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Featured Profile: Jane Hume
The next great leap
Minister for Superannuation, Financial Services and the Digital Economy Jane Hume made a name for herself in financial services. Now, she is establishing herself as a political force to be reckoned with. Annabelle Dickson writes.

Jane Hume never intended on being a politician, even after she joined the Liberal Party following the birth of her first child.

Her career in financial services was taking off, having entered the workforce in the peak of the recession in the early 1990s after graduating with a Bachelor of Commerce from the University of Melbourne.

In politics, nothing is as bad as you think it is and nothing is as good as you think it is.
"At that stage, the cadetship programs had shrunk quite dramatically, and I ended up, very reluctantly, as a woman in my early 20s working for my dad," Hume says.

Her father was a private company broker, and she began her career working on valuations of family companies that wanted to sell, merge or acquire.

By the time Hume was working at National Australia Bank she was able to understand and interpret numbers while also building a narrative around them.

"I think that has served me well, throughout my entire career, whether it be in financial services or in politics," she says.

Taking a redundancy from Rothschild as Westpac took over in 2002, Hume soon became a mother for the second time; a life event that saw her reassess her aspirations.

"You realise that the future of the country is more important. You want to make sure that you're doing everything you can to make their futures as good as they can be," Hume says.

Choosing to study politics, Hume knew what she was passionate about but wasn't able to articulate why, nor the context behind her beliefs.

Suddenly, she says, she could see the evolution of her beliefs in the thoughts of political and economic philosophers Edmund Burke, John Stuart Mill and Adam Smith.

"I learnt the historical context of my personal motivations and I found that absolutely fascinating," Hume says.

And Hume was no stranger to politics, with both her parents joining the Liberal Party in the Whitlam era.

"They were quite passionate Liberals and at every election since I was a little tacker, they sent me to hand out 'how to vote' cards but I just did it because it was part of the family duty," she says.

In fact, Hume acknowledges her late father Steve as her professional compass and her mother Louise, a barrister, as her personal compass.

"It was at a time when not many of my friends' mothers worked. She was the one that made me realise I could do anything, she made me brave," she says.

While studying, Hume became involved in the Liberal Party, running a campaign, assisting in a state campaign for a local seat and getting involved with the women's section.

"I didn't join to become a politician. I joined to become a volunteer and to help the cause," she says.

"I suppose once you get involved in politics - even if it's just at the edges - the more involved you get, the more it perpetuates. It is cumulative."

At the same time, she had returned to work at Deutsche Bank as a vice president before moving onto AustralianSuper as a senior strategic policy adviser - but politics remained at the forefront of her mind.

"The Liberal Party was my hobby but I realised quickly that my interest had become a passion, had become an obsession, and eventually became a profession," she says.

"It was a clear evolution in my politics and while I loved my professional work in financial services, this is what launched my rockets."

And when the then Victorian Liberal Party president Tony Snell tapped Hume on the shoulder and told her she was the right person to represent the party, she really went for it.

"For someone that senior in the party who I greatly admired, and for whom I had worked as a volunteer for a long time to say, 'we think you reflect the party that you love so much', meant a lot," she says.

The real "sliding doors" moment came for her in the 2016 election when she entered parliament. Hume was the last senator out of the 76 to be elected and got through on a knife-edge.

"By the time they went through all the counting, I was the very last one to get across the line. I nearly didn't make it in," she recounts.

It was during these early years in politics that Hume received a piece of advice that would set in after she was elected: "In politics nothing is as bad as you think it is and nothing is as good as you think it is."

Soon she would meet former Liberal senators Kay Patterson and Judith Troeth, who would imparted their wisdom and advice to Hume.

Having this support network was pivotal for Hume and in her maiden speech in 2016, Hume reiterated that she will not pull the ladder up behind her.

"I think the most important thing to people is that you're approachable and accessible," she says.

"When it all comes down to it, for a Liberal Party politician, it doesn't matter how good the individual is. You're nothing without the party. It's important to pay it forward."

After three years as a senator, she was appointed assistant minister in 2019 and was instrumental in introducing plans to remove grandfathered commissions to financial advisers, the Protecting Your Super reforms and extending the time for advisers to complete the Financial Adviser Standards and Ethics Authority exam and, most recently, winding the authority down to introduce a single disciplinary body.

Hume also advocated heavily for the early release of superannuation scheme in 2020.

However, what she didn't expect to come from this, was what economists refer to as 'revealed preference' where people take their money out rather than having it locked up.

"The byproduct of that was that many of the 3.2 million Australians that did take their money out had never even turned their minds to their superannuation before."

In saying that, Hume notes this is an opportunity as Australians are now more engaged with their superannuation than ever before.

"How can we capitalise on this new level of interest and engagement to make the superannuation system more efficient, more effective and more fit for purpose?" she asks.

The first step is Your Future, Your Super legislation slated to come into effect on 1 July 2021.

Hume has been busy reading industry submissions on the proposed reforms; she wants to ensure there is no misunderstanding in the legislation.

"We want to make sure the stakeholders understand the legislation the way it is intended and if we have missed anything, we can fix it," she says.

In December 2020, Prime Minister Scott Morrison promoted Hume to cabinet in a role that sees her also taking on responsibility for the digital economy.

The evolution of the digital economy, she says, raises living standards and productivity and improves the economy.

And without discounting the role of the Treasurer, Hume sees the digital economy as an expansion of the economy.

"There is hardly a section of the economy that is not digital. It is absolutely fascinating to see the original Australian economy being overlayed with digital technology," she says.

"And we will have a lot more to say on that soon."

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