AustralianSuper CIO Mark Delaney (Photo: Matthew Fatches)
AustralianSuper CIO Mark Delaney (Photo: Matthew Fatches)

Mark Delaney, the CIO of AustralianSuper, which won three awards at the Conexus Financial Superannuation Awards on Thursday night, said the Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry was a “long overdue calling to account” for the $2.8 trillion superannuation sector.

In his acceptance speech at the awards dinner for the prestigious Fund of the Year Award, Delaney described the last 12 months as “incredible”.

“Maybe the year of the financial crisis rivals this year, but nothing else since then,” he said. “The royal commission was a long overdue calling to account. A lot of this stuff went on for years, and we all knew about it. We all said it was wrong…and then someone says ‘you can’t do that, at last.”

Assistant treasurer Stuart Robert presented the Fund of the Year award at a packed Ivy Ballroom in Sydney, where winners across all categories in the awards – now in their seventh year – were announced at a black-tie gala dinner.

Robert congratulated AustralianSuper and paid tribute to all the winners and finalists.

He thanked the audience of superannuation fund officials for all they do in serving Australian people, and acknowledged that it had been “a trying 12 months”.

AustralianSuper took out a triumvirate of awards on the night, also winning the trophy for Large Fund of the Year (for funds with $25 billion or more in assets) and Best Insurance Offering.

Delaney said bad behaviour in the sector went on for “20-30 years”.

“You wonder why it took us so long to do something about it, and then to be embarrassed by having a royal commission. We’re better than that, and we should have done better than that.”

With greater scrutiny from both government and consumers, Delaney said, the “world had changed”, but he acknowledged an improvement from Australia’s funds.

“People expect of institutions what they expect of governments,” he said. “We have to be very careful that we don’t go off pace in terms of community expectations.

“I’ve been in super for a long time and jeez the funds have got better…they’re a lot more professional, they do things the right way, there is much more member focus, they’ve improved a hell of a lot over the journey…we’ve got miles to go but at least we’re heading in the right direction.”

CareSuper won Medium Fund of the Year (for funds with between $10 and $25 billion in assets) and Energy Super won Small Fund of the Year (for funds with less than $10 billion in assets).

First State Super clinched the Best Advice Offering award, while QSuper won Pension Fund of the Year after taking out the same award in 2018. This award was handed out by shadow financial services minister Clare O’Neil.

Commenting on his fund’s win, Damian Graham, the CIO of First State Super said providing quality advice of all types, including digital and face-to-face, is a central objective of the fund as more Australians move into the retirement phase.

VicSuper received the Member Services Fund of the Year award, a gong it also won in 2018, and UniSuper was named Default Fund of the Year.

The 2019 awards featured a record number of entries in the innovation and technology categories. BT Panorama again took out the award for Best Technology Offering, while Sunsuper won the Innovation and Transformation category.

In the only category awarded to an individual, Statewide Super’s Con Michalakis was recognised as Chief Investment Officer of the Year.

The charity partner for the awards  The Hunger Project Donate here https://join.thp.org.au/fundraisers/mbalefundraiserconexus/mbale-epicentre

Congratulations to all the winners

Best Insurance Offering

  • Winner: AustralianSuper
  • Finalists: Australian Catholic Super Retirement Fund, Energy Super, Sunsuper, UniSuper

Default Fund of the Year

  • Winner: UniSuper
  • Finalists: AustralianSuper, Equip, First State Super, QSuper

     Pension Fund of the Year

  • Winner: QSuper
  • Finalists: AustralianSuper, First State Super, Sunsuper, UniSuper

Member Services Fund of the Year

  • Winner: VicSuper
  • Finalists: QSuper, Rest, Sunsuper, UniSuper

     Best Advice Offering

  • Winner:  First State Super
  • Finalists: AustralianSuper, QSuper, UniSuper, VicSuper

Best Technology Offering

  • Winner: BT Panorama
  • Finalists: AustralianSuper, Equip, LGIAsuper, QSuper

Innovation and Transformation

  • Winner: Sunsuper
  • Finalists: AustralianSuper, BT Panorama, BUSSQ, Rest

Chief Investment Officer of the Year

  • Winner: Con Michalakis, Statewide Super
  • Finalists: Sam Sicilia, Hostplus; Jonathan Armitage, MLC; Chris West, WA Super

Small Fund of the Year

  • Winner: Energy Super
  • Finalists: BUSSQ, legalsuper, Statewide Super, WA Super

Medium Fund of the Year

  • Winner: CareSuper
  • Finalists: Equip, LGIAsuper, TelstraSuper, VicSuper

Large Fund of the Year

  • Winner: AustralianSuper
  • Finalists: First State Super, QSuper, Sunsuper, UniSuper

Fund of Year

  • Winner: AustralianSuper
  • This award is chosen by the judging committee from among category winners.

About the awards

Funds are invited to nominate themselves for awards across 11 categories. The committee assesses a broad range of quantitative factors – including fees, investments and member services – and overlays this with a number of qualitative considerations.

The Conexus Financial Superannuation Awards are the only truly independent awards within the sector. There is no entry fee and the winners are decided by a volunteer judging committee that has broad representation from all areas of the industry, including the retail and industry fund sectors, and consumer representation.

Last year, the committee added a 10 per cent weighting to governance in its assessment of the funds’ offerings. This included an examination of gender balance at the board and executive level, director engagement and director tenure.

Conexus Financial head of institutional content, Amanda White, chairs this year’s committee, which agreed that good governance was an important ingredient for fund success.

The other committee members are:

  • California State Teachers’ Retirement System CIO Chris Ailman
  • FEAL chief executive Joanna Davison
  • CHOICE chief executive Alan Kirkland
  • Financial Services Council chief executive Sally Loane
  • Rice Warner chief executive Michael Rice
  • Former parliamentary secretary for financial services Bernie Ripoll

The 2019 Fund of the Year award goes to the nominee the committee believes has the best broad proposition and the highest level of innovation and overall excellence.

The 2019 Conexus Financial Superannuation Awards are sponsored by event partner AIA Australia.