ASFA Conference Day 3 Wrap Up

ASFA Conference Day 3 Wrap Up

The final day of the ASFA conference started with speeches from the key superannuation regulator and the Minister for Superannuation.  The conference hall was full of attentive delegates and Helen Rowell and Jane Hume made important announcements justifying that attentiveness.

Helen Rowell

The Deputy Chair of the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority Helen Rowell came to the ASFA Conference with a strong message about the urgent need for the industry and the regulator to address underperforming funds – and to announce a powerful new measure to do this.

Helen started by noting that some underperforming funds require additional intensified supervision.  Some  funds are addressing their issues while others are exiting the industry – “although in a few cases further action may still be required.”

But APRA also believes public exposure is also needed to help weed out underperformers, and APRA is about to release another tool – their heatmap.  This will provide insights into the outcomes being delivered by every MySuper product across the key areas of investment performance, fees and costs and sustainability.

At today’s presentation, Helen released an overview, the metrics, and a sample heatmap.  The actual heat map with real up to date super fund data is now locked-down and will be released in a few weeks’ time.  There are lots of nervous funds out there!

The heatmap is intended to emphasise underperformance rather than highlight top-performing funds. A row of red across a page sends a message so clear and strong it nearly jumps off the screen.  Its ultimate purpose is to galvanise trustees of underperforming funds into action.

Because the heatmap is not intended to be an endorsement of high-performing funds, the assessment of high performance is not shown in green but in white.

APRA will be using its new powers to bring about change.  Helen expects some parts of the industry to pushback and critique the heatmap but APRA but will not be distracted from this important task.

Jane Hume

The Assistant Minister for Superannuation Senator Jane Hume came to the ASFA Conference with an update on the implementation of the Government’s superannuation policy agenda and showed that she was up to speed on super and current issues.

She also came to the stage dressed in white – and suggested this meant the Government was doing pretty well using APRA’s colour-coded scoring system.

The Minister thanked APRA for their work on underperforming funds and expected APRA’s “shiny new teeth” will help exit them from the industry.   She went further and specifically identified that funds with less than $1 billion – often with high operating costs and unsatisfactory member outcomes – will be subject to specific scrutiny.

She was pleased to report that the Protecting Your Super and Putting Members Interests First legislation has been successful in reducing duplicated accounts and unnecessary insurance.

Part of this new legislation means that Australians can be reunited with their super, without them needing to take any action.  Super funds have to report and pay ‘inactive low balance accounts’ to the ATO – this includes accounts that have not received a contribution for 16 months and have a balance below $6,000.

The Minister announced that the ATO has received over 2.3 million inactive low balance accounts from super funds, valued at approximately $2.2 billion.  The important next step is that the ATO is now working to reunite Australians with these amounts by either transferring it into an active super account or directly into their bank account where the amount is less than $200 or the member is aged over 65 years.

She was very pleased that the ATO have reunited just over 841,000 accounts worth nearly $1.38 billion. This includes approximately 684,000 accounts worth $1.22 billion that have been transferred into an individual’s active super account and approximately 157,000 accounts worth $161 million directly to individuals’ bank accounts. The ATO will be continuing this work throughout November and into the future.   On top of this,  more than one million people will receive a direct payment in their bank account.

The Minister also addressed the question of fund mergers head-on.  She lined up the ‘merger myths’ and demolished them all one by one. Funds with poor quality assets (where are they?), too hard to merge disparate funds (others are doing it), tax uncertainty (the government has fixed) and resistance from shareholders arguments (‘outrageous’) were all addressed.

She also chastised those in the industry who let self-interest – a job or director fees – get in the way of pursuing members’ best interests.

“Now it’s over to industry to do your part.”

IQ Group

ASFA Conference IQ Day 2 Wrap Up

ASFA Conference IQ Day 2 Wrap Up

Change is the only constant.

It’s a theme that permeates through all sectors and for the superannuation industry, it’s certainly not just about regulatory change.

Super Funds and providers are in the midst of transforming their service models for their respective members and clients, which leads me to the session – “The Perils of Misreading Changing Customer Preferences” chaired by our very own, Brian Peters.

Yes, that’s one mouthful of a title, however what a fascinating talk by Tom Armstrong from the New York Times. They had a colossal challenge…changing their business model from print media to digital media. It seems easy from the onset – how hard could it be to create web pages full of content, throw in some ads (lots of ads actually) and voila job done… not exactly.

With news content for free, it was the ads that brought in the revenue and hence the problem that over time digital ads actually generated less revenue with volume and scale at speed leading to inferior customer experience – so how did they turn it around?

The new business model introduced paid subscription however the product “had to be worth paying for” and so the product changed immensely. The news stories essentially came to life with a combination of content and rich video and I have to say – I was digitally engaged.

It made me think of our industry and what we need to re-invent. There’s no doubt the Australian superannuation system is a success story, however, I’m drawn back to my opening line: change is the only constant. For me, it’s “whole-of-retirement” planning and living. That’s the challenge to nail.

Matt Giuliano

Managing Principal

ASFA Conference IQ Day 1 Wrap Up

ASFA Conference IQ Day 1 Wrap Up

Having been to a few ASFA Conferences over recent years, you do come to expect some impressive and confronting day 1 keynote speeches. This year’s presentations once again did not disappoint. They covered a diverse range of topics and provoked an even more surprising range of emotional reactions.

The first keynote speaker was Sebastian Mallaby, who talked about what he called “the central paradox” between the global political instability and the global economic performance.

“Basically, the economic news has been pretty good but political news has been pretty awful. Normally, unstable politics would lead to unstable economics but the paradox…is that this really hasn’t happened” said Mallaby.

Mallaby also talked about how politics around the world is in the grip of five forces, which he described as:

  • polarisation,
  • fragmentation,
  • frustration,
  • the rise of the strong man and
  • backlash.

The session was a thought-provoking and somewhat terrifying presentation on the global political and economic landscape.

The Honourable Julie Bishop was the second keynote speaker of the day, who provided further insight into the unstable political environment by exploring the trade conflict between the U.S and China and the “cold war on technology”.

Julie Bishop discussed several factors including:

  • High level of indebtedness
  • Low/negative interest rates
  • Industry disruption and the consequences
  • Technology as a disruptor including AI, automation, and robotics
  • That 1 million jobs will be lost due to technology disruption but an estimated 1.5+ million new and different jobs will be created
  • The need for reskilling and retraining people for these new jobs not yet envisaged/created
  • The ethical consequence of some of the applications of new and emerging technology, and raised the question: Just because we can, should we?

I personally hung off every word. It was an insightful and inspiring keynote address.

In the afternoon, Moshe Milevsky talked about the difference between chronological age and biological age including some correlations to a person’s financial wealth position relative to age. Moshe believes that longevity planning for retirement should be based on biological age (not chronological age) and that this could be a way of getting people to take longevity planning seriously.

This presentation has kept me wondering what my own biological age is.

The day came to an end with two highly emotional but inspiring speeches that caused glassy eyes for many delegates.

The moving stories of both Kath Koschel, Founder of Kindness Factory and Michael Crossland showed me the impact kindness, resilience and a positive mindset can really have.

I think all delegates welcomed (and needed) a refreshing drink and some networking time after day one.

Stuart Conboy

Managing Principal