent practices across our industry and as part of this we recognise that it is vital for providers to continue to review and evolve their sales and advice practices, including the provision of incentives like overseas programmes."
Vernon said AMP had offered professional development as part of its overseas trips since 2012 which included access to training from Wharton Business School, Said Business School at Oxford and the Melbourne Business School.
"While there has been significant value in offering this programme given its principal focus on professional development, we believe programmes of this type, where qualification is still influenced in part by volume performance, are no longer appropriate.
"We will continue to offer quality professional development opportunities to complement our focus on building adviser and practice capability as we face into a changing advice and regulatory landscape."
Its last trip will be this year as it plans to take 12 advisers to Hawaii.
A spokesman said the trip would include sessions with global experts from Stanford and Harvard with a focus on the world economy, economic trends, artificial intelligence and technology changes.
The move is in contrast to that of insurer Partners Life which last week claimed it was bad individual morals rather than industry incentives that were to blame for poor behaviour in the industry.
Naomi Ballantyne, chief executive of Partners Life, said given that a small group had been singled out it appeared that commissions and incentives were not the cause of poor practices, rather individual morals were.
"We are interested to note that in the small group singled out for closer scrutiny, RFA [registered financial advisers] were not disproportionately represented compared with AFAs [authorised financial advisers] suggesting it is individual morals, rather than any regulatory standard or level of qualification, which drives poor customer behaviours.
"As virtually all RFAs and AFAs receive commissions and can qualify for incentives for the sale of risk-protection products following their advice process, and only a small number have been identified as having poor practices in respect of replacement business, it is also clear to Partners Life that commissions and incentives are not the cause of poor practices, rather individual morals are."
Partners Life hit the headlines in 2014 when it offered insurance advisers who sold more than $80k worth of premiums a luxury trip to Los Angeles, which included a dinner party at the Playboy Mansion and a seat in a corporate box at a major league baseball game.
In the same year, rival insurers were also offering trips to Italy, Fiji and Europe as part of incentive programmes that were designed to be motivational and educational.
While the FMA says the 24 are not indicative of the whole industry it has been clear that insurers need to step up to mitigate conflicts of interest.
Rob Everett, chief executive of the FMA, last week said in response to Ballantyne's comments that insurance providers cannot "shirk responsibility for the behaviour of advisers that is a direct result of the incentives designed by those same providers".
"We point to the data and findings in our report as clear evidence that incentives are influencing advisers' conduct."
Everett said it had been raising the issues with the industry since 2015.
"... and we're disappointed to see signs that the industry continues to disregard the interests of the New Zealand public and consumers."