The intangible benefits offered by superannuation funds is overlooked by the Your Future, Your Super performance test and could be at the detriment of customers, according to a panel of superannuation specialists.

Speaking on an online panel hosted by the Conexus Institute, Spirit Super independent chair Naomi Edwards said a tool that compares performance and fees is a positive but their fund prides itself on a high level of customer service and strong advice.

“None of those metrics are included and what’s more important than having the best balanced fund is that you’re also in the right strategy for your age or risk profile. If you can’t get through to your super fund to ask a question about that then that might lead to a worse consumer outcome.”

13 funds failed the inaugural performance test last August which was part of the YFYS reforms.

Edwards said Spirit Super is content with the test but “there’s more to the super world” and that service and education is important which isn’t reflected in the measure.

Service and education also important

“Members understand that difference and that may also be part of why there’s not an immediate rush [to exit underperforming funds]. However, we are seeing the shape of our outflows change and they’re becoming more titled towards the one or two funds that sit at the top of the chart, so consumers are using it and it’s starting to affect where our outflows go to.”

Chant West general manager Ian Fryer agreed it’s important to show fees and performance, but that is only part of the context.

“If you show it without any risk or exposure measure like growth assets it can be misleading. MySuper options could be 50/50 but some could be 95 per cent growth assets with no disclosure of risk in those products.

This is highly problematic, Fryer said, and there needs to be a measure of risk.

“If anyone else in the market tried to do a comparison without risk there would be massive trouble.”

According to data from APRA last November, only 68,000 of the one-million-member accounts in products that failed the test closed their accounts.

That accounted for 7 per cent of total accounts in the failed products which was only 4.2 per cent ($2.2 billion) of assets.

Super Consumers director Xavier O’Halloran said 68,000 might seem low in the context of a million customers caught up in those funds but that’s not the case.

“We looked at the movement over a similar period of the previous year and it had doubled.”

The art of communication

Trustees of products that failed the test had to write to members by 27 September 2021 advising them of the outcome and provide details of the ATO’s YourSuper comparison tool.

O’Halloran said they reviewed a sample of the letters sent out by underperforming funds.

“A lot of them were not great in terms of consumer communication and there was a lot of focus on the previous one-year performance which was a good year across the board.”

The full test covered the previous eight years and this meant some customers might have instead gotten the view their fund is on the “up and up”, O’Halloran said.

“Without the context of what was going on more broadly they may not have fully understood where the fund was at long term.”

Fryer noted that super funds produce a high level of member communications that don’t generate much interaction.

“This was another letter and it’s perhaps not surprising that it didn’t get a high response.”

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