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Super Into the Future

Update 2011:

The Gillard government has responded to the Cooper Review with what they will implement.

July 2010: The Cooper Review into Superannuation

Last week the Cooper Review into superannuation released its report. ICA member Allen Cummings has provided an assessment. Allen says:

SMSF's: "... the changes recommended to the Government for self-managed funds are much lighter than for the rest of the super industry. This represents a win for the SMSF and will surely result in an explosion of SMSF start-ups."

Big Funds: "The Cooper Review has given the big super funds a "big smack in the teeth".
  • Retail funds have been heavily criticized for mismanaging client's funds, high fees & charges, the persistent conflicts of interests and the use of costly antiquated financial systems.
  • The industry funds have not fared much better. They've been put on notice by the Cooper Review that their "gravy train" no longer exists. Their captive market of union members can no longer be taken for granted."
Further, the Cooper Report has slammed the big funds for their lack of disclosure and recommends big enforced disclosure requirements. This picks up on the 'rebel' report from the Institute of Public Affairs which exposed the non-disclosure by the big funds.


Some background

For some time ICA has been campaigning to protect the independence and effectiveness of self managed super funds (SMSFs). It's been clear that big retail and industry funds wanted to make life difficult for SMSFs in order to access their money.

There are:
  • 67 industry funds with $219 billion in assets and 16.6 million members.
  • 154 retail funds with $346 billion in assets and 11.6 million members
  • 420,000 SMSFs with $386 billion in assets and 800,000 members
In industry and retail super funds, other people control your money. With SMSFs, you control your money.


Some links

The full Cooper Report is available here. See Chapter 8 on SMSFs. Allen Cummings' paper gives a good run down.

Here's Alan's summary of his submission to the Review he supplied to us in May 2010.

See Chapter 4 on disclosure: The IPA report on bad disclosure is here.


Cooper on disclosure (Chapter 4)

Here are some key quotations from the Cooper Report, including a recommendation for enforced disclosure on the Industry and Retail funds.
    The Australian superannuation system is characterised by a lack of transparency, comparability and, consequently, accountability. There is no standardised methodology for calculating and disclosing relevant fund or investment option information.
The report recommends:
  • development of outcomes reporting standards aimed at standardising the way in which performance and costs are reported;
  • ... a new forward-looking risk and return matrix complemented by disclosure for investment options in a user-friendly 'dashboard' style;
  • ... disclosure by trustees of all costs incurred by the fund, to at least the first non-associated entity level, classified into 'cost categories' for the purpose of benchmarking and improving fund efficiency and performance;
  • ... all past investment return information must be accompanied by information about its volatility and be stated net of all costs and after tax; and
  • ... a government website (www.super.gov.au) to be developed, displaying superannuation information and resources to enable Australians to understand and navigate Australia's superannuation system more effectively.
Other critical elements include:
  • a requirement to prevent fees and costs from being obscured through use of intermediaries, unnecessarily complicated language and netting of fees from investment returns;
  • recognition that, in an imperfect market, most disclosure needs to be targeted to member proxies such as independent advisers, regulators, researchers and analysts to enhance competition between funds and sectors; and
  • information that is given to members being simpler, standardised where necessary (to enable comparability) and being forward-looking.
Here's why it says enforcement is necessary:
    There are two ways to improve the level of transparency in the super industry: a change of attitude on the part of participants, or a tougher regulatory stance. Given the inability of the industry, however well-intentioned, to arrive at a universally-accepted model, the Panel believes that well-focused regulatory pressure is the best way of ensuring that adequate information is disclosed....


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