Australian Institute of Superannuation Trustees chief executive Eva Scheerlinck is set to open the Conference of Major Superannuation Funds 2018 by urging delegates to keep pursuing their big, important, long-term goals.

In her opening address, Scheerlinck will outline her hopes for what is set to be “another big year” for the profit-to-member super funds sector the organisation represents.

“Assets under management continue to grow, markets are volatile and unpredictable, and there is a spotlight on our industry’s conduct and expenditure, through the lens of a royal commission and more reviews and inquiries than you can poke a stick at,” she says. “All in the lead up to a federal election, where soon, no doubt, we will see the political players jockey for position, with new policies for superannuation.”

Even so, super fund executives and trustees must not be distracted from going about their day jobs, she says.

“You must maintain the focus on members’ best interests, on achieving high net returns over the long term for your members, so that they have the best chance of retiring with dignity.”

Scheerlinck will stress that funds must ensure they are providing affordable and timely advice and appropriate insurance cover.

“Your job is to do these things well – so well that the trust our members have in us is well-founded and sustaining,” she says.

She will observe that Australia’s compulsory retirement savings system is the envy of much of the world, but still has some way to go to deliver on the vision of its founders.

“There was a genuine vision that all Australian workers, rich or poor, blue-collar or white-, male or female would, through their employer, be able to save for retirement. And that, collectively, that pool of savings could then be invested in smart and efficient ways, better than anyone could do on their own,” she will explain.

“That vision has almost been realised – for those people who spend their lives in reasonably paid, stable, full-time employment. But not so much for people who come in and out of the workforce, low-income earners, and people in unstable employment. It has never served women well and casualisation of the workforce and the new gig economy is a new challenge to the vision of universal coverage.”

Scheerlinck will urge the assembled delegates to ensure that in a busy year, besieged by challenges, they make time to advocate for positive changes to improve the system.

“Positive change is not going to happen by itself. We have to set the agenda for a future we want to see for workers and retirees in this country,” she says. “This government, perhaps no government, will do that for us. A three-year election cycle and fortnightly polling results [make] the policy focus is more short-term.”

In particular, she will push for a continued focus on addressing workers’ unpaid super guarantee contributions and the lifting of the super guarantee to 12 per cent of wages.

CMSF 2018 will be held at the Brisbane Convention Centre March 14-16.

READ MORE: All the coverage from CMSF 2018