Super Informed Radio episode #1: The Pilot
|Disclaimer: What you're about to read is of a general nature and doesn't take into account your personal financial situation, needs or objectives. We recommend you seek financial advice before making any decisions about your super and consider the relevant UniSuper product disclosure statement.
Lyndon: Well, hello there and welcome to Super Informed Radio. My name is Lyndon.
Rob: I'm Rob.
Marta: And I'm Marta. We are often hearing from you, our members, that super can sometimes be complex, a bit difficult to understand. So we are hoping that we can help you understand your super or pension by breaking down the more complex things into bite-sized chunks of, hopefully, entertaining conversation. And, also talking to people from around our business around some of the hot topics you guys are asking us about, or what's been happening in the industry.
So, this month we are actually talking to Kevin O'Sullivan, who is our CEO, on his journey to UniSuper and also around the differences between superannuation in Australia and the pension system in Canada. We are also talking to Angela Riga, from our contact centre about some of the more hot topics that members are actually calling us about.
Rob: Cool. So shall we get into it?
Rob: Well, it's a pleasure to welcome UniSuper CEO, Kevin O'Sullivan, to Super Informed Radio. Welcome, Kevin.
Kevin: Thank you very much, Rob.
Rob: So, Kevin, you're obviously incredibly passionate about superannuation. You're our CEO. You've been an actuary in the past. You know a lot about numbers. Why is it so important for people to invest in their superannuation?
Kevin: Well, firstly, I gotta correct you, Rob. I think it's not an investment, superannuation. Superannuation is actually a vehicle through which people invest. So, firstly, it's compulsory. So people have to invest. But I'm a strong proponent of superannuation, as you say. Super does help people set aside and accumulate amounts that can enhance their lifestyle once they've stopped working. We've got the age pension as a backstop, but that's not adequate for many people. People want to actually be able to continue their lifestyle that they had while they were working once they've stopped working. The other thing that super provides is also a very important feature, which is insurance. So insurance for people, when they die or become disabled, is really really important through superannuation. In the last year, for example, we paid over 1,300 UniSuper members and their beneficiaries death or disablement benefits.
Lyndon: So, insurance is actually something that a lot of people don't realise that they have through their super, isn't it, Kevin?
Kevin: It is. And to me, it's one of the huge successes of the superannuation sector industry in Australia.
Lyndon: So for members who might not actually know whether they have it or not, what would you suggest they do?
Kevin: Hop on the website, look at their statement, talk to someone at UniSuper.
Rob: In a couple of months, members are going to receive their 31 December statements. In the past few months, we've had some instability in the markets. We've got the US presidential election, which is adding a bit more instability. They might look at their statements and their balance might be a little bit lower than they would have liked. What would you say to those members that might be a little bit perturbed by that, when they should be looking the long-term goal?
Kevin: That's essentially... Superannuation is a long-term investment and there will be ups and downs. Over the last five years, we've actually had quite strong performance. So, if you actually have a short period of poor performance or negative performance or low performance, it's to be expected. What matters to members is over the long-term, that they earned adequate investment income on their monies to actually have good retirement savings. So, short term, sure, be interested in it, but it's not the be-all, end-all if, in fact, markets do go backwards once in a while.
Lyndon: What exactly does the role of CEO mean in a super fund? What do you actually do day-to-day?
Kevin: That's a good question. It's actually a multidimensional role, I guess. The key thing...one of the key things is as a CEO of a fund that has...we have about 700 employees at UniSuper, so to make sure that the people that we have at UniSuper are doing the things that we need to do for our members. So making sure everyone's motivated, making sure everyone's feeling well respected, doing things that they like to do is a key part of the job. Managing the relationships that we have with the many stakeholders that we have, be they university employers, be they Unions, be they members themselves, be they consultative committee members. There's lots of people that I wanna make sure that we actually continue to maintain strong relationships with. As an actuary and with a strong background in the industry, I've got a pretty good handle on lots of different things that happen within superannuation. So keeping my finger in the pie with my team, making sure that they're doing all of the things in terms of investing well, putting out communications to members, administering the fund well, doing all the risk and legal stuff. So that's the kind of thing that I do. So, but ultimately, as the steerer of the ship and as the CEO, I rely significantly on a really strong team, which we do have here at UniSuper.
