Managing growth while maintaining costs and value for money for super fund members has left fund executives feeling as though they are being pulled in several directions at once.  The challenge for CEOs and boards was finding the balance between these competing objectives. Managing this balancing act and ensuring the fund had the right people in the right roles as well as being effective in their roles was key to a fund achieving its goals and successfully executing its strategy. This was the issue TWUSUPER sought to address when it asked Mercer to review the fund’s strategic plan, people strategy and organisation structure, as presented at a Fund Executives Association (FEAL) case study event last month in Sydney and Melbourne. TWUSUPER, the largest industry superannuation fund for the transport sector, has had consistent growth over the past 10 years.

The fund has $2.4 billion in funds under management, representing over 130,000 members and 15,000 contributing employers. Bill McMillin, CEO of TWUSUPER, reflected on the active pursuit of growth opportunities and the growth in staff numbers from six when he joined the fund to 23 staff today. As funds continued to grow, there were mounting pressures for more resources to manage the increasing workload.  However, instead of reacting by hiring more staff, funds needed to take a step back and assess the strategy that drove the organisation. By looking at the current strategy and refining the approach to include decisions about people, funds could be more realistic about their goals and more selective on the growth opportunities to pursue to reach those goals.

The strategy should be developed with regard to the fund’s workforce, talent management and reward issues, and philosophies – with strategy being the driver.  No different to most other funds, TWUSUPER’s management was under continual pressure to improve member services and benefits and this was translating into an increasing demand for internal resources to deliver these improvements. Was the answer to hire more staff, and if so, with what skills or was it to identify whether existing staff could be used more effectively? Mercer had previously helped the fund with its strategic review process, which was repeated every three years. With the next review due to take place only six months down the track it was agreed that the strategic review process be brought forward so that the overall strategy could inform the decisions about people – and not the other way around.

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