Finance Your Super The figures that challenge the government’s stance on industry super

The figures that challenge the government’s stance on industry super

Like most of her predecessors, current financial services minister Kelly O'Dwyer is an ex-banker.
Financial Services Minister Kelly O'Dwyer took a swipe at industry funds as a report found they provide superior outcomes. Photo: AAP
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It’s well known that the federal government is no fan of industry superannuation funds.

If we ever had any doubt, Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton gave the game away last November after the government very reluctantly announced the Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Financial Services Sector.

A benefit of the financial sector royal commission will be that industry super funds will face more scrutiny, given they have “union members and whatnot on the board”, opined the minister.

The request for the banking royal commission (as it’s known) to investigate superannuation funds is specifically designed to try to embarrass industry funds.

Again this week the government’s antipathy towards industry funds was in full view.

An internal dispute over investment strategy at Australia’s largest industry fund, Australian Super, is being played out in court.

Financial Services Minister Kelly O’Dwyer was quickly on the front foot.

“It is critical that thuggery and intimidation, which has long been a feature of the industrial landscape, is not adopted within the superannuation industry,” she said.

It’s against that background that the latest scorecard for superannuation fund performance has been released, and once again, industry funds leave the “retail” funds owned by banks and AMP in the shade.

The top 10 funds, over whatever period you choose, whether it be one month, one year, five years, 10 years or 15 years, are from the not-for-profit sector, which is dominated by industry funds.

It’s been like that since compulsory superannuation was introduced by the Keating Labor government in 1992.

That’s more than a quarter of a century of evidence that industry funds provide their members with better retirement outcomes than the bank and AMP-owned funds.

It’s real dollars for real people.

For example, over the past 15 years, according to ratings house Chant West, industry funds have returned an average of 8.1 per cent a year.

The “retail” funds have returned 7.2 per cent.

That 0.9 of a percentage point difference may not look like much, but it is. The figure of 8.1 is 12.5 per cent higher than 7.2.

So, for every $1000 earned by a retail fund, an industry fund will earn on average, $1125.

Over the course of a working life, particularly as fund balances become large, the difference in the retirement incomes offered by the retail and industry funds also becomes large.

Chart showing the top 10 performing growth funds in the 2017/18 financial year.
The top 10 performing growth funds in the 2017-18 financial year.

Banks using different cost structures

Having said that, this is not intended to be an advertisement for industry funds. It’s just the facts.

This is also not a bank-bashing exercise.

The banks and AMP have very different cost structures to industry funds, which plays a big part in why their funds underperform their industry counterparts.

Profits, which are demanded by shareholders, and fees and commissions which need to be paid to large armies of financial advisers, are two burdens that industry funds don’t carry.

It is what it is though, and every year the millions of Australians who have their super in good industry funds do better than those in “retail” funds.

They are an equal partnership between employers and unions, neither having any impact on the returns to fund members.

Contrast that to the bad behaviour of banks over many years and the destruction of the life savings of many thousands of people.

It was the poor behaviour of the Commonwealth Bank that prompted the government to announce the royal commission into banks. And as we all know, the revelations there have been at times horrific.

Which raises the question: Given that superannuation is designed to provide retirement incomes, and given that industry funds consistently do it better than the banks and AMP, why is the government so opposed to industry funds?

One might also ask why is the government seemingly unconcerned that the bank and AMP-owned super funds deliver much poorer outcomes for their customers?

Surely that is the real issue. The retirement incomes of Australians.

And one other point.

The Productivity Commission has recommended that “default” funds, which are worth about $600 billion, no longer be enshrined in the industrial award system.

Instead, it wants an expert panel to choose the 10 best-performing no-frills funds, from which default funds would be chosen.

(A default fund is the fund into which your employer makes superannuation contributions on your behalf if you do not choose a fund yourself).

The banks and AMP have campaigned hard to get a much bigger slice of the default market.

They’re largely locked out at the moment because unions and employers decide default funds between themselves and they naturally favour industry funds.

But on the current super fund results though, even if the Productivity Commission recommendations were adopted, industry funds would dominate the list.


The New Daily is owned by Industry Super Holdings

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