Lyndon: So when you're out and about at the universities, what are some of the common things that people that you talk to say or what are some of the common questions?
Kevin: There is a wide range of questions that people ask me. And, they tend to be either member-specific type questions or fund type questions. In no particular order, they ask...a lot of people ask me about legislative change and what's going on in the superannuation. They ask about what we are doing at UniSuper in terms of lobbying government for change or to stop change, for example, or to modify change. People ask about the funding status of the Defined Benefit Division. So as many members will know, the GFC had a negative impact on the funding position at the fund. But thankfully, investment performance has strengthened and we are now in quite a strong position in the funding status of the DBD right now. People ask me about enhancements to the fund, enhancements to services, can we do this, can we not do that. In recent times, people have asked, because I think people are aware that we're introducing family accounts, they've said, "When are we gonna... When can I get my kids in, or grandkids in, to UniSuper?" So a lot of people asking me that type of question nowadays.
Rob: All right, Kevin. I want you to cast your mind back to when you were a 25-year-old. It was only a few years ago. It wasn't that long ago. What advice would you have given yourself as a 25-year-old when it came to sort of your investments in your future?
Kevin: Well, if I think back a few years ago when I was a 25-year-old, I actually did receive pretty good advice. My dad gave me pretty good advice back then. And also as an actuary, I guess I do have skills or experience in terms of investments and understanding investments, as well as the focus on the long-term. So, I guess I was pretty disciplined, probably more so than a typical 25-year-old. But I would have advised myself things back then, such as put aside money that you don't need. If you actually don't see it, you're actually gonna have it in 30, 40 years’ time. And if you actually never saw it, it's actually...you don't feel the pain, so salary sacrifice type thing. And I'd also say don't look at your balance too often. It's not...it doesn't matter if it drops by 1%, 2%, 3%, or it goes up by 10%, really, what matters in the long-term. So look at it from time to time, but not regularly. So that's the kind of advice that I would have given myself a few years ago.
Lyndon: And so now that, Kevin, you've cast your mind back all of those years, members listening in might be thinking, "How on earth, did a Canadian end up in Australia, running a super fund?"
Kevin: Well, I am an Australian. So yes. I am a Canadian, but I'm also Australian. So over 25 years ago, when my wife and I were sitting around in our apartment in Toronto, she had seen a photograph of Queenstown, New Zealand. It was a beautiful photograph, and she said, "Why don't we move there?" But as an actuary, the demand for actuaries in Queenstown, New Zealand wasn't very high, but it got us thinking about maybe traveling to this part of the world, maybe working down here for a little while. So I wrote a few letters to some actuarial consulting firms. I ended up receiving an offer from a firm called Towers Perrin. So Towers Perrin is the company that I worked for for 22 years. It was eventually bought by a company called Russell Investments. So that's who I worked for when I left. So I worked for Russell Investments and Towers Perrin for over 22 years. And in that role, I consulted to many superannuation funds and companies, big companies like BHP and Telstra. And for the last year and a half or so, while I was at Russell, I consulted as the actuary to UniSuper. So, while I was doing that work with UniSuper, I got to know a lot of people at UniSuper, including the board. And I built up the confidence so when the role of CEO became available, they had the confidence to appoint me.
Lyndon: Is there much of a difference between the way Canada does their retirement stuff and the way we do it here in Australia?
Kevin: Couple major differences between Canada and Australia. Firstly, Canada has much more of a defined benefit background, or type of benefit design, rather than accumulation like we have in Australia, even though UniSuper has the defined benefit arrangement. The other thing that's a big difference is the compulsory nature of super in Australia. So, in Canada, it's not compulsory that you have to get superannuation or pension, whereas, in Australia, it is a requirement. So those are the two main differences between Canada and Australia.
Rob: Just on that, a lot has been written about our superannuation system and that it's one of the best in the world. Do you believe that?
Kevin: I do. It always can be improved. I do like the fact that we are moving towards more of a retirement income stream model in Australia. I think that whether it's in a year, or three years, or five years from now, more and more people will have a focus. More and more funds and members will have a focus on what kind of income stream will they get in retirement, rather than what's their total accumulation balance that they'll have. So, I think that that's a strong beneficial move that we are making. I actually do think compulsory superannuation is good. And I don't say that just because I have a vested interest in that. I do think compulsory saving, for the vast majority of Australians, is a good thing. I also, as I said earlier, I think that insurance within superannuation is a fantastic thing for us to have.
