‘The larger we are, the stronger we are’: Verve Super

6 December 2023
| By Jasmine Siljic |
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With Future Group acquiring 100 per cent of the female-focused fund, Verve Super chief executive Christina Hobbs shares how it intends to ensure better outcomes for its members.

Hobbs announced the acquisition last week (29 November), with Verve Super now sitting as a subsidiary company under the umbrella of Future Group. Prior to the acquisition, Future Group held a 20 per cent stake in the super fund when it was first established in 2018 and has been Verve’s investment manager since then.

She will continue operating at the helm as CEO alongside co-founder Alex Andrews, Verve’s chief operating officer.

“We’ve always known that the larger we are the stronger we are. We have a larger advocacy voice when we speak on behalf of more members; we can create more impact with our investments when we have more funds to influence; and we can continue our great service with competitive fees when we leverage greater economies of scale,” Hobbs’ announcement said.

Speaking to Super Review, she shared further details about the acquisition and how it will benefit its members.

“It means that Verve Super, in its current form, will continue for decades ahead and [ensure] better outcomes with the best possible fees and the strongest returns we can offer,” she said.

The deal was largely underpinned by the changing regulatory environment and the push for greater fund consolidation from the government. 

“That means that we’ve been spending a lot more time on compliance and regulatory monitoring. A big part of this [deal] was beginning to leverage Future Group’s support in that field,” the CEO explained.

Beyond compliance, the acquisition has opened up a myriad of opportunities for Verve Super. The fund has already been able to announce an administration fee reduction from 0.72 per cent to 0.54 per cent due to lower operating costs.

“That was made possible because we knew that this merger was going to happen,” Hobbs said.

Strengthened advocacy

More broadly, Hobbs intends to expand Verve’s advocacy work around improving women’s retirement outcomes to a larger membership base.

This includes opening the fund’s financial coaching and educational workshops to Future Super’s more than 40,000 members, in addition to Verve’s 6,700 members.

While this is considered general advice in nature, Hobbs hinted at potentially leveraging Future Super’s personal financial advice offering in the future.

Moreover, Verve’s Baby Bump program will harness the added scale. This policy enables a Verve member on paid parental leave (PPL) to pause their fees for 12 months and the fund will then advocate to their employer to pay super on PPL.

“Being able to expand that across more women and hopefully impact more employers to potentially alter their policies to continue superannuation payments is something we really advocate for,” Hobbs said.

“Ensuring that superannuation continues to be paid is really important to closing the overall retirement savings gap. We advocate for that to be on paid leave and unpaid leave.”

Shared investment values

The two funds also share strong ethical alignment when it comes to their investment portfolios, which made the acquisition a natural next step.

Last week, Hobbs discussed with Super Review how Verve implements a strong gender lens when investing in asset classes such as alternatives, Australian equities, and impact investments.

Namely, the fund has its own Verve Gender Equality Investment Index, which utilises data collected by the Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA).

It can then positively or negatively screen based on how ASX-listed companies perform on key gender equity metrics. These include gender pay parity, the number of women in leadership, anti-sexual harassment policies, commitment to inclusivity, and flexible work practices. 

The CEO explained: “We obviously have stronger gender screens and we’re looking forward to potentially seeing how we can integrate those screens more across the Future Group.”

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