The 2022 Retirement Conference showcased an industry that is stepping forward and developing better retirement strategies for members. Run in an open-forum style, attendees from the 14 largest super funds were joined by representatives from Treasury, APRA, ASIC, government and opposition representatives, six industry partners and some recognised thought leaders on retirement.
The full summary of the day can be accessed here.
Funds did well to create their initial retirement income strategies given the limited time from finalisation of legislation to 1 July this year. While there already appears to be a sizable divergence between strategies, some leading funds will step forward, creating best-practice case studies for regulators to share back with industry, creating an upward spiral effect.
The innovation on display was significant. There is sizable innovation in longevity solutions, with both funds and service providers showcasing some interesting developments. It is interesting the leading service providers in this area are highly consultative and have shaped their offerings to offer significant design flexibility.
But innovations go further than longevity. On the investment side, we saw examples of tailored retirement investment portfolios and smart rebalancing strategies. We also saw examples of clever ways of drawing down an income from account-based pensions. Integrating these different areas of innovation is the next step and some funds are well on their way.
Cohorting, referenced in the Retirement Income Covenant (RIC), is being applied quite differently across the industry. Many funds identified cohorts in their retirement income strategies (RIS). While a smaller number alluded to tailored solutions for these cohorts, some well-considered funds aspired to individual solutions. Broadly where the conversation settled was that cohorts are valuable for strategic planning but anything that can be delivered as a more personalised solution is likely to have greater adoption and instill greater confidence.
It was made clear published RIS need to be written from a member-facing perspective. This does not mean that an RIS needs to be central to the member engagement piece on retirement, for instance a dedicated retirement portal may be a better starting point.
APRA and ASIC will continue to utilise non-prescriptive regulatory techniques to complement the principles-based focus of the RIC. The joint thematic review of RIS to take place over the latter part of this year provides an opportunity to showcase early next year what the regulators consider to be best practice examples.
The product challenge and the advice and guidance challenge are not independent. The challenge of integrating various solutions into a personalised strategy crosses into the advice and guidance world and useful elements of advice and guidance − especially some behavioural nudges − can be incorporated into product design.
There are many challenges but the biggest ones relate to assessment, advice and guidance, and member experience.
How will RIS be assessed? This is a tricky issue because there is a ‘how’ question in which Geoff Warren and I are exploring in a discussion paper and a ‘when’ question as too soon has a prescriptive effect while too late could lead to a broad range of solutions which may subsequently create legacy issues. This challenge applies not only to APRA but also the research houses. My working view is that APRA should maximise the learning opportunities for industry by starting sooner rather than later, but on a no-consequence basis for an initial period.
On advice and guidance, there may well be a pathway for super funds to be able to provide more services to assist their members. However, history shows reviews have a mixed track record of finding their way into policy, and it is the full legislative and regulatory package which is important. Given the uncertainty and the timeframe, funds may want to account for distinct policy scenarios when developing their retirement advice and guidance strategy.
A final challenge worth noting is member experience, specifically as it was called out clearly by minister of financial services Stephen Jones. Jones called on industry to shore up the social licence for super via an excellent member experience, pointing out that member experience will be compared not against other super funds but against other customer experiences, such as banking. The challenge drives at capabilities in areas such as communications, IT and data.
The first round of retirement income strategies is out of the way. Now is the opportunity for funds to maintain focus and move forward. I expect the leading funds will have a range of available solutions and a variety of mechanisms for assisting their members into quality retirement strategies that account for their circumstances and engender the necessary confidence to spend appropriately.
From a governance perspective, I anticipate the leading funds will be strategic with their use of cohorting and begin to connect their retirement income strategies with their annual member outcome assessments. Exciting times ahead and I am confident we will see further progress which will benefit retirees.