Gallows humour, exasperation and despair are the natural demeanours of administrators facing SuperStream changes over the next year.

Listening to executives in super funds and administrators on the topic of pass-throughs, gateways and error messages at the AIST Superannuation Administration Symposium in Melbourne last week, many used words of dread.

The process was going to be “onerous”, “unpleasant”. The journey was “absolutely massive”, workloads would increase “dramatically” to deal with exceptions management. Someone even described it as “complication beyond your control”.

A chief concern is the pass-through process, where an employer only has to use one superannuation fund to give its contributions to, regardless of how many different funds its employees use. This comes into play in July.

As a measure of this work, one speaker said they knew of an employer with 36 employees contributing to 41 separate funds. Another knew of an employer that continues to write 50 cheques a month for its employees’ separate funds. And there was widespread fear of employers unaware of their duties or employees not interested in helping out.

SuperStream is supposed to simplify administration and reduce costs but many are doubtful.

Dean Pearce, head of employer relations at VicSuper, explained only a small amount of their contributions were handled manually, so while processing them electronically would make some savings, the cost of extra IT spend and new processes would cancel this out. The Link Group was also sceptical of savings.

However, some believe the effort will be worth it. David Haynes, executive manager policy and research at the AIST, acknowledged: “The super industry is in a world of pain from Superstream implementation. The level of resourcing and focus is enormous”, but he said it was necessary to take superannuation onto the same level of online/ mobile access we have become used to in our daily lives and that a payback would eventually come with cost savings and flexibility.

A can-do message also came from Geoff Brooks, head of marketing and communications at Equip. He spoke of how data analytics would define the success or failure of funds and revealed how Equip would be hiring a data scientist to help in this task.

The AIST conference ended with a diversion. Jocelyn Furlan of the Superannuation Complaints Tribunal gave advice on how to handle the most common member dispute caused by new retirees unhappy at calculation of their final account balance.

“Listen to what the complaint is about and acknowledge it”, she recommended in the first instance. Immediately contesting the issue over the phone was likely to encourage aggrieved members to escalate the dispute. Furlan explained that retirees often had more time to contest these disputes than superannuation funds and funds should do more to manage expectations around final account balance values in the first place.

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