Former members and directors of the Australian Institute of Superannuation Trustees have paid tribute to the industry association after it officially entered voluntary administration last week.
At an extraordinary general meeting last Tuesday, AIST members voted to place the 31-year-old organisation in the hands of liquidators Matthew Caddy and Robert Smith of McGrath Nicol, with 96.7 per cent of votes cast in favour of the proposition.
AIST’s voluntary liquidation paves the way for the creation of the new Super Members Council of Australia (SMCA), which will effectively unite the profit-to-member super sector, merging AIST’s education and training prowess with the political lobbying might of Industry Super Australia.
It’s a move AIST’s most recent chief executive, Eva Scheerlinck, says is in the best interests of members of funds that belonged to both AIST and ISA.
“I am proud of the work that AIST has done to improve retirement outcomes for millions of Australians in the 31 years since we were first formed in 1992,” Scheerlinck tells Investment Magazine. “I wish the Super Members Council of Australia every success in continuing the work of improving the retirement outcomes and strengthening the superannuation system for the Australian people.”
Asked about AIST’s legacy, Scheerlinck points to the organisation’s advocacy to improve the “fairness, equity and sustainability” of the super system. The sentiment was echoed by other prominent AIST members canvassed by Investment Magazine in recent days.
Brendan Daly, Rest Super’s chief service officer and a former AIST director, also points to the association’s focus on “making the super system fairer and more equitable”, as well as its role in promoting higher professional standards for fund employees and executives.
“Rest is proud to have been involved with AIST and of the shared, long-term efforts to advocate for better retirement outcomes for our members,” Daly says. “We are excited to build on this advocacy through our membership of the new Super Members Council of Australia.”
Julie Lander, a former AIST director and chief executive of CareSuper, also singles out its role as a provider of content, education and training, which was arguably its core mandate, set up in the early 1990s as a conference producer for the then-fledgling not-for-profit super sector.
‘[AIST has] kept fund directors and staff abreast of legislative changes and provided training and development at a high standard,” says Lander.
“CMSF [the Conference of Major Superannuation Funds] has been an important event in the calendar for those in the industry and the trustee directors training course has gained a strong reputation for introducing new directors to the essential facts, concepts and rules that support strong governance. The policy committee, special interest groups and discussion groups have been educative and key to developing stronger results for fund members.”
But Lander, too, makes clear she supports the formation of the SMCA on a unity ticket.
While AIST and ISA have arguably had slightly different focuses since inception, their overlapping representation of not-for-profit funds had become controversial, especially since the previous Coalition government’s introduction of the best financial interests duty, under which trustees must proactively justify every dollar of member money spent, including on marketing and government relations.
The new SMCA entity was officially established last month, under the leadership of eight foundation funds: Australian Retirement Trust, AustralianSuper, Aware Super, Cbus Super, Hesta, Hostplus, Rest and UniSuper.
It is understood the infamous “Industry SuperFunds” brand previously owned and operated by ISA will remain a standalone consumer-facing brand promoting a subset of SCMA members who have contributed to it becoming a household name through a series of high-profile but contentious advertising campaigns over decades.
The SCMA is on the hunt for a new full-time CEO, but its inaugural chair, Nicola Roxon, a former federal Labor health minister and Hesta’s representative on the new body’s board, made clear the council will continue the “equity and fairness” advocacy of its predecessors.
“The long-term interests of millions of Australians will be well served by a new collective body that can be a strong, thoughtful and compelling voice about superannuation policy, advocating to all levels of government and industry,” Roxon said in a statement on September 19.
“Our promise is member-centric advocacy that seeks to work with all political parties to deliver the best possible retirement outcomes for the millions of Australians we represent … [and] to ensure superannuation policy is stable, effective and equitable.”
The merger leaves three major associations representing the APRA-regulated super industry – the SMCA, the Financial Services Council (which represents for-profit retail funds) and Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia (which has members from both camps).