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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.

“Once they’ve done the DFP, they’re equipped to
know exactly how far they can go within the total advice context,” O’Flaherty
said. If a member asks how they can best enhance their end benefit, Super SA’s call
centre staff will discuss in detail how features like pre-tax contributions or
different investment choice options will work, and transcribe the options discussed
into a ‘Member Solutions Statement’ which is then mailed to the member.

Requests
for investment advice outside the realm of Super SA are referred to Industry
Funds Financial Planning. O’Flaherty said it needed to be clear that a member
had not been “told” to do anything, only had options recommended, and the twin
protections of a minimum DFP qualification for call centre staff, and getting
everything in writing, had proved sufficient for his fund.

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