UniSuper is to grow its number of financial planners, as research shows members are more likely to stay with the fund if they receive intra-fund advice.

Speaking at the AIST Superannuation Administration Symposium in Melbourne on August 15, Chris Davies, UniSuper’s executive manager for member and employer solutions, said the fund’s unique understanding of its members and its engagement programs gave it an edge on competitors looking to offer advice to its members.

“There will always be advisers who see our members as strong client prospects because of their high account balances and that drives healthy competition, but since we launched our advice service, we’ve observed that members who seek advice on retirement keep an increasingly [larger] amount of money in UniSuper than those who don’t get advice,” he said.

Unisuper currently has 22 advisers in six locations – Melbourne, Sydney, Canberra, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth – and this will rise to 30 by the end of the year.

The average Unisuper member has a balance of around $600,000 on retirement. The fund offers three core options: free general advice; phone-based personal but limited advice, which costs around $375; and comprehensive advice that costs around $2800. Members pay an additional standard flat-fee for an annual review.

In his speech Davies revealed the steady rise of the fund’s financial planning service since its launch in late 2009.

“When I joined UniSuper in 2009, we were only able to provide limited intra-fund advice but now we’re able provide holistic advice on super and non-super, tax and estate planning, and insurance,” Davies said.

“UniSuper is not like other funds. The majority of members coming through and retiring now are in defined-benefit arrangements so many have a right to an indexed lifetime pension, which an external adviser may not fully understand the complexity of.

“Furthermore, a lot of our members don’t have a defined, fixed retirement date. They tend to transition to retirement. For example, academics may begin winding down their teaching and start writing or researching or performing other university jobs from age 60 to 70 before ultimately deciding to stop work.”

Davies’ background is in the retail superannuation sector, working for Westpac’s BT Financial Group and Commonwealth Bank of Australia’s Colonial First State. During his time at Colonial, he worked with UniSuper chairman Chris Cuffe and chief investment officer John Pearce, who both previously held the position of Colonial First State chief executive.

“That training and experience gives me an insight, and has helped me understand the value of advice,” Davies said.


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