HESTA chief executive Debby Blakey (Photo: Supplied)

HESTA chief executive Debby Blakey says the fund is putting the “finishing touches” on a new three-year strategy that is sure to challenge everyone involved to “think big”.

Blakey says the $43 billion industry super fund for health and community service workers is committed to maintaining its long-term perspective while the superannuation industry navigates the current investment climate and an evolving legislative landscape.

“The new three-year strategy is really an opportunity for all of us at HESTA to challenge ourselves to think big and ensure we are building on the legacy of so many others who have helped build the fund to where it is today,” she says.

She adds that 2017 was a milestone 30th year for the fund, when it unveiled a five-year investment strategy, appointed a new investment committee to oversee the progress and growth of the in-house investment team following a review by Willis Towers Watson, and named a new chief investment officer.

“It really was a moment for us to pause and reflect on how far we have come from a small but ambitious fund to where we are today,” Blakey says. “There were so many significant initiatives undertaken last year that it is hard to single out one. However, we are very excited to see the development of our five-year investment strategy, which involves building the capacity of our internal investment team and really setting the foundation for future success with our investment partners.”

Furthermore, Blakey says HESTA’s strategic decisions are a reflection of the fund’s commitment to achieving strong and long-term investment returns for its 840,000 members.

Re-shaping through data and technology

“It is vital to maintain this focus if you are going to ensure you are delivering strong outcomes for members. [And] we are extremely proud that Core Pool, our default investment option, has comfortably exceeded its investment objective since inception,” Blakey says.

Moreover, she says 2018 will be a packed year for the fund from a strategic standpoint. She predicts that its data and technology platforms are going to re-shape the business.

“Our members expect the same type of digital experience from us as they get from Apple, Amazon or Google,” Blakey says. “And, they also want solutions when they talk to one of our HESTA team. [Investing in technology] is helping us make decisions in real time that are informed by outstanding information, and it is going to help our teams deliver unique, personalised experiences for our members.”

HESTA is a finalist for the Conexus Financial Superannuation Awards 2018 in two categories: Best Technology Offering and Large Fund of the Year (for funds with $10 billion or more in FUM).

About the awards

The Conexus Financial Superannuation Awards recognise excellence in the industry and aim to encourage super funds to raise the bar in all aspects of their operations. The focus of the awards is to honour funds that offer products and services that will ultimately lead to better retirement outcome for members.

While there are many other awards nights on the industry calendar, the Conexus Financial Superannuation Awards are unique in that they are not aligned to a research or ratings house, and do not charge funds to participate. Actuarial and consulting firm Rice Warner assist with quantitative analysis.

The judging panel comprises California State Teachers’ Retirement System chief investment officer Chris Ailman, Fund Executives Association Ltd (FEAL) chief executive Joanna Davison, CHOICE chief executive Alan Kirkland, Financial Services Council chief executive Sally Loane, Rice Warner chief executive Michael Rice, and former minister for financial services and superannuation, the Hon. Bernie Ripoll.

“There’s no shortage of commentary or opinions on super fund performance but the strength of this process is the focus on data, which removes a lot of the subjectivity,” CHOICE’s Kirkland says. “At the same time, the growing debate about the importance of effective governance has forced us to bring in some qualitative assessment of factors like this, which can’t be reduced to numbers.”

Australian Prudential Regulation Authority deputy chair Helen Rowell is a special adviser to the judging committee, which remains the only truly independent awards panel in the sector.

“APRA views sound governance practices as fundamental to the delivery of value for money outcomes for members,” Rowell says. “I was, therefore, very pleased to see the steps taken by the judging panel this year to enhance the approach to assessing governance practices and give it more weight in determining the winners in various categories.”

Rowell says APRA encourages all trustees to continue to improve their practices and the outcomes delivered for their members.

“Industry awards, such as the Conexus Awards, are one means for helping the industry to do this by identifying better practices in key areas,” she says.

The 2018 Conexus Financial Superannuation Awards are produced with thanks to platinum sponsor AIA Australia and event partner, FEAL. All the winners will be announced at a special black-tie event on March 8 at the Ivy Ballroom, Sydney. Tickets are now available. Visit www.conexussuperawards.com.au or contact Emma Brodie via emma.brodie@conexusfinancial.com.au or +61 2 9227 5708.

Join the discussion