The importance of making sure members have appropriate insurance coverage and can access financial advice from their industry super fund is amplified when mass redundancies occur.

EISS Super chief executive Alexander Hutchison cites a new group insurance deal, introduced from July 1, 2016, as the most important development at the fund over the last year.

The $5 billion NSW-based industry super fund for workers in the energy and construction sectors came under pressure in 2016 as a swathe of its members lost their jobs, in part due to the state’s partial privatisation of its electricity poles and wires infrastructure (a joint venture between the country’s biggest industry fund, AustralianSuper, and industry fund-owned IFM Investors paid $16 billion for half of Ausgrid).

EISS Super is a finalist in the Conexus Financial Superannuation Awards 2017 in two categories: Best Insurance Offering and Small Fund of the Year (for funds with less than $5 billion in assets).

Investment Magazine will feature Q&As with all the finalists, ahead of the winners being revealed at the awards dinner in Sydney on March 9.

Here, Hutchison outlines the recent changes to the fund’s group insurance policy and his priorities for the year ahead.

IM: What was the biggest development at EISS Super in 2016?

AH: A major review of the insurance offered through EISS Super and the launch of a new insurance design from July 1, 2016.

One of the key changes was the level of our default cover product. More cover is now provided to members when they need it most, such as when they have commitments like families and mortgages.

We also introduced life event cover, which recognises the need for additional cover during a range of life events, such as the birth of a child. A key benefit of this cover is the straightforward application process, with members required only to complete a short form. Members can transfer existing insurance policies held via other super funds into their EISS Super account.

Another important change is that we will now pay total and permanent disablement benefits in two instalments in certain circumstances, dependent on the extent of the disability. This will provide our members with sustainable insurance into the future by minimising premiums and costs over the lifetime of their account.

At EISS, we recognise the risks associated with working in the energy and construction industries. We believe insurance cover is essential for the protection of our members, their future and their families.

What do you expect to be your biggest area of focus in 2017?

Our continued focus in 2017 will be providing outstanding services to our members while maintaining low fees. This will include the implementation of the super changes announced in the 2016 federal budget to ensure our members take advantage of any opportunities.

What do you consider the most important measure of success?

In 2016, the NSW energy industry experienced a large number of redundancies that affected EISS members. This led to an increased focus on retention, with significant resources allocated to servicing the large number of members facing redundancies and ongoing care. We were able to retain the vast majority of members, which was an outstanding result.

EISS Financial Planning is a core part of our member offer and our objective is to provide access to quality advice to all members, irrespective of account balance. EISS Financial Planning has experienced significant growth over the past 12 months as we continue to [provide for] members facing redundancy and retirement and requiring ongoing service.

As an industry fund, we are run only to benefit members. Our low attrition rates, as well as the referrals we receive from our members, are the best compliments we can receive. We are passionate about helping our members, both old and new, make the most of their super while they are working and when they retire.

What is the biggest challenge facing the industry?

Implementing the federal government’s regulatory requirements, which continue to expand, and seeking policy certainty so Australians can have the confidence to invest for their future through superannuation.

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.