by Greg Bright
It was a different experience for everyone at this year’s Chant West Awards function, held, via ‘live feed’ on YouTube last Thursday, May 14. To a large extent, the message was more important this year than ever before. Now is the time the big super funds are, as they should be, standing up.
Chant West puts a lot of effort, both quantitative and qualitative, into its Awards selection process. In times of crisis, such as this year, the industry needs not only a pat on the back, which it got, but also a gee-up to keep going on. Martin Fahy, the chief executive of ASFA and a regular guest speaker at Chant West Awards, said: “At this point it is beholden on us to be optimistic about the future… The reality is that, as we build back a better system; super funds will play a key role.”
Ian Fryer, the head of research at Chant West, who presented the Awards alongside Geoff Peck, Chant West head of client development, said that super funds needed to “gear up” with all they need to be strong long-term funds, by investing in their people and systems, while also investing members’ money for the long term.
ASFA’s Fahy said: “In this time of adversity the superannuation system is very important. As of now (May 14) about 1.2 million people have tapped into their super savings. That shows the strength of the system.”
The live-feed video version of the Awards attracted about the same numbers as the usual black-tie event at the glamorous Ivy Ballroom in Sydney. With YouTube streaming you get to see how many people are online at any given time. The figures oscillate a bit. The total number for the Awards, moved to a climax of more than 300 at the time of the announcement of the main two awards – that for ‘Pension Fund of the Year’ and that for ‘Fund of the Year’. Better still, this year, the whole event has been recorded. You can see it on www.chantwest.com.au
The big profit-for-member funds tend to dominate the main awards because of their competitive advantage with investments. They have proven to be astute long-term investors with most having meaningful amounts in unlisted assets and alternatives. Strong cashflow has been an enabler to higher allocations in these assets than commercial funds and their, generally, younger membership base provides more scope in taking a long-term approach.
This year the Super Fund of the Year award went to Sunsuper. It was short-listed against QSuper and UniSuper. Geoff Peck said Sunsuper was a “very strong all-round fund”. In terms of its investments it was well diversified with a core of unlisted assets. Ian Patrick is the fund’s CIO. Peck could have added that the fund has its own administration system which appears to be an advantage in winning new corporate and industry funds to come on board.
Sunsuper also won the Corporate Solutions Fund of the Year award. Peck said at that point of the proceedings that Sunsuper had won 24 corporate fund tenders in the past one-and-a-half years. He said the fund encourages input from members for its communications strategy and the fund’s MySuper default option gradually transitions for investments from age 55. Sunsuper’s prime competitor for that award was Mercer, which Ian Fryer said had fared better than other retail funds in the current crisis, “so far at least”. The fund’s third award was for ‘Member Services’.
Accepting the Fund of the Year award, Bernard Reilly, Sunsuper’s chief executive, said: “I’m incredibly honoured. We’ve had no better example of our people coming together to provide our services than at this time. I’d also like to recognise the other finalists. They are all very good funds.” Ian Fryer said: “Sunsuper does a great job in so many areas. It really does deserve this award.”
The Pension Fund of the Year award went to QSuper, which is also no stranger to the awards podium. The award covers investments, products, servicing and advice. QSuper was up against two other short-listed funds, First State Super and UniSuper. Fryer said that QSuper’s portfolios tended to be more diversified than any other fund. “It is designed for a smoother ride with better protection when markets fall and it’s paying off now,” he said. In accepting, Jason Murray, the fund’s chief of member experience, said: “We exist to help working Australians to have a dignified retirement. Our members have inspired us to build a fund which can service them well.”
The Awards’ major sponsor for the past several years has been AIA Australia, the big group insurer. Damien Mu, AIA’s chief executive, said during the presentations that it was important to recognise all the people who are trying to give Australians better lives. “We think it’s important that we continue to strive and stop to recognise people’s efforts to make for better outcomes for others,” he said.
In the other awards, the winners were:
- Best Fund Integrity: VicSuper
- Best Fund Innovation: Russell IQ Super
- Best Fund Advice Services: UniSuper
- Best Fund Insurance: NGS Super
- Best Fund Investments: QSuper
Ian Fryer noted that since 1992, when the Super Guarantee began, the median return of big super funds – commercial as well as profit-for-member funds – has been 7.9 per cent a year, which is 2 per cent above the typical fund objective. The other short-listed finalists in the investments category were AustralianSuper, Cbus and UniSuper.
- Best Fund Member Services: Sunsuper
- Best Fund Longevity Product: CFS First Choice Wholesale
- Specialist Fund of the Year: Cbus, and
- Advised Product of the Year: Netwealth Accelerator.
More details, including all finalists: www.chantwest.com.au
NOTE: Investor Strategy News was the media partner for the 2020 Chant West Awards.