“However, the Super System Review found that many consumers do not have the interest, information or expertise required to make informed choices about their superannuation. Therefore, access to a safe, low-cost and simple default superannuation product is essential to help many Australians’ retirement savings go further. “Australians do not get a bill in the post, but they can currently pay around $85 a month in superannuation fees, which is more than the average person’s monthly mobile phone bill.” The Government’s use of such an analogy only adds to worries that MySuper funds will become as commoditised as mobile phone plans are today. The great leve ller Superannuation fund raters and asset consultants are among those wary of what MySuper will do to the diverse world of investment options and asset classes on which they currently advise. One of the most vocal critics of MySuper is Warren Chant, founder of Chant West Financial Services, which uses an ‘apples’ ranking scheme to differentiate funds according to criteria such as investment performance and services to members.
Chant is adamant that once every default superannuation fund in the country has a ‘MySuper’ sticker on it, the average worker will think that they are all the same. Chant admits a vested interest in saying so, although it does seem feasible that consumers may not differentiate between MySupers, particularly if their 2013 launch date is accompanied by a major Government-funded advertising campaign. It’s understood that Paul Costello’s Stronger Super Committee may even consider the introduction of a ‘MySuper’ rating website, in the tradition of the controversial MySchool and MyHospital sites – although of course this could provide opportunities for the ratings agencies. If the Government appears to give its imprimatur to any fund with a MySuper label, it could become the catalyst for a muchfeared ‘race to the bottom’, Chant believes. “Your average punter is going to think every MySuper is Government-approved and more or less the same, so the way they will compare them is by price.”
The chief executive of the Australian Institute of Superannuation Trustees, Fiona Reynolds, agrees that there has been too much focus on costs throughout the Cooper Review process, at the expense of debate about long-term net returns. “The last thing the Government should want is everybody invested passively in the stockmarket. Where will it get the money for infrastructure, private equity and nation-building?” she asks. Reynolds does not advocate any Governmental prescription on investment strategy, although she says some guiding principles which mention the long-term benefits of active management would not hurt. Where she fears the final MySuper regulations may end up being too strict is in the area of performance fees paid to funds managers. “I suppose it’s easy enough to apply a [performance fee standard] to a single asset class like Australian equities, but it’s difficult when you have funds investing offshore and into a greater diversity of opportunities. You don’t want Aussie super funds missing out on a great offshore infrastructure deal because the fee scheme being offered didn’t exactly comply with some Stronger Super standard.”