Some people love change. Many resist change as an unwelcome reshaping of their pleasant personal landscape. Others reckon you have to wrestle with it, even if you don’t like it. They make the most of their efforts to improve things.
Put me in the first and third categories.
We groan and grumble that governments and regulators are constantly tinkering with the superannuation rules. The usual thesis is that this undermines confidence in the system, and that people will stop engaging or contributing. Maybe.
Clearly we like to have it both ways: the Jeremy Cooper view of the world was that millions were so disengaged with super that the system needed a massive shake-up to inspire people to be more engaged.
In practice, the changes have forced the people who were already deeply engaged in a fiduciary sense – trustee directors and senior executives of funds – to jump through a series of hoops to recreate the superannuation world on behalf of the millions of supposedly disengaged members. Will this overcome or improve member disengagement? Maybe.
Meanwhile, we’ve all laboured hard and long to try and improve things on the way. Many of the changes have been worth the effort. Back-office efficiency was a no brainer. Though why it needed to be tagged with that klutzy naming convention “SuperStream” is anyone’s guess.
Worth it, too, was the removal of the most obvious rorts in the financial advice sector (klutzy name: FoFA) and moves to foster better leadership (klutzy name: improved governance).
A focus on greater “transparency” – simply put, more information in the public arena for interested members – seems worthy. However all super trustees know that these changes, and the requirement for far higher levels of risk management will add to, not reduce, the costs we will need to charge members. Hardly the outcome sought.
And this intense focus on low costs as a sole measure has raised a serious question about sensible superannuation strategy: costs are one thing, but what should matter is the net performance after fees and taxes over the very long term to our members. That’s what they take into their retirement.
This edition of Investment Magazine, published to coincide with the Conference of Major Super Funds, traverses many of these themes. It is a teaser to the many and varied topics which will be covered and debated and argued over in the plenary and breakout sessions of CMSF 2013 during three days of deliberations. Change underpins most of them. Get used to it. noonan is a former editor of the australian Financial review, chair of Media Super and vice president of the Australian Institute of Superannuation Trustees.