Royal Skandia has announced that it will be changing its name to Old Mutual on Dec. 22, 2014. I first learned about this after being informed by one of the company’s victims. (I know several.)
Skandia claims that the purpose of changing its name is to align itself with its parent company. That may be true, but I suspect there’s another reason that Skandia isn’t mentioning.
If you do a search on Google HK for “Royal Skandia”, one of the top results is an article by Andrew Hallam, titled, “Royal Skandia…On The List of Legal Corruption?”
Hallam links to a now classic news article about the landmark legal case in which Jeremy Hobbins sued Royal Skandia and Clearwater (Hobbins’ broker) for bribery. The lawsuit has since been mentioned repeatedly in various local and overseas newspapers, including in an article in the Japan Times, titled, “It’s Their Plan for Your Money, So Assume Deception“.
More recently, Royal Skandia has been exposed in newspapers across the globe for its role in facilitating the LM Investment Management disaster, in which 12,000 victims lost all or nearly all their retirement savings. Royal Skandia is once again facing legal action.
Another top search result for “Royal Skandia” is a discussion forum in which a victim from Botswana, who lost more than half her savings, asks for help:
The responses to the lady’s call for help eventually turn into a heated argument between a crafty financial product salesman and several other commenters.
The salesman claims, “The problem is NOT with the product…we can’t blame the manufacturer of the car when we get a flat tyre or run out of oil and the engine blows up…The products are really fantastic savings vehicles.”
The salesman, whose name is Daniel, is rebutted by multiple angry victims:
Another victim shares a link to an article titled, “The Truth about Off-Shore Pensions“, which analyzes one of Skandia’s products, the Managed Pension Account.
The article’s author concludes, “In my own humble opinion, anyone who bought [an offshore pension like Skandia’s] would have to be either naïve or insane.”
He adds, “I believe for all of the regulation that has been imposed on this industry in recent years, regulators would do better to regulate the products and not the advisers, because if such products were outlawed, then they couldn’t be sold.”
Another top search result for “Royal Skandia” is a thread in a Thailand-based discussion forum. Someone asks, “I am considering placing some investment funds with the following offshore company [Royal Skandia] and I would be glad to know if anyone has experiences, positive or not, with them.”
There are dozens of responses, almost all of them negative. Here’s a few of the shorter ones:
After receiving so many responses, the person who started the thread thanked all of the commenters, saying, “At the time I started this thread I was believing the Skandia Bond was the way to go. Thanks to so many useful, incisive and astute posts–and other research–my eyes have been opened.”
Is Royal Skandia Trying to Distance Itself from Its Skandalous History?
By changing its name to “Old Mutual”, Royal Skandia may be “aligning itself with its parent company”, but it is also ensuring that future clients will be less likely to discover its troubled past.
This can be verified by comparing the Google search results for both “Old Mutual” and “Royal Skandia”. One will find that the results for “Old Mutual” are much cleaner.
However, if the company formerly known as Royal Skandia continues to operate in the same way that it has historically operated, then one day, the top search results for “Old Mutual” will be just as embarrassing as Royal Skandia’s are now.
When that day comes, not just the company formerly known as Royal Skandia, but the entire group of companies known as “Old Mutual”, will all be facing an image problem.