CEDA member profile: AustralianSuper



Rose Kerlin, Group Executive of Membership, AustralianSuper

Can you tell us a little about AustralianSuper and what it does?

AustralianSuper is the nation’s largest superannuation fund. The Fund was founded in 2006 after the joining of two major super funds, STA and ARF. We have over 600 staff and offices across the country as well as in London and Beijing.

We manage more than $130 billion of members’ assets to help them achieve their best possible retirement outcome. AustralianSuper is an industry fund run only to profit members. Ten per cent of Australia’s current workforce has entrusted us with their retirement savings and we are acutely conscious of the responsibility vested in us. Everything we do is on behalf and in the best interests of 2.2 million members.

What is your role with AustralianSuper? When did you start there?

I joined AustralianSuper in 2010 and became the State Manager for Western Australia, managing the merger with Westscheme in 2011. After that I moved to Melbourne to take up the role of General Manager, Growth before moving to my current role as Group Executive of Membership in 2016.

I am responsible for leading the Membership Group, which ensures the Fund has the right strategies in place to effectively attract members today and into the future. My role also entails being responsible for ensuring members have access to the most cost-effective insurance possible to help them secure their future.

What are some of your current key projects and goals?

AustralianSuper has recently introduced reforms to improve our insurance offer for members. For example, AustralianSuper members under 25 will no longer be given insurance automatically when they join in a bid to stop account erosion. We are also rolling out a return to work program that supports employees getting back to work sooner after injury or illness.  AustralianSuper also created Super Only - a new default insurance free product that has been created to protect the accounts of people employed under the Supported Employment Services Award, short-term employees working for less than six months and seasonal or intermittent employees working less than six months.

Another key focus is supporting the 270,000 businesses who have their super arrangements with AustralianSuper. The success of the fund is very much connected with making super straightforward and hassle free for businesses, whatever their size.

What are some of AustralianSuper's top priorities over the next year?

AustralianSuper is focused on providing members with their best possible retirement outcome and that means delivering superior performance at low cost and offering excellent service through all our contact channels.

One major priority for the Fund is continuing the internalisation of investment management, which is vital to our future. AustralianSuper’s goal with internalisation is to use scale to drive down costs which in turn helps the net benefit to members. In 2017, we saw investment expenses drop 3 per cent in 2017 while member assets grew 19 per cent. Around a quarter of members’ assets are managed internally by AustralianSuper staff and we expect this to increase in coming years to 50 per cent. The Fund is also better placed to identify and exploit investment opportunities by having internal capability in most asset classes.

The Fund is also focused on helping to guide our members when it comes to their retirement and offering the best possible products that can provide an income in retirement.

Continuing to lead the industry in our insurance offer will also be a major focus in coming years. Making sure members’ accounts aren’t eroded and that they are receiving the right level of cover for their circumstances at the lowest possible low cost is vital.

What do you expect to see happen in the superannuation industry over the next 12 months?What about over the next five years?

AustralianSuper expects to see a lot more Australians using their super to provide an income stream in retirement. It makes sense for people to stay invested in the market and use it to provide a reliable income that can supplement the Age Pension. Even a relatively small account balance can make a significant difference as an income stream in retirement.

The industry will also see a significant shift in the way members interact with their super. AustralianSuper is enhancing its digital capabilities to enable data-supported engagement so that we can better support members’ needs. AustralianSuper’s aim is to develop a goals-based digital platform that will provide members with a single view across all their financial assets. Importantly, this will allow them to set and track their own financial goals.
And, perhaps most importantly, maintaining and improving confidence and trust in the superannuation system will be a high priority for everyone in the sector. Acting in members’ best interests and delivering the best possible net benefit need to be the cornerstones of the superannuation sector.

How does CEDA help your company understand and meet the challenges and opportunities you or your clients face?

CEDA plays an essential role in promoting debate in relation to major policy issues while also producing excellent research and insights. As a major investor and with more than two million members, AustralianSuper appreciates the open and transparent scrutiny CEDA brings to the big social and economic issues that lie ahead.

It’s also great to connect with a wide range of people representing businesses across Australia and to hear from them directly what their challenges and future plans are. We learn a lot from hearing people’s first hand experiences and appreciate the opportunities that CEDA provides to make connections and to learn.