michael_bailey_77_100The era of advertising and sponsorships by superannuation funds is surely over. The exact date it ended will be recorded as April 23, 2010, when HOSTPLUS dramatically pulled its major sponsorship of National Rugby League team Melbourne Storm, after the jaw-dropping revelations of salary cap rorting. But I’d argue the show was over three days earlier, when Jeremy Cooper’s Super System Review delivered its preliminary report introducing ‘MySuper’, the quiet younger brother of the default option.

“Currently, there is a range of approaches to encouraging members to be more involved with their superannuation. Some funds offer intra-fund advice,” the report stated, before dropping its bombshell. “Other communications by funds to members are closer to advertising and are less obviously in member interests. Some funds engage in a substantial amount of outright advertising. The Panel believes that in MySuper, trustees need to be more focused on the intent of engagement with members and its tangible benefit to them. “ In short – if you can’t account for its effectiveness, you can’t offer it.

It won’t even matter whether this recommendation translates into a legislated ban on super fund advertising. Three-quarters of members will be secreted away in the MySuper option, with their own set of books and with marketing spend verboten. One could hardly ask the sophisticated minority to pay for ‘Australia’s largest funds manager’ or ‘Compare the pair’ billboards by themselves. Thankfully, MySuper doesn’t mean funds have to abandon every asset manager who costs them more than Vanguard. However, it might spell the end for investment options outside MySuper, which only survive through a degree of crosssubsidisation. Sustainable shares, direct equity options – even the bread-and-butter single asset class options will presumably have a much higher MER than they do now. The superannuation landscape will begin to look a bit like the 2007 and 2009 NRL premiership. Stripped.

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