UniSuper won the award for Default Fund of the Year at the Conexus Financial Superannuation Awards 2017.

The $57.5 billion super fund for higher education workers also won Best Insurance Offering, Best Advice Offering, and Fund of the Year – the second year running it has taken home the overall award.

The key criteria for Default Fund of the Year were the quality of member services, fees, insurance and investments. It was also the most hotly fought award, receiving more submissions than any other category.

Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA) general manager Heidi Richards – standing in for special adviser to the awards and APRA deputy chair Helen Rowell – said UniSuper had performed particularly well in investments and excelled in insurance.

“Interestingly, it was its low investment fees that really made a difference and edged this fund in front to be the overall winner,” Richards said.

UniSuper chief executive Kevin O’Sullivan said that many factors, including advice and insurance, made UniSuper a strong default fund, but singled out the investment team for special praise.

“Such a big part of the strength of our default offering comes back to the excellent performance of the investment team, which they deliver with very low fees,” he said.

The UniSuper investment team led by chief investment officer John Pearce manages roughly 55 per cent of the fund’s total assets in-house.

UniSuper is a closed default fund for 37 Australian Universities. The default fund selection process is the subject of a major three-part Productivity Commission review, with the government having flagged it wants to shake-up the system to introduce more choice for employers.

O’Sullivan is optimistic about the fund’s ability to retain its valuable member base, no matter what changes the government makes to the default rules.

“We can’t stop change but we can control our destiny,” he said.

“We just have to make it a no-brainer that people want to be in UniSuper.”

O’Sullivan said he believed that competition between super funds was generally getting fiercer, but that the industry as a whole needed to “lift its game” in the quality of post-retirement products.

The other finalists in the Default Fund of the Year category were Cbus, MTAA Super and QSuper. Those three funds all took home awards in other categories.

View the full list of winners across all 12 categories.

More than $86,000 was raised for the Conexus Financial Superannuation Awards 2017  charity partner The Wayside Chapel at the gala dinner to announce the winners in Sydney on March 9.  To donate to Wayside click here.

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