Mar10_thumbThe one certainty about  superannuation over the next 20  years is that it will grow. It’s the  miracle of compound interest plus  a legislated minimum of the flow of  foregone wages every week.  The structure of the industry,  either through evolution or new  regulation, is a little more difficult  to predict. There will be fewer  but larger funds, perhaps even  more SMSFs [when will they stop  growing in number?] and perhaps  fewer managers.  The influence of sponsoring  organisations, such as unions and  employer bodies, may wane – with  or without possible legislative  change to the make-up of trustee  boards – with the sheer size of  funds and continued push for  professionalism and best practice. Adequacy will have been  addressed, or at least debated.  Paul Howes, one of the  industry’s new faces of the past  couple of years, says that super  adequacy will be the next big  discussion.

“We haven’t really had the  debate,” says the 28-year-old  national secretary of the 124-yearold  Australian Workers’ Union, and  trustee director of AustralianSuper.  “It was relatively easy to  organise a wage trade-off before but  you can’t do that any more because  we don’t have a centralised system.  Twenty-two years ago you could  take a proposition to the ACTU.  Even individual unions can’t do it  any more.”  However, Howes says that the  union movement is united behind  a push for greater superannuation  guarantee [SG] contributions.  “I’d be very surprised if any union  opposed it,” he says.  Howes is an interesting figure  in the superannuation industry. He  is almost a throwback to days gone  by.

After a tough childhood he  left school in Year 9, got a job as  a clerk in an insurance company  and soon found himself organising  his colleagues for improved  conditions. He caught the eye of  what is now Unions NSW and  was fast-tracked for senior union  management. Married with two  children and a third on the way, a  tertiary education has so far seemed  a luxury he cannot yet afford.  He says that given the  demographics of the nation, super  is even more relevant today than  it was 20 years ago. “If the average  life expectancy gets to 100, then it’s  going to put enormous strains on  the country’s savings,” he says.  While he holds fairly traditional  trade unionist views on wanting  to see increased investment in  Australia, rather than offshore,  and on infrastructure in particular,  Howes sounds like a thoroughly  modern trustee: “It would be very  dangerous to force super funds to  look at anything which didn’t have  the aim of maximising returns.

Join the discussion