Super industry suffering self-inflicted wounds

The superannuation fund industry is inflicting harm on itself by failing to communicate its positive contributions to members and the economy, according to the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA).

Speaking at a thought leadership breakfast at the 2017 SMSF Association Conference in Melbourne on Wednesday, deputy chairwoman, Helen Rowell, said individual members did not necessarily distinguish between which party provided their superannuation but focused on whether their retirement needs were or would be met.

"To be honest if I were to articulate the biggest challenge I think industry can be its own worst enemy. Industry can send a lot of messages and communicate between its stakeholders and to external parties in a negative way which destroys trust," Rowell said.

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"So I think if the industry at large and I mean the big picture super industry was much more constructive and positive in its contribution and its communication about what the industry does and how it's committed to members and less concerned about throwing rocks over the fence at each other I think that in itself would be a good step forward."

One of the most significant challenges for the super industry was to cater to a changing demographic, where more members would transition from the accumulation phase to the drawdown phase.

Super funds must focus on how they would engage with this demographic to ensure they provided the services and benefits to aid both super fund and self-managed superannuation fund (SMSF) members in reaching their retirement and investment goals.

Rowell said this presented challenges not only in how they dealt with helping members achieve their goals but how they communicated their role to members and instilled confidence in members about the super system.

"Yes there is uncertainty, yes markets are wobbling, yes there is political instability but at the end of the day super's a long-term thing and over that long-term time horizon," she said.

"Members don't need to worry so much about what's happening now. It's what's going to happen over the next 20 to 30 years. It's that message, it's that communication."

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