We really appreciate the support that our members do give us and we're here for our members. We are here. Everything that we do at UniSuper is for our members and it's not...that's not a trite statement. That is, in fact, what we do. And if you ever, as a member, feel like you're not being served well, please let us know. Because if we don't know, we can't actually improve. So, that's kind of the bottom line for me and for us.
Lyndon: Thanks so much for joining us today, Kevin. It's been a pleasure talking to you. And we might see you again sometime in the future.
Kevin: Thanks, guys. You're very welcome.
Lyndon: So one of the busier areas of UniSuper is actually our member services team, our contact centre, who take all of our members' calls and emails. So if you've ever had a question and you've ever got on the phone, it's probably member services you've dealt with.
Marta: And with us today, we've got Angela Riga, who heads up one of the teams in our member services department. Welcome.
Angela: Thank you. Thanks for having me.
Marta: So, as you're probably aware, one of the things we try to encourage our members to do is to consider putting all their super into their one account, preferably their one with us, obviously, if it's appropriate for their circumstances. Do you guys get many calls or questions about how to do that and all around the process or wanting any tips or tricks on it?
Angela: Yeah, definitely. We get lots of calls on that. So, I mean, especially because you're new to the fund. You might not have any idea how the fund works, what forms are available, how to actually to go ahead and do it. But you just want the money in there. So we do have a great tool that's available online. You can actually do it all online and there's no paperwork required. So you don't have to go and get a proof of identity documents or anything like that. You don't need to get anything signed. You can basically just log in, choose the fund that it's coming from, it comes through to us as a request, and we send it across to the other fund.
Marta: I remember when I went and did mine. I think one of the first things I saw was that I had to print out a form, and I was like, "Oh, goodness."
Angela: Yeah. Print out a form, questions on there that you might not have any idea about, so it does pre-populate your information as well. So you don't have to worry about going to get all the information that would be on a normal form. So that is good.
Lyndon: And then running down to the pharmacy and saying, "Can you verify my identity?"
Marta: Yes. Exactly.
Lyndon: Pay me $10 for a stamp on a piece of paper.
Lyndon: You don't have to do that anymore?
Angela: No. Definitely not. No need for any of that. So, it’s all online, which is great.
Marta: So good.
Angela: Yeah. And we've had a lot of members actually calling to say it's a great feature, and also it's decreased the number of calls around the members not really understanding it. And what we want is to be able to help those funds with UniSuper and be able to be a great fund for them, and not to have to worry about the tedious paper work that's required with it. So it's definitely been a great function.
Yeah. So we do get a lot of questions. I mean, we get a variety of questions. At the moment, I think there's probably a couple that are standing out for us right now. Some of them are around investment inquiries. So, you know, as normal, people's funds are invested, they are worried about if it's going up or down or if they're invested in the right thing.
Marta: Yeah. I think when you hear something in the news about, "The share market is going down," or, "The oil price has gone up or down," that might spark a few more calls to you guys. Is that right?
Angela: Exactly. It definitely does. So we get a flood of calls around that. But, I mean, that's what we're there to do. So, obviously, we can give factual information around that, and tips and tools around what they can do, what we have available on the website that they can, you know, have a look at to help them make decisions, or direct them through to our advice team as well. So we do have the great new member online site that is available. There is a graph on there where you can actually alter dates and have a look at their returns from there.
Marta: Yeah. I quite like it. You can kind of play around with, not just the options you are invested in, but, like, compare it to options you may not have invested in so you can kind of keep track on it over time and...
Angela: Yeah, exactly. That has been good and we've directed a lot of people through to there. It's quite interactive. So they can work out what's going on. As you said, they can have a comparison around that as well, alter dates too. So they're not just looking at a particular time period. So that's been really, really good. I think a lot of people have got a lot out of it. While that may not have helped them to make the decision, we've also got the advice team available that we can...firstly, have a chat to them on that, and then send them through to our advice team if that's something that they're looking at. So it is definitely a hot topic. I mean, no one has the answer. We definitely are there to try and help understand where they're at in their journey as well, and get them to the right area, whether it be through a tool online, or sending them to the advice team who might be able to help them as well.
