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Funds are assessing the implications of the new simple advice relief, including further training for call centre staff, on the back of the Australian Securities and Investments Commission’s decision to allow super funds to provide limited personal advice to members. Last month, ASIC released regulatory guidance allowing licensed super fund trustees to give personal advice to members about their existing investment in a fund on certain limited topics.

Tony Lally, chief executive officer of Sunsuper, said the decision would allow the Queensland-based industry fund to extend the advice it currently offers through its member advice centre into its broader call centre. “We’ll need to train up our call centre people to be able to offer some of that advice at a lower level than what we currently do, so it will take out some of those more simple advice queries that we get,” he said.

“At the moment what we do is probably a little bit more sophisticated than what’s needed for some people under the ASIC requirement, so we’ll be able to delegate some of those responsibilities to our general call centre, and our member advice centre will focus more on the more complex, higher value and older members who are looking for advice.” Peter Lambert, chief executive officer of Local Government Superannuation Scheme NSW, said the fund is constantly looking at the most efficient way of using its resources.

LGSSNSW already employs a large number of financial planners and lower level advisory staff. “Whether that means we’re able to provide more advice to people on the phone, rather than having to go out and do detailed financial planning models, is certainly part of our search for the most efficient way of providing quality advice to our members,” Lambert said. “We pick up the cost of all of our financial planning, so it’s in our interest to ensure that where possible, that advice is done at the right level.” Funds looking for guidance might learn from observing Super SA, which as a constitutionally-protected fund outside APRA’s jurisdiction, has been advising members on its own features for years.

“Someone who’s been a member for 20 years, if they ring up and want to know about their salary sacrificing options, they feel entitled to get an answer,” said John O’Flaherty, general manager of the 190,000-member, $11 billion hybrid scheme. “It must be tough to essentially tell them, ‘well here’s the Yellow Pages, get a financial planner’. Our experience is that many of our members don’t want to see a planner and don’t need to.” However Super SA ensures its call centre staff “aren’t allowed near the limited advice process” until they have completed their Diploma of Financial Planning, a process the fund pays for.

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