Super funds look to boost financial advice services

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Super funds are ramping up their financial advice offerings, with ART confirming it is already on the path to implementing a new single intra-fund advice program.

With super funds expected to expand their advisory roles later this year, supported by the introduction of “qualified advisers”, the Australian Retirement Trust (ART) told Super Review that it is already progressing towards a new single intra-fund advice program.

“The education standard these staff will have to meet is not yet decided – but Australian Retirement Trust already has a relationship with Griffith University to feed into a graduate program and this could help build a ‘qualified adviser’ pool,” Anne Fuchs, the executive manager for advice, guidance and education, said.

“In the meantime, Australian Retirement Trust has launched a professional year program, with our first group of advisers approaching the end of their professional year,” she added.

Reflecting on the Delivering Better Financial Outcomes package of reforms, Fuchs said the proposed legislation will provide more certainty for funds to invest in financial advice capabilities for their members.

“We currently have 70 internal intra-fund advisers, licensed through the fund’s AFSLs. To further service our members, Australian Retirement Trust supports over 5,000 external advisers nationwide.”

ART’s goal, according to Fuchs, is to enhance the advice journey for its members through its advisers, combined with digital advice capabilities, and partnerships with the “best of advice delivery from external financial advisers”.

Aware Super already has about 100 financial advisers providing personal advice to its members.

Speaking to Super Review, Peter Hogg, general manager of advice at Aware Super, said: “We are positioning our teams and building capacity with a focus on how we help more members through our scalable and no-additional-cost guidance and advice offers.

“This includes how we help members through both general and personal advice,” Hogg added.

Aware’s plan, once the “qualified adviser” role is legislated, is to upskill its own staff before looking outside for talent.

“Our main focus remains on investing in our own and, where necessary, we will continue to recruit externally to ensure we have the right capacity and capability to meet member demand for advice services,” Hogg said.

Much like ART, Hogg said Aware Super is “passionate about finding ways to deliver accessible and affordable advice as we know the right help at the right time plays a critical role in building member confidence and improving retirement outcomes”.

At HESTA, the fund is keen on the necessary reforms to get the green light, according to chief engagement and growth officer Josh Parisotto.

“HESTA members rarely seek advice on complex financial issues. Typically, members want help to better understand their financial situation, or deal with administrative issues such as transitioning to retirement,” Parisotto told Super Review.

Accordingly, HESTA’s advice offering focuses on providing members with timely support and information at scale, particularly through digital tools like Future Planner.

“We aim to help them build confidence around their super and take positive steps towards achieving their long-term financial goals,” Parisotto said.

“We’re continuing to look at opportunities to enhance the support we provide members that may arise from the Quality of Advice Review reforms.”

Touching also on the next phase of reforms, he said HESTA wants to see tranche two of the reforms released for consultation as a priority.

“We believe these proposed reforms can better support super funds to provide more holistic financial advice at scale that considers a couple’s access to the Age Pension and financial position, including assets held outside of super, contributing to better retirement outcomes.

“This is important for our 1 million-plus membership, many of whom are women with low super balances from working in typically lower-paid and often insecure sectors like aged care and early childhood education and care. Many of our members at retirement will rely on income they receive from the Age Pension, supplemented by their super savings.”

Tranche two is expected to be released for consultation around the middle of the year.

Earlier this month, Super Review's sister publication ifa learned that the Financial Services Minister has not suggested renaming “qualified advisers” to “product advisers”, as previously reported by The Australian Financial Review; although the minister has sought input from the industry on alternative names, a substitute title has yet to be determined.

Speaking to ifa on the matter of the “qualified adviser” blunder, senior manager of government relations and policy at the Financial Advice Association Australia (FAAA), George John said: “We haven’t had anything confirmed by Mr Jones’ office, but he did reiterate at the FAAA roadshow last week that he would change the name of the term ‘qualified adviser’.

“We have been asked for our views. We’ve provided some views, obviously, I don’t think that we’re expecting any published changes to what that term will be until we see that tranche two exposure draft which we’re still expecting mid-year,” John said.

He assured that the FAAA is applying “every bit of pressure” on the government to spur on the release of the tranche two draft legislation.

“We do know that tranche two is going to be the substantial package of reform for financial advice, and we are encouraging everyone across government to move ahead with that legislation as soon as possible.”

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