Sunsuper boss Scott Hartley predicts competition in Australia’s crowded superannuation market will intensify in the coming years as net fund flows into the industry decline.

Hartley has previously voiced bold growth ambitions for the $30 billion Queensland-based industry fund.

Investing in growth, technology, advice and member communications are all key to his plan for success.

Sunsuper is a finalist in the Conexus Financial Superannuation Awards 2017 in four categories: Pension Fund of the Year, Best Advice Offering, Innovation and Transformation, and Large Fund of the Year (for funds with $10 billion or more in assets under management).

Throughout January, Investment Magazine will feature Q&As with all the finalists.

Here, Hartley reflects on the milestones reached in 2016, plans for 2017, and outlook for the industry.

 IM: What were the biggest developments at Sunsuper in 2016?

SH: In 2016, Sunsuper recorded strong organic growth.

One big driver of this growth was new client wins in the corporate super segment.

About a dozen corporate super funds completed a fund transfer into Sunsuper in 2016, including NT Government Super, Mondelez (Cadbury-Schweppes), and GPC Asia Pacific.

Another important contributor to the fund’s organic growth was the building momentum from work we have been doing to create a network across the retail adviser sector.

At Sunsuper, we are very passionate about ensuring our members get the right financial advice. We are now open for business with all retail advisers, regardless of who licenses them.

Sunsuper retains a small number of financial planners in-house but we want to extend our network across all advisers in the industry who are trying to help their clients achieve their retirement dreams.

We recently launched an online tool for advisers that has been successful and we will continue to promote that heavily.

It was also a year where we made a number of key appointments to further strengthen the already very strong and capable internal investment team and investment committee.

Great progress was also made on transforming our operating platform and continued re-investment in technology to transform into a modern, digitally-enabled, customer-centric, fund. One particular area where progress was made in 2016 was our ability to better tailor member communications to ensure they are relevant to individuals.

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

 First up, will be overseeing the successful transition of a number of large corporate funds that have recently signed on as new clients.

It is also set to be another big year for re-investment in technology – both customer facing and the operating platform. In the first half of 2017, we will launch a new mobile app for account holders and implement a completely new digital platform.

Behind the scenes, we will be implementing a new customer relationship management system, which will be integrated with a new omni-channel customer contact system.

Our customers won’t see any of that directly but it will make a big difference in their overall experience with us. The aim of improving the workflow systems is that whether clients contact us by mail, email, phone, or face to face, their experience should be consistent.

A program of change to become a high-performance organisation is well under way and we will keep on pursuing and embedding that goal.

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

 Simple: customer advocacy.

 What is the biggest challenge facing the industry?

 Australia’s compulsory superannuation system is maturing and rapidly heading towards a point of ex-growth. Industry-wide, net fund inflows have dropped from 8 per cent 10 years ago, to less than 3 per cent today. This ratio is dropping rapidly.

It will ultimately get to a point where the money flowing into the super system (via contributions) and the money out (in pensions) is equal.

At the same time, the traditional demarcations between the different segments within the industry are blurring and competition is increasing. The combination of declining growth and increasing competition is creating a challenging dynamic for all players in the industry.

Another big challenge for the industry is how funds can keep up with the necessary investments in technology to transform into more data-driven digital companies.

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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