For most of January, myself and my colleague Dan Purves compiled a survey of the pay disclosure of superannuation CEOs, CIOs and chairs. It would have been an easier job if funds had not often placed this information in the darkest recesses of their websites. Such secrecy partly explains why the subsequent articles have been some of the most popular content ever produced by Investment Magazine.
A fund that could not be accused of having issues around remuneration disclosure is AustralianSuper. The information is clearly set out in lots of white space on page 43 of its annual report. Not only are its CIO, CEO and directors’ pay disclosed, but also that of its five highest paid executives. There was also disclosure on the KPIs of its investment team, information no other fund properly laid out in such detail – Sunsuper came close.
This level of disclosure is fitting as Australia’s largest fund takes it upon itself to be a benchmark for best practice, not least because it is under so much public and media scrutiny.
This is worth mentioning as industry funds such as AustralianSuper are being tarred as laggards on poor practice by the current government for the low level of independent directors on their boards. This is ironic as finding the pay of those employed by retail funds, particularly bank owned super, was the hardest and most frustrating part of our pay survey. Their disclosure is often found in the recesses of reports attached to the main company website, but nowhere near any of the public facing sections of their sites labelled with the word super. Such funds will also benefit from the level playing field proposed for the ending of the current default award system.
This does not feel like a step forward for good governance, as the retail funds’ proposition to the public is dominated by marketing and not bare facts. The logic of a free market is that the public wins. That seems a vain hope for superannuation given how little the public tends to grasp about investing wisely for income to pay out 30-40 years in the future.