Stephen Jones

Minister for Financial Services Stephen Jones has once again taken the superannuation sector to task for perceived lack of customer service standards and progress on retirement.

“We’ve assiduously gone through and looked out where government needs to work with industry to ensure that we are making it easier and facilitating the ability of funds to provide greater services to their members and we’ve identified the area of advice and information as being one of them,” Jones told the AFR Super & Wealth Summit on Tuesday.

“Day to day interactions, responsiveness to claims – all of these things need to be done,” Jones said, adding that data sets, knowledge and information that funds have about their members to need to be improved.

He urged funds to move on from what he said was a traditionally “passive” approach to member engagement.

But at the same time, the minister indicated his tough rhetoric on funds would likely be confined to the 2023 political calendar year, seemingly suggesting his message has been heard loud and clear.

“I’ve spent the last year putting funds on notice. I won’t spend the next year doing exactly the same thing,” he said. The comments follow those made at the Investment Magazine Group Insurance Dialogue in July, when he warned that “government would move” on funds who did not make progress on improving customer experience, including on insurance claims.

It comes amid research, conducted by Conexus Financial (publisher of Investment Magazine) in partnership with researcher CoreData, which found many members rated their funds poorly on their preparation for retirement, including some of the largest profit-for-member funds.

‘Deep consultation’

Jones also said the government was still finalising details around Stream 2 of the Quality of Advice Review, under which it is expected to expand the role for funds in providing advice.

“We’ve been engaged in deep consultation around the scope [of advice], the training and competency [of providers], and charging arrangements of advice to be provided within funds,” Jones said.

“We’re well advanced in that project and the government has some policy decisions to make in the near future as well with a view to having some concrete stuff for funds, consumers and others to pore over – and technical and legislative detail to pore over – in the first quarter of next year.”

Picking up responsibility for the QAR after winning the federal election last year, the government launched a consultation on the recommendations in February, followed by the government response in June which would seem reforms implemented via three streams.

While Jones was vocal about the quick wins in Stream 1 – which focused on red tape reduction for financial advisers – he noted in March that he didn’t expect to “get a slot in the legislative agenda” this year.

“We want to push this along really quickly,” Jones said. “Because you can’t say we’ve got a 5-million-person problem and then be dragging your feet on a big part of the solution of the problem.”

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