Cbus Super chief executive David Atkin has called on his peers to step up their advocacy to ensure employers comply with obligations to pay workers’ superannuation guarantee contributions in full and on time.

A need to raise awareness of the importance of compulsory super is one of the biggest challenges facing the industry at the moment, Atkin says.

Cbus, the $35 billion industry fund for construction workers, is a finalist for the Conexus Financial Superannuation Awards 2017 in four categories, including Default Fund of the Year, Pension Fund of the Year and Large Fund of the Year (for funds with more than $10 billion in assets). Cbus executive manager investment management, Trish Donohue, and executive manager investment strategy, Kristian Fok, are joint finalists for the coveted CIO of the Year gong.

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, Atkin discusses what’s keeping him busy as the fund beefs up its internal investment team and rolls out new financial advice and retirement planning tools.

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

DA: Last year was a big one for Cbus. After extensive research and consultation, we announced our new investment strategy, which addresses the future challenges of [handling] a growing pool of assets and capturing the advantages of scale for members.

This included the decision to expand our in-house investment capability as we grow to more than $50 billion in [assets under management] in the next few years. Three themes will drive our decisions: a long-term horizon, a total portfolio approach, and investments that have a positive impact on the real economy – particularly through the built environment.

Cbus also launched a new financial advice service model in 2016 that strictly aligns with the fund’s commitment to providing service in the best interests of members. Cbus launched this in-house model in November, following recruitment to fill 30 specialist roles. The service builds on the landmark financial planning referral service partnership with the Financial Planning Association of Australia that was launched in 2014.

We also established a Retirement Readiness Index as part of our ongoing commitment to help members plan for their retirement.

Another milestone was the successful migration to the Aaspire platform, which is the core system for management of data for all members and employers. This was a major back-office project, with many potential risks, that went smoothly.

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

In 2017, we will continue to implement the new investment strategy and build our internal capacity, both in Melbourne and in Sydney. We will also continue to implement our plans to improve and expand the Cbus member and employer experience teams. These units have been successful in delivering outstanding service to our key stakeholders.

What do you consider the most important measure of success?

Delivering for members by providing strong investment returns, good advice, and an improved Retirement Readiness Index score. If we deliver these outcomes, Cbus will continue to grow and retain members.

What is the biggest challenge facing the industry?

Compulsory superannuation is a critical part of the retirement landscape and we must promote better public understanding of it.

If we ensure that workers’ 9.5 per cent superannuation guarantee contributions are paid (a rate that ultimately must be increased) then we all benefit.

Individuals benefit through better retirement outcomes, society benefits from good long-term investments, and government benefits from reduced pressure on the pension system. It’s a win, win, win situation. The more the industry communicates this, the more the public will support it.



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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