SSFS has given other super funds a statement of intent on its desire to be a national partner of choice for advice.
The pension fund and financial planning company has changed its name to StatePlus and has spent $50 million to broaden digital access to its advice to include web chat, mobile phone and interactive websites used by members from their homes or during face to face meetings with planners. The latter innovation employs a new registry system with straight through processing that means StatePlus has dispensed with all paper files for its members, after old records were digitised.
Other upgrades include the addition of aged care and estate planning advice, as well as the stated aspiration of having all of its 160 planners qualified to CFP status. Currently 55 per cent are CFP qualified – a significant figure, as only 25 per cent of all planners have this qualification as provided by the Financial Planning Association.
To help justify the expenditure, StatePlus is now looking to reach beyond its core membership provided by its parent State Super to partner with other super funds.
Michael Monaghan, chief executive of StatePlus, said he was already in conversations with other funds and reasoned that the expense and difficulty of setting up advice operations, meant few other funds could compete with the scale of what State Plus had achieved.
“Financial advice is hard,” he said. “For every office you start you are going to lose money for three years, for every adviser you train you are going to lose money for two years. It has taken us 25 years to build up to 160 advisers, we do not think that many funds will be able to create such networks.”
The new StatePlus proposition will also play on its relative neutrality and its high compliance standards, which have led it to avoid any of the damaging advice scandals that have hit the big banks. Customers from other funds will be charged the same as StatePlus members for advice.
StatePlus has also announced its intent to increase its national footprint. Currently, it has 18 offices, mainly in New South Wales but also in Western Australia and Queensland.
Peeyush Gupta, chair of StatePlus, said he wanted the new organisation to benchmark itself by global and not domestic standards and that the firm was looking to global net promoter scores and the use of technology by advice operations overseas for inspiration.
Both Monaghan and Gupta mentioned the possibility of also extending the StatePlus operation overseas.
The name change reflects customer feedback that SSFS was difficult to say and of it giving the impression the company only advised on superannuation.