Statewide still keen on mergers

All options are on the table at Statewide Super, including looking at potential retail fund partners, but three-way mergers are too much execution risk, according to chief financial and operating officer Grant Eastwood.

Statewide canned plans to merge with Tasplan and WA Super in June, which if successful would have created Australia's 15th largest superannuation fund with 380,000 members and $24 billion in assets.

Eastwood, who was appointed in the hybrid role to get the fund merger-ready, said the fund is still keen on looking at organic or inorganic opportunities to grow its scale.

"I don't think it rules out anybody, as long as the fund has a member-first culture," Eastwood said, adding that it would look at other industry funds, master trusts or corporate super funds as potential merger partners.

Statewide is also open to considering alternatives to successor fund transfer.

"The structure of how you execute a merger [whether it is a successor fund transfer or an extended public offer] is decided as you execute a merger, as you go through the due diligence process and sound each other out," Eastwood said.

Earlier this year, Melbourne's Equipsuper merged with Catholic Super under an extended public offer, which allowed the merged fund to operate under a single trustee board while retaining their individual brand identities, in a first for industry funds.

One thing that Statewide is shy of is attempting a three-way merger akin to its attempt with WA Super and Tasplan, revealed by Financial Standard in March.

"I don't see such mergers happening [in the future].Trying to do a bilateral merger is complex enough, a tripartite merger is much tougher because of the sheer complexity and the execution risk involved in it," he said.

The fund is in the processes of having multiple conversations about potential mergers but is not considering any one partner in particular at the time, Eastwood said.

Eastwood said the fund's decision to combine its chief financial officer and chief operating officer roles allows it to have a clearer picture of the end-to-end process while weighing potential mergers.

The hybrid role puts Eastwood in charge of both the finance and operating side, which includes information technology, project management office, administration, business performance and data analysis.

Statewide has been investing in its business intelligence unit, which now has four people who were upskilled or and redeployed from other roles, with the aim of giving the fund better insights into its member base.

"A classical example is very large superannuation funds were unable to determine how many of their members were affected by the PYSP changes. We were able to do it very quickly because we have better insights into our data than super funds traditionally do," Eastwood said.

Read more: Grant EastwoodStatewide SuperTasplanWA SuperSuper fund mergersCatholic SuperEquipsuper
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