Industry superannuation fund HESTA has embarked upon a plan to overhaul its investment management strategy in 2017. This comes after the board spent much of last year focused on initiatives to improve the fund’s technology and member engagement.

Last week, HESTA chief executive Debby Blakey revealed the $36 billion industry fund for workers in the health and community services sector had become the latest super fund to approve a plan to bring more of its investment capabilities in-house.

Following a review by investment consultant Willis Towers Watson, HESTA is set to implement a five-year strategy that will include beefing up the board’s investment committee and building its internal team of investment managers. The fund is now recruiting for a new investment committee chair and chief investment officer (CIO). HESTA’s current CIO Rob Fowler will remain with the fund in the newly created role of head of investment execution.

HESTA is a finalist in the Conexus Financial Superannuation Awards 2017, in the categories Best Technology Offering, and Innovation and Transformation. Throughout January, Investment Magazine will feature Q&As with all the finalists.

Here, Blakey reflects on the year gone and the challenges that lie ahead.

IM: What was the biggest development at HESTA in 2016?

DB: We’ve had a focus on ensuring HESTA is in a strong position for future growth and longevity. Our brand is key in this regard; it’s at the core of what we do and why, our actions, vision and voice. It directly affects how people feel about our products, services and organisation.

HESTA was already a well-established and trusted brand but we want to ensure we stand out and meet changing customer needs and expectations into the future. With that in mind, we conducted a brand review in 2016. This resulted in re-defined brand and communications strategies and culminated in a refreshed look that we launched in December. This new brand strategy will be central to our ongoing success across all aspects of our organisation.

Our customers are hard-working ordinary Australians, who do amazing work in health and community services. They have inspired our revitalised brand, which has a strong focus on telling their stories. It keeps us focused on the end game – helping our members re-write their stories so they can have the comfortable retirement they deserve.

A major component of our brand work has been centred on customer experience. We’ve made significant improvements to our digital offering by improving our website, which has been simplified with more relatable subject matter and improved navigation based on best practice. We’ve established functions for data insights and customer experience, which are informing key strategic decisions taken by the fund, working in tandem with our brand strategy.

We see these improvements as vitally important in communicating the HESTA brand purpose and values. Ultimately, they are helping to ensure we continue to make a real difference in the retirement outcome of every member, for many years to come.

cf-superawards-2017_webgraphic2What do you expect to be your biggest area of focus in 2017?

Implementing an improved investment strategy, which is critical to our members and the fund’s future success.

We have an ambitious investment objective of the [Consumer Price Index rate plus 4 per cent] for our default option – Core Pool. Our members need us to deliver on this objective, to give them the retirement outcome they are seeking and deserve.

An extensive review of our investment strategy was conducted in 2016, which has resulted in a more clearly defined strategy, positioning HESTA to deliver on our ambitious investment objectives.

What do you consider the most important measure of success for the fund?

Adequacy in retirement.

Everything we do is ultimately focused on our members. By developing a retirement readiness score for every member, we can track and monitor improvements in the adequacy of super at a point in time for members.

Our mission is to make a real difference in the retirement outcome of every member, we think it’s imperative to be able to monitor and measure preparedness for retirement at an individual member level.

What is the biggest challenge facing the industry?

Adapting and innovating to meet customer expectations. Increasingly, members are seeking a personalised and tailored experience, through multiple channels.

They’re expecting us (the super industry), to communicate with them in an uncomplicated, straightforward manner, at appropriate times and through their preferred channels. They also expect to transact with funds efficiently and in line with other sectors. Members no longer tolerate cumbersome processes; we need to be ready to meet this expectation.

The winners of the Conexus Financial Superannuation Awards 2017 will be unveiled at a black-tie event at the Ivy, Sydney, on March 9, supported by Vanguard and AIA Australia. You can purchase single tickets or tables for 10 by visiting the event website. The Conexus Financial Superannuation Awards proudly support The Wayside Chapel.

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