Tough times and job losses in the energy sector mean Energy Super’s 48,000 members have a greater need than ever for access to financial advice and better retirement products.

Throughout January, Investment Magazine will feature Q&As with all the finalists for the Conexus Financial Superannuation Awards 2017.

Energy Super is a finalist in the categories for Best Advice Offering and Medium Fund of the Year (for funds with $5 billion to $10 billion in assets under management).

Robyn Petrou, chief executive of the Queensland-based $6 billion industry fund for workers in the energy sector, shares Energy Super’s plans for the year ahead.

IM: What were the biggest developments at Energy Super in 2016?

RP: Our relationships and continued focus on member and employer servicing were particularly critical to Energy Super’s success in 2016, throughout a period of unrest in the energy sector as mergers and redundancies occurred.

As our membership changed and evolved, we needed to respond and did so through enhancing the products we deliver to our members.

This included launching Energy Super LifetimePlus (a new account-based investment option offering retirement income for life), launching a fixed-interest investment option, and refining our income-stream product.

Our income protection model was re-negotiated and we introduced an embedded team and simpler process with our insurer. A new initiative we launched was our Best Doctor services, providing second opinions from a global network of doctors.

We reduced our annual fee cap for individual accounts and linked spouse accounts, which delivered savings to our members.

Advice on aged care has been a focus since we identified this area of need about 18 months ago and we now have full capabilities within our team.

Throughout 2016, we increased our communication to members with timely guidance around the year’s critical milestones, including Brexit, the federal government’s super changes, and the US presidential election – all sent to our members’ email boxes within 24 hours. This coincided with improvements to our online portal and website search engine, so members had a better experience.

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

Our greatest focus in 2017 will be on enhancing the personal conversation we have with our members. We began this journey in 2016 with an increase in timely communication and improved digital communication platforms.

The digital transformation will continue throughout the business with the aim of supporting our teams’ relationships and simplifying the way our members interact with us.

Our level of engagement with members will continue to increase as we see more and more people becoming interested in their superannuation. We need to continue to adapt to ensure we remain responsive to members and support them in times of need with targeted insurance and financial advice.

We want to help members make the right decisions with timely communication and access to services. We want to be by our members’ side from their first job to their last and beyond.

To achieve this, we’ll also be working closely with our employers, helping them with human resource solutions and advice on super matters when they need it.

Retirement solutions will continue to be researched, as well as services and products that will help our members’ journey and maintain their trust in us.

cf-superawards-2017_webgraphic2What do you consider the most important measure of success for the fund?

When it comes to Energy Super’s products, services and value, the member always comes first. This means the ratings and feedback our members give us remain the most important measure of whether we’re doing our job or not.

In 2016, our members gave us ratings of 8.7+ out of 10 for the service we’ve provided to them. They’ve also given 122 recommendations on how we can improve what we do for them, and we’ve already implemented well over half of these.

Apart from our low fees and above-benchmark returns, feedback from our members shows they value the personal touch, such as free single-issue advice and clear communication, including our free member forums, seminars, newsletters and video updates.

What is the biggest challenge facing the industry?

Member engagement and trust remain the top challenges for the superannuation industry.

Australians continue to remain largely disengaged from their superannuation until they are only a decade or two away from retirement. Many also don’t understand how their super fund can assist with bolstering their financial wellbeing during their working lives with insurance and financial advice.

We also need to state strongly that our members are concerned and disillusioned with the government constantly changing the rules. This lack of trust can lead members to superannuation alternatives that may increase the risk of the member not achieving their retirement goal.

With the ongoing changes to the superannuation system, we as funds need government support so we can be the trusted guide for our members.

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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