Invited to join the merger between the Australian Reward Investment Alliance (ARIA) and Military Super, the $3.3 billion AGEST Super will accept or reject the offer only after the form and operational details of the new entity become clear. The $17.4 billion ARIA and $2.9 billion Military Super are scheduled to operate under one trustee board for military and civilian government schemes from July next year. The federal government fund invited AGEST to participate in the merger, but Seton said the fund was awaiting further guidance on the form and operational structure of the new entity before deciding if it would join in. “AGEST is saying there’s no reason to change yet,” Seton said.

“We’re in discussions with the government about the proposal, and what the merged entity would look like, but we need more detail before we can go into any further discussions. “The primary focus is getting ARIA and Military together.” In the last big super fund merger, in which STA and ARF formed AustralianSuper in 2006, the participating funds “had a vision and they worked towards it, but we’re not sure what we would be looking at,” Seton said. Among the major concerns for AGEST arising from the merger was the performance of service providers catering to the new entity. For instance, AGEST uses Pillar as an administrator, while the merging funds use ComSuper. “We would have to be happy with that, and with insurance arrangements.”

If joining the new fund would benefit AGEST’s members, “we’ll go for it,” Seton said. Meanwhile, Seton was named Fund Executive of the Year last month by the Fund Executives Association Limited for overseeing the improved member services rolled out by AGEST in recent years. The fund’s website showed evidence of these improvements, he said. Educational videos, regular investment reports and fact sheets helped engage members and keep them better informed as the financial crisis damaged returns. More member communications were being conducted electronically, Seton said.

In the next round of fund statements, 50,000 members, or onethird of the membership, would receive an e-mail statement instead of a letter – up from 20,000 during the previous mail-out. Once a member has provided their e-mail address to the fund, their future statements are sent through the ether. AGEST is continuing efforts to collect more e-mail addresses. In the last two rounds of paper statements, the fund ran a competition aimed at gathering more e-mail addresses. If the member supplied their e-mail address, they had a chance of being one of five who received a $500 injection into their account from the fund. “We had 20,000 before the competitions. Now we’ve got 50,000. And we’re doing it again in this mail-out.” Seton has been the chief executive of AGEST since 2002. Before that, he ran the BOC Gases corporate fund for 13 years, after moving into superannuation from actuarial studies by taking a role at the AMP corporate fund in 1983.

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