Back from the brink: AMP CEO on how to survive a tsunami of hits

In a war for talent, culture is key

Lurching from one crisis to another, very few CEOs could have survived the "tsunami of hits" that took AMP to the brink in 2002.

Appointed AMP CEO in October 2002, Andrew Mohl was joining a company that had watched its share price drop by 50 percent from 2001 to 2002.

By December 2002 a whopping $7 billion had been wiped off the balance sheet and Mohl had only been in the job three months.

But the troubles began much sooner. A week after his appointment, Mohl said half the executive team left.

A new board chairman had to be appointed and four directors resigned and were replaced in 2003.

It is almost an understatement when Mohl says: "We never foresaw the depth of the crisis."

The transition from a mutual society owned solely by members to a publicly-listed company certainly wasn't a seamless one, Mohl explains.

"AMP wasn't prepared and was hit by a corporate crisis in 2002; we had twice as much money invested in the UK market than Australia and the UK sharemarket fell by almost a third in that year," Mohl said.

It was a period shaped by emergency meetings and a CEO that was forced to step down.

"It was certainly a tumultuous beginning and it was obvious we needed to change. We were at a cultural crossroads," Mohl said.

"AMP failed in its first phase as a public company; we had to work tirelessly to turn it around.

"The board met seven times a month during 2003."

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