EDITOR’S LETTER | Australian super funds are taking an average of 117 days to handle customer complaints.

That is a disgraceful statistic.

And of course, it means many members are waiting far longer than four months to have their complaint resolved.

The law requires funds to complete internal dispute resolution processes within 90 days.

Australian Securities and Investments Commission senior executive leader, investment managers and superannuation, Jane Eccleston, told the Conference of Major Superannuation Funds 2018, held in Brisbane March 14-16, that the regulator is concerned about the lag in handling complaints. So much so, that ASIC is planning to launch a review into the issue, Eccleston said, although this has been delayed until the new one-stop-shop external dispute resolution body, the Australian Financial Complaints Authority, is up and running later this year.

Eccleston flagged that ASIC will consider recommending that super funds be given a shorter window in which to respond to complaints before consumers are allowed to take the matter to AFCA.
Any fund that takes, on average, more than the mandated 90-day limit – or even close to that – to handle a complaint should be acting now to reduce that. Just as funds should be getting on the front foot to ensure that they have taken, or are taking, adequate steps to correct the issues that are driving the complaints.

After all, looking at what clients are most likely to complain about can provide a signal as to where there might be systemic problems or misconduct.

The Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry has delivered juicy headlines from day one.

So far, the public hearings have dealt exclusively with banks and mortgage brokers but the second round of hearings, due to kick off on April 16, will focus on the wealth-management and financial planning industry. What emerges from that will probably provide some prelude to the types of scandals sure to emerge when hearings dedicated to misconduct in the superannuation sector are held later in the year.

Complaints about misconduct in relation to financial advice and insurance will probably be amongst the most prevalent issues that arise in the royal commission’s hearings dedicated to superannuation.

Simply saying ‘but the banks are worse’ will not cut the mustard. Not with Justice Kenneth Hayne and his posse, or with the general public.

We’ve just sent to print the April issue of Investment Magazine, which will be my last as editor. A huge thank you to everyone who has helped me and contributed to the title’s success over the last 18 months. It has been a blast.