Superannuation industry professionals must maintain focus on achieving the best outcomes for members, despite the seeming lack of long-term vision for the future of the $2.6 trillion system.
That was the message delivered by Australian Institute of Superannuation Trustees chief executive Eva Scheerlinck in her opening address at the 2018 Conference of Major Super Funds in Brisbane this morning.
Scheerlinck said the fragmented approach of different government inquiries, reviews by regulators and a haphazard approach to legislation has undermined the superannuation system's development; hindering it from keeping pace with the changing nature of the workforce.
While the long-standing dream of a universal, compulsory, retirement savings system for every Australian worker largely appears to have been realised, the reality is that the system neglects those with inconsistent work patterns and low income earners, who are quite frequently either female or working within the emerging gig economy.
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"We clearly still have work to do on realising the dream of the creators of the system. The dream is still as valid today, as it was then. But in the intervening 26 or so years, we have not achieved all of its promise, and we have not dreamt the next big dream," Scheerlinck said.
She added while it may be easy for those within the industry to get distracted by regulatory disruption such as the Royal Commission, the industry must prioritise more future-focused and member-focused strategies.
"That can't wait until the noise dies down. Experience after all tells us that the noise will always be there," she said.
"Our future, five to 10 years from now, will not look like today. We know we face constant change, constant disruption in all areas of our lives. And the pace of change won't let up, it's not going to slow down."
To achieve this, Scheerlinck stressed the importance of super funds embracing innovation.
"Member engagement and communication, advice, long-term, sustainable investments and retirement income frameworks all require responsible, 21st century thinking and solutions," she said.
"We must also address some of the issues that have plagued our industry for some time - and have provided ammunition to our detractors, allowing them to try and force changes in our default fund selection process. As an industry we must all act on multiple accounts. And we must do something about multiple insurance cover."
In closing, she told delegates that the long-held culture of profit-to-member funds must be maintained to foster greater member engagement and trust.
"Our underlying profit-to-member ethos, our focus on putting members first, equal representation of employers and employees on our boards - are what have set us apart these past 26 and more years. I believe that maintaining the successful culture of your funds, and of our profit-to-member sector, is key to our long-term success," she said.
This is what aids transparency, true accountability, and trust, she added.
"It is up to us to create the retirement future that Australian workers deserve," she said.