Much review about nothing

The Government's recently announced review of Australia's retirement income system has been met with confusion by some of the industry's big players.

"Speaking at the Bloomberg buy-side forum in Sydney recently, the newly-minted Assistant Treasurer for Superannuation, Financial Services and Financial Technology, Senator Jane Hume, backed Treasurer Josh Frydenberg's assertion that the Government would launch a review into the retirement income system as recommended by the Productivity Commission."

However the former AustralianSuper staffer failed to reveal anything further, leaving many in the industry with doubts as to the review's purpose and potential impact.

Recently appointed Aberdeen Standard Investments head of retirement and product strategy Jason Nyilas questioned what would come from more reviews of the sector.

While agreeing with Hume's summation that Australia needs to focus on post-retirement solutions after the super system proved itself to be efficient in accumulating retirement savings, Nyilas refuted the need for yet another government review.

"The real answer is for Australia's retirement income players to come together and develop end-to-end solutions because another round of government consultation is unlikely to come up with fresh thinking that would result in a substantially different approach to the retirement income framework," Nyilas said.

However, Challenger's Jeremy Cooper said he gets the sense the review would steer well clear of said framework.

"She's [Hume} acknowledged that the Treasurer has mentioned this retirement income review," Cooper says.

"But the way I interpreted her speech, the retirement income framework was an existing piece of policy that wouldn't be drawn into that review and what the review is going to cover is at the moment not really clear."

Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia chief executive Martin Fahy is also weighing in, and says the review "will not tell us much more than the other 25 or so major inquiries touching upon super in the last 10 years."

He adds that a refreshing approach would be for Government to make reforms which reduce the operating costs of funds to enhance net returns.

"It will show that we have a system that is the envy of other countries and which as it matures is delivering substantially higher retirement incomes for the bulk of retirees," Fahy says.

"Many of the recent "reforms" in effect are about shifting the burden of fees from one class of members to another.  Additionally, reform drives implementation and ongoing compliance costs which ultimately need to be paid by all or nearly all fund members.

"Every inquiry takes the time and energy of the senior staff of funds.  It would be good to get to a stage where that energy can be concentrated on improving member outcomes rather than on participation in yet another review."

This is an extract from Financial Standard's upcoming special feature on Retirement Income, available Monday, July 15.

Read more: Aberdeen Standard InvestmentsAustralianSuperBloombergChallengerFinancial StandardJason NyilasJeremy CooperJosh FrydenbergMartin Fahy
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