Super sector must unify its focus


By Sarah Kendell

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The superannuation industry is grappling with shifting work patterns, public scrutiny of its activities and an ageing population demanding post-retirement solutions, and must adopt a unified approach to drown out political noise and focus on member needs in retirement, according to a panel of experts.

Addressing the 2017 Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia (ASFA) Conference in Sydney yesterday, ASFA chief executive Martin Fahy said the sector needed to deal with a raft of issues to ensure super remained relevant for future generations, including the rise of the ‘gig economy’ as more consumers shifted from full-time work.

“We currently have 100,000 Australians working on platforms [such as Uber and Deliveroo], and while that represents less than 1 per cent of the total employment base, it is growing at double digit levels,” he said.

“If we are going to have these disruptive work lives where we are in and out of secure employment, is that not a reason to increase [compulsory] super to 12 per cent as a potential hedge against those periods where we won’t be earning?”

With yesterday’s announcement of a royal commission into banks and financial services, increasing public scrutiny and the potential for more regulation in the sector was also a trend that funds had to guard against by adopting a more unified position, according to Cbus chairman and former Victorian premier Steve Bracks.

“I think it would be great if we were all one voice in super to argue for stability and certainty and the benefit for our members,” he said.

“That was the principle I had in government, to first start from your own organisation. If you are not of the one voice, then you are easily able to be picked off publicly.”

Australian Bankers Association (ABA) chief executive Anna Bligh said while the financial services sector may be under the microscope, it was important to remember that consumer trust levels were still relatively high in some aspects.

“Australians have high levels of trust in their banks, their super and in the sector generally when it comes to the safety, security and protection of their data, their privacy and their money. In fact ABA research has shown that Australians trust the financial sector with [those things] much more keenly than they trust any government agency,” she said.

Fahy said despite the political noise, it was important to remember that the purpose of super was to fund members’ retirement, particularly as the industry faced an “inflection point” in the next five years with an increasing number of members finishing work.

“When you talk about retirement funding you start to talk about the real questions that need to be answered, what retirees ask themselves – ‘Will I have enough to live on? Will I have to sell my home? Can I afford aged care?’,” he said.

“We need to move away from the politicisation of this debate and start to think about those pressing questions which our retirees are asking us.”

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