He hopes that his successor, former NSW Liberal leader John Brogden, oversees another strong growth period for the IFSA members. The markets may dictate whether that comes true. Brogden said last month that superannuation adequacy would be high on the advocacy agenda, and echoed the Association’s long-held call for compulsory contributions to rise to 12 per cent. Among the highlights for Gilbert are battles won: the Managed Investments Act, fought and won against the trustee companies, some of which were also IFSA members; the introduction of FSR; a raft of tax reforms, both domestic and international; super reforms under the former Government; choice of fund, which improved the competitive position of many IFSA members; a world-class dispute resolution system; and, even, the charter to phase out commissions for financial planners.

The commission issue was not exactly a battle won for IFSA, but at least the association was able to negotiate a peace on its own terms. And it got in with its “charter” before the Financial Planning Association proposals for its members to move to fee-for-service models, which were announced a couple of weeks later. A politically astute move. Gilbert says the charter is a massive win for consumers, addressing, at the same time, what had become the biggest problem area for IFSA members. Aided by the new Government, commissions for planners had become a position which was increasingly difficult to defend. The IFSA board set up a committee, chaired by Gilbert, to study the issue, with a deadline to deliver by June. “The charter is a case of the committee system working well,” Gilbert says.

“We have very rarely had any breakdowns in unity of opinion.” Under Gilbert IFSA also became much more outward looking. It successfully lobbied the current Government when in opposition to take notice of the export potential of Australia’s funds managers, with Prime Minister Rudd continuing to take a personal interest. The Treasurer, Chris Bowen, Gilbert says, also sees the industry as critically important. Gilbert was the foundation chair of the International Investment Funds Association, for its first three years, and hosted the annual conference in Sydney in 2007. “AMP, Vanguard, QIC and others are doing business in Asia,” he says.

“Everyone’s been savaged by the GFC … but when we come out of it we’ll have a very strong base for growth.” Lowlights? Well, Gilbert is still smarting over long-standing attempts to get the states to standardise stamp duty on life insurance policies, without success. “The state governments need to pull their socks up,” he says. “The prospect of life insurers having yearly visits from eight regulatory authorities is a disgrace.” And the other lowlight is perhaps the biggest failure of the funds management industry, around the world – not just in Australia – which is the failure to forecast the crisis, which has engulfed the world over the past 18 months.

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