Lyndon: And that tool that you're about, and members may have actually read about this in some of our email communications and even our Super Informed publication that gets sent with our statements and things, the new member online which we've got. There is this tool where you can actually log in and, so say,... I don't know. What is it? Probably balanced, would it be, Angela, the most common, maybe, investment option that people are invested in?
Angela: Yeah. Definitely.
Lyndon: You can actually track how that's going against other investment options.
Angela: Yes. Exactly.
Lyndon: And what's some of the other things that members might really find helpful about that particular tool?
Angela: I think for a certain time frame. So members like to, you know, they might look long-term over a year, or they can have a shorter one, whether it be by a month or something. I think for them, it's really understanding where they are and what they want to invest in. And also, as you said, you know, when those things come up in the news around certain investments, they can actually go down and have a look at what investment option they're in and where that is actually invested in. So that might help your decisions as well.
Marta: Yeah I was on the website the other day, and I saw that...I scrolled down on the investment page a little bit, just out of curiosity, maybe because I'm a bit of a geek in that part. But I actually saw that you could see how my balance is invested in by asset. So I could see that there was a little bit of money in Commonwealth Bank and a few other things, and I find that really interesting. Have we had many calls around that kind of stuff?
Angela: We have. And I think it's something that members have always wanted.
Marta: Oh, great.
Angela: So it is something that we did bring in. Because it's visibility, it's an understanding that you're not just invested in something like balance fund. You're working out what that actually means, and what funds and what companies you're invested in. And a lot of people look at certain companies that they do like and want to stay invested in that, and then they can get an understanding of what that means for them as part of our investment. So, yeah. It's definitely been a good thing for members and members have asked for it.
Lyndon: Cool. And so other than, say investment related stuff, Angela, are there any other burning issues or hot topics out there in the membership?
Angela: There always is, always. But that's what we're there to do. We do get a lot of inquiries around our insurance options, like how to apply for insurance, how to cancel insurance. We do have the availability to do do that online. So, you know, you can obviously call us and we can talk through that. There is a form available, but definitely, you can use the tool online. So you can go in and apply for insurance. And I think that's something that comes easier in the world of today when, you know, a lot of people don't have time to come on the phone or, you know, want to sit through and talk it out themselves, then they can actually go onto that tool and apply. And then it gets sent through to our team and they analyse that.
Lyndon: Cool. And just completely off-topic, have you seen a bit of a reduction in the number of calls coming through now that members can actually do that stuff online?
Angela: Yeah, definitely.
Lyndon: I mean, people would expect to be able to do that, wouldn't they?
Angela: Exactly. The second that we add something online, it does reduce calls in that area. I mean, we will still get calls around the type of insurance that the member might want, or what might be best for them. But the people who definitely have an idea of what they want out of it can actually go online. And, yeah, it does become something that's easier because they don't have to make that phone call. They can do it on their lunch break or, you know, they can go on at night and do it when they need to. And there's obviously a lot of information on there as well to determine the types of cover that they would want.
Lyndon: So it seems to be that our new MemberOnline is pretty much the go-to. You know, we're always encouraging members to keep their information up to date. So that's obviously an easy thing to do through MemberOnline as well. That's an important thing to do too. Angela?
Angela: Yeah, definitely. It's very, very easy. You can log in and update your details. And I think within your super account, it's very, very important. You know, we've got statements coming up the start next year. We really, really want details to be available, and ready to go, and up-to-date details. And we can even log in and request to have your statement sent to you via email. So if it's something that you don't want in the post, login, update your details. At least that way you get all the up to date information and we can send you out an up to date statement as well. That's definitely one thing that we really, really are keen on, making sure that members are aware of that because it's a great idea to have it sent via email. Don't worry about it in the post, but we need your up-to-date details.
Marta: Thanks for hanging out with us this afternoon, Angela.
Angela: That's alright. Thanks very much for having me. It's been good.
Lyndon: Well, that brings us to the end of today's podcast. And just a reminder, you can listen to any of our podcasts anytime at unisuper.com.au/podcasts. If you'd like more information about any of the topics we've covered, check out the links on this podcast's page, give us a call, or if you'd like to get in touch with us you can always write to firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks for listening.
Marta: See you next time!