David Bell has been appointed executive director of a new research institute started by the publisher of Investment Magazine, Conexus Financial, that aims to disrupt, influence and become a catalyst for change in the Australian retirement sector.

Bell, the former chief investment officer of Mine Super, will oversee The Conexus Institute when it is launched early next year. The Sydney-based think-tank will publish both original and collaborative thought pieces as well as showcase the work of others to maximise the impact that research can have on a retirement system that is currently ranked third in the world.

“We need more truly independent and high-quality research that provides a fresh view on how to improve retirement outcomes,” said Colin Tate, founder of Conexus Financial and chair of the institute. “It’s a complex system and at present, there is too much uncertainty about the best way forward.”

The launch coincides with the Australian Government’s long-awaited review of the retirement income system which is due to publish a consultation paper later this month. The Conexus Institute plans to be an active contributor to this review, adding an independent research-driven voice to the debate.

Tate said while the Institute will collaborate with multiple stakeholders including universities, regulators and policymakers, it would also be a “constructive critic” that challenged the status quo. It will initially focus on a single research theme titled ‘Accountability Infrastructure’ that will look to create a clear set of objectives for retirement solutions and ways to measure the outcomes for the industry.

“A good retirement outcome system requires more than just good superannuation funds,” said Tate. “Insurance and financial advice will also have a large impact on system outcomes.”

“I believe we need more truly independent high-quality research, providing a fresh view on how we can improve retirement outcomes for Australians.”

Bell has a career that spans two decades in both the superannuation industry and academia and has built up a reputation for his quality of research and ethics, according to Tate.

“This is a dream role for me,” said Bell, who was the CIO of Mine Super for four years until he left to complete his PhD. “I have a great passion for enhancing retirement outcomes for Australians. This role brings together research, collaboration, innovation and education.”

Funded by Conexus Financial and the philanthropic activities of Tate, the institute’s official start date has been set for January 27, 2020. A planned public launch with terms of reference and announcing the independent board is planned for early new year.

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