Super SA boss bemoans regulatory onslaught

Nour Azhar

By

30/01/2018

Government “tinkering” with superannuation is tapping funds’ resources that would be better spent developing great customer service, Super SA chief executive Dascia Bennett says.

Bennett, who took over the leadership role in December 2017 from former chief John Montague, says she would like to see the government “not change anything for a while”. Nonetheless, she is mindful that change is inevitable.

“Every government makes changes [but] any regulatory change the government makes in super, we get to administer it in a very complex fund, so it’s going to cost us money and the costs are then passed on to members,” Bennett says.

She says legislative changes in the 2016 federal budget that took effect in July 2017 − such as the non-concessional contribution, the $1.6 million transfer balance cap, the defined benefits income cap, and the transition-to-retirement rule change − were “enormous and challenging”.

“Implementing these regulatory changes and ensuring that our members understood them and were educated about the changes, [some of which] are quite complex – it all adds up for a fund of our size,” Bennett says. “But every administrator of a super fund would have felt that exact same pressure. Probably the reason it seems bigger for us is because we are in the middle of developing a new administration platform that is set to go live very shortly.”

Super SA is a $26 billion default superannuation fund for 210,000 public-sector employees in South Australia. Contributions made into the fund’s different schemes are invested by Funds SA.

Still targeting member satisfaction

In November 2017, the South Australian Government came under scrutiny from the federal Minister for Revenue and Financial Services, Kelly O’Dwyer, when she criticised the legislative rules that require public-sector employees to stay in super funds Super SA runs. South Australia is the only state where public-sector employees are not allowed choice of fund.

But Bennett says that although Super SA is “lucky for being a full default fund [that doesn’t have] any competition to its membership base and is constitutionally protected”, the fund is focused on maintaining and improving on its strong member satisfaction.

“A great measure of success for us is when our members reach retirement and continue to stay with us and use our post-retirement products,” she says.

She adds that she is aware governments are always looking at policies involving default funds, their market share and growth strategies, which is concerning for everyone in the industry.

“It’s a very dynamic industry and whatever decisions governments make, there is a lot of money invested and governments will always tinker with it, so hopefully your fund has enough agility and good scale and foundation to be able to make those changes quickly to meet the market’s and members’ needs,” Bennett says.

Super SA is a finalist for the Conexus Financial Superannuation Awards 2018 in the Default Fund of the Year category.

About the awards

The Conexus Financial Superannuation Awards recognise excellence in the industry and aim to encourage super funds to raise the bar in all aspects of their operations. The focus of the awards is to honour funds that offer products and services that will ultimately lead to better retirement outcomes for members.

While there are many other awards nights on the industry calendar, the Conexus Financial Superannuation Awards are unique in that they are not aligned to a research or ratings house, and do not charge funds to participate. Actuarial and consulting firm Rice Warner assists with quantitative analysis.

The judging panel comprises California State Teachers’ Retirement System chief investment officer Chris Ailman, Fund Executives Association Ltd (FEAL) chief executive Joanna Davison, CHOICE chief executive Alan Kirkland, Financial Services Council chief executive Sally Loane, Rice Warner chief executive Michael Rice, and former minister for financial services and superannuation, the Hon. Bernie Ripoll.

“There’s no shortage of commentary or opinions on super fund performance but the strength of this process is the focus on data, which removes a lot of the subjectivity,” CHOICE’s Kirkland says. “At the same time, the growing debate about the importance of effective governance has forced us to bring in some qualitative assessment of factors like this, which can’t be reduced to numbers.”

Australian Prudential Regulation Authority deputy chair Helen Rowell is a special adviser to the judging committee, which remains the only truly independent awards panel in the sector.

“APRA views sound governance practices as fundamental to the delivery of value-for-money outcomes for members,” Rowell says. “I was, therefore, very pleased to see the steps taken by the judging panel this year to enhance the approach to assessing governance practices, and give that more weight in determining the winners in various categories.”

Rowell says APRA encourages all trustees to continue to improve their practices and the outcomes delivered for their members.

“Industry awards, such as the Conexus Awards, are one means for helping the industry do this by identifying better practices in key areas,” she says.

The 2018 Conexus Financial Superannuation Awards are produced with thanks to platinum sponsor AIA Australia and event partner FEAL. All the winners will be announced at a special black-tie event on March 8 at the Ivy Ballroom, Sydney. Tickets are now available. Visit www.conexussuperawards.com.au or contact Emma Brodie via [email protected] or +61 2 9227 5708.

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