HostPlus has won the SuperRatings fund of the year award for the past three years in a row, and topped the Chant West ratings for the past two.

When we called chief executive David Elia with the idea of a profile piece, he told us that if we really wanted to understand the fund’s success, we should visit its call centre and see the executive team at work.

STEPHEN SHORE spent a day with the fund at its Melbourne HQ, and found out why HostPlus members are sticking with their fund.

“We’re not a cult,” Elia says on a tour of the HostPlus call centre, which sits a few floors below the fund’s executive office on William Street. “But we do make it very difficult for our members to leave.”

Until recently the HostPlus call centre, like those of many industry super funds, was outsourced to its administrator, SuperPartners, to save on costs. The frontline communications team was brought back in-house, Elia explains, to put the fund more in touch with its members’ needs, and help it understand the motivations of those that were trying to leave.

The move has also allowed the fund to run the call centre in the way it believes will improve its chances of holding on to members. For example, it has done away with the big electronic boards typical in most call centres that show the number of calls waiting in queue, removing the pressure on staff to wrap up conversations quickly and get to the next caller.

“It is a competitive market out there, and we understand our members can choose to leave at any time. We want to make that difficult for them, and we do that by trying to give them the best possible experience,” Elia says.

HostPlus has fully embraced the Choice Legislation and the competition that it brings (although it will also enjoy default fund status under the simplified Hospitality Industry General Award, to be effective January 2010).

“We’re not a cult, a religion, or a club,” Elia says. “We’re a real business. And I think if more industry funds realised that, it would open up a wider scope for them to do a lot more things.”

And like any good business, HostPlus has plans for growth. Elia reasons that if he is able to provide the best service to his membership, more people will be inclined to stay, which in turn will give the fund greater scale, allowing it to provide even better services again.

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