David Haynes, AIST executive manager, policy and research, says his objectives for the busy year ahead include a code of governance and increasing efficiency.

IM: What are the top three areas of policy focus for AIST at the moment?

DH: This is turning out to be another year when the super industry faces momentous change.

We’re responding to the challenge of the governance debate by showing that member representation and accountability are the best ways to demonstrate integrity and keep consumer confidence. The new Australian Institute of Superannuation Trustees code of governance will be a big step in the right direction.

Also, the pending debate on default fund selection – the Productivity Commission’s next report is out next week – will allow us to show how profit-to-member funds can best safeguard the interests of members and detail the best retirement outcomes, especially where levels of engagement and understanding of super are low across the board. In contrast, retail banks face real trust issues and questions about how they handle conflicts of interest.

The third big policy focus is around increasing efficiency and flexibility, and ensuring optimal structures to protect consumers and maximise retirement outcomes. Falling within this category are: the new MyRetirement (comprehensive income products for retirement) framework; the legislated objective of super and the benchmark assessment of its efficiency; new technology and its regulation; better, more meaningful, disclosure; and better functioning insurance in super. It’s a lot to digest and we’ll be kept busy!

How have you found the level of engagement from trustees with the Insurance In Super Working Group?

The ISWG has harnessed high levels of interest and involvement from trustees and fund staff, with a widespread realisation that real change is necessary to confront balance erosion and duplicate account issues, improve standards of behaviour and regain consumer confidence.

The provision of automatic insurance cover for most Australians has delivered enormous benefits, and while we mustn’t lose sight of that, we must also recognise that there are real issues that go beyond just needing better communication. Many funds are already making significant changes, and the ISWG is working to lift standards and ensure consistency across the board.

What do you think is the biggest challenge facing trustees at the moment?

The best thing would be for us, as an industry, to be able to focus on my third policy area – improving efficiency and maximising retirement outcomes for members. But the federal government shows every sign of wanting to fight its ideological battles to reduce member representation, improve the banks’ market share of super and frustrate meaningful disclosure.

The challenge will be for trustees to look past these distractions and concentrate on the big picture improvements that funds can and will deliver.

What is your top priority for the year?

To ensure that AIST listens hard to the voice of our members about the best ways to meet these policy challenges, and to communicate and advocate effectively for this to government, regulators and the community as a whole. To achieve this, we are going to have to focus our efforts and limited resources on the things that matter most.

What session at the conference are you most looking forward to and why?

It’s not easy to choose, and I’m impressed by the meaty and relevant content this year. But if I have to choose, it would have to be the second plenary, on The Power of the Collective. It sums up the way in which we have developed a model and a culture that is uniquely suited to representing the interests of members. It’s in the air we breathe but we sometimes overlook just how special it is and how much it has achieved.

 

To read the other stories from our newsletter ahead of the opening of CMSF 2017, click here.