Having an easily iterated, in-house platform and no legacy systems is proving to be a boon for winners in the Conexus Financial Superannuation Awards technology categories, BT Financial Group and Sunsuper.
“There is a lot of legacy, but there are a lot of third parties in superannuation,” said Sunsuper head of digital distribution Mat Gilroy. “Sunsuper’s advantage is that we don’t have third parties across our technology platforms that put us into their own road maps.”
Gilroy accepted the Queensland-based fund’s gong for Innovation and Transformation at the awards, held at the Ivy in Sydney on Thursday night.
The chief executive of AIA Australia, Damien Mu, presented the award to Sunsuper, which beat out AustralianSuper, BT Panorama, BUSSQ and Rest.
Westpac-owned BT Financial Group (BTFG) which has invested hundreds of millions in its Panorama platform, won the award for Best Technology Offering for the third consecutive year.
Anil Sagaram, head of product development and design at BTFG, said it was imperative for funds to have at their fingertips technology “to deliver the sort of experiences that members are now expecting”.
Gilroy agreed. He said members expected super funds to keep pace with other industries.
“You’ve got to invest in technology contemporary to what customers expect,” he said. “So what a customer does is buy something in retail land, and that is going to set their expectations of what they expect from a super fund,” he said after accepting Sunsuper’s award.
This was something the Financial Services Council’s director of policy and global markets, Allan Hansell said was key to BTFG’s win, as he presented the group’s award.
“This year’s winner has undertaken a large-scale, and very expensive, technology offering that aims to link all of its products and services, including banking, insurance, superannuation, investments and cash-management accounts,” Hansell said. “Designed to drive down fees and costs, get rid of legacy systems and simplify the user experience, the technology is not just an adviser tool, like other platforms. Individuals can use it as well. This fund’s technology allows people to manage their wealth holistically.”
Other finalists for Best Technology Offering were AustralianSuper, Equip, LGIAsuper and QSuper.
Sunsuper’s Gilroy, who has been with the fund for 14 years and was its sole online team member when he started, said he was sympathetic to funds struggling with legacy systems.
“We define our change and implement it ourselves as a priority,” he explained. “Some super funds are dragging the chain, but some super funds are actually trying to unwind really complex legacies as well. So I’m sympathetic to that, you can’t turn that around in a year.”
At the end of 2018, Sunsuper launched Beam, which is a payment system that allows employers – of which Sunsuper has 130,000 – to manage super and payroll through one central platform.
Gilroy said Sunsuper had big plans for Beam.
“Beam is a primary focus for me and the goal is to integrate it across a number of Australian payroll providers, so you’ll see Beam grow in the market a lot this year,” he explained. ‘We’re going to look at ways to get Australians to think about their super more often using technology.”
In presenting the Innovation and Transformation Award, AIA Australia’s Mu said: “Although it was a close race, one fund came through above the rest with a major innovation in its technology offering for employer payroll solutions.”
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.