Sunday, December 21, 2008

Chapter 11 - Australian Retirement Fund (AustralianSuper)

Before I describe my time as C.E.O of the Trustee Company of the Australian Retirement Fund, it is appropriate to provide a short history of Industry Superannuation Funds.

The concept of Industry Superannuation Funds was developed during the mid 1980’s. Born out of a successful A.C.T.U led campaign to establish broad based multi-employer funds to look after the needs of hard working Australians which resulted in the rapid spread of occupational superannuation.

A range of agreements with the nation’s leading employer associations formed a series of trustee boards for the governance of the funds. These boards typically comprised 50% trustees nominated by the ACTU and/or unions, and 50% nominated by Employer associations. Typically a 2/3 majority vote was required for decision making.

Industry Super Funds were advanced for their time. In the 1980’s, they introduced the innovative master trust, or multi-employer concept combined with full vesting of contributions (ie. contributions held in the name of each individual employee). The same concept had operated for several years in Government and Semi-Government Superannuation Funds, the main difference being that the public sector funds were defined benefit funds that gave a member at retirement a percentage of their final “Average Salary” but only returned their contributions (with no interest) if they resigned from the Government or Semi-Government Authority, prior to retirement age.

They also unbundled the components of superannuation service, namely, administration, funds management and insurance. Today, most of these funds are for everyone and are regulated by the Australian Prudential Regulatory Authority (APRA). More than ever, Industry Super Funds are widely recognised as market leaders in terms of net benefit to members based on:
• Economies of scale
• All profits to members
• No sales commissions
• Sound investment strategies

1983 - 39% of workforce have super. Less than 25% for women and “blue collar” workers. Total Australian superannuation assets approximately $50 billion.
1984 - ACTU launches campaign for universal, fully vested super. Industry Super Funds established in a range of sectors, including building, manufacturing and transport.
1986 - High Court validates super as an “industrial matter” under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act.
1987 - Arbitration Commission includes agreements of up to 3% contribution in awards.
1988 - Arbitration Commission begins determining a minimum 3% super contribution in awards, and can determine which fund.
1990 - Development Australia Fund (DAF) launched. 80% of workforce have super.
1991 - Australian Government legislates for Superannuation Guarantee at 3% phasing up to 9%.
1992 - Australian Institute of Superannuation Trustees founded.
1995 - Super Members Home Loans (SMHL) launched.
1997 - Total Super assets reach $300 billion.
1998 - Industry Super Funds acquire interest in funds administrator, Superpartners.
1999 - Industry Super Funds acquire interest in SMHL. Members Equity Bank launched.
2001 - Industry Super Funds reach $50 billion (excluding another approximately $150 billion in public sector funds).
2002 - Forty two super funds, most of which are Industry Super Funds, acquire 100% of Members Equity Bank.
2003 - Government co-contributions available for low and middle-income earners who make contributions from their after-tax income.
2005 - Total superannuation assets pass $700 billion. Industry Super Funds pass $100 billion.
2005 - Choice of fund changes ensure that employees are generally able to nominate any complying fund into which their employer pays superannuation guarantee contributions. Transition to retirement pensions introduced which allow older employees to receive pension payments after moving from full-time to part-time employment.
2007 - Changes to the Reasonable Benefits Limit system which amongst other things remove taxation on pensions and lump-sum benefits paid after age 60.
2008 - Total superannuation assets pass $1.1 trillion. Industry Super Funds reach $200 billion superannuation assets.

I started at the St Kilda Road offices of the Australian Chamber of Manufactures in January 2000. A staff of personnel know as “Co-ordinators”, had already being appointed who were the field staff required to meet with employers and members at their places of work to discuss their superannuation requirements. There were two Co-ordinators for Victoria, one for New South Wales, one for Queensland and one for South Australia. There was also one administration staff member at Head Office.

The Board of Directors of the Trustee company when I joined in 1990, were:-
· Australian Chamber of Manufactures –
· Mr John Hope, (Chairperson)
· Mr Kerry Klineberg,
· Mr Robert Stradwick
Australian Council of Trade Unions -
· Mr Martin Ferguson,
· Mr Garry Weaven,
· Mr Mike McKay,
· Mr Alex Doherty
Chamber of Commerce & Industry S.A. Inc -
· Mr R Huxter
Amalgamated Footwear & Textile Workers Union –
· Mr B Broomhall
The Textile Clothing & Footwear Council of Australia Ltd –
· Mr Jack Kronberg,
· Mr Tim Todhunter,
Clothing & Allied Trades Union of Australia –
· Ms Lydia Jerkovic.

My first job was to meet all the staff of the A.R.F. and the Board members and discuss with them how they saw the fund progressing in the short and long term. The VictorianI Co-ordinator was Joan Robinson and I later appointed Margaret Duncan as the second Co-ordinator for Victoria. I travelled to Sydney and visited the office the NSW Trades & Labor Council in Sussex Street, where the ARF Co-ordinator was situated and introduced myself to Karen Moore and the co-ordinators of other industry funds who also worked there. I do not think they liked the idea of an “outsider’ being appointed as CEO.
Cover of First Annual Report of Australian Retirement Fund

I noted the “coldness” of the reception but this had never worried me in the past and it would not in the future, though I must admit it did cause problems later.

When I terminated the employment of the then Co-ordinator who refused to follow procedures approved by the Board. I was very disappointed when this happened and thanks to the good offices of Mr Brian Daley who was Board member at that time and the Federal President of the Miscellaneous Workers Union, we agreed at the Commission to re-instate her on the basis that she would adhere to company policy and follow instructions. I later appointed Ann Walsh as the second Co-ordinator for New South Wales.

I next visited Brisbane and met Greg Fowler the Queensland Co-ordinator who was glad to have someone of my background as the new CEO and we had a good working relationship during my tenure. I similarly visited Adelaide and met Roy Clements the South Australian Co-ordinator and the Board Member and again was welcomed and given assurances of their support. I later appointed Shylie Sauders as an Assistant Co-ordinator.

I also appointed Peter Musken as the first part-time Co-ordinator for the Northern Territory and later David Tollner as the full time Co-ordinator.

After talks with Mr Gary Weaven at the A.C.T.U. and Mr Kerry Klienberg I set about updating the various job descriptions of the staff to give effect to the objectives established by the Board.
My next task was to meet the service providers, the most important being the “Australian Administrative Services Pty Ltd (A.S.A.), a subsidiary of the Australian Mutual Provident Insurance Company (A.M.P) who had been appointed as administrators of the fund, and John.A.Nolan & Associates Pty Ltd (J.A.N.A) who had been appointed investment advisors to the Board and supervisors of investment managers and the portfolio.

The Board approved the formation of an Investment Committee consisting of the Chairperson, five directors, the C.E.O and J.A.N.A., also an Administration Committee consisting of the Chairperson, three directors and the C.E.O and a Marketing Committee consisting of the Chairperson, four directors and the C.E.O. The fund membership was growing rapidly in both member numbers and employers. I was asked to visit Perth with a view to appointing a Co-ordinator for Western Australia. I reviewed the membership for the State and came to the view that I could not justify recommending a full-time position, but did discuss with a company that looked after a small public sector superannuation fund whether they were prepared to look after the interests of A.R.F. members, their remuneration based on a fixed fee and an amount for each interview, etc. This arrangement continued until I left the fund. On my next visit to Adelaide, I continued to Darwin and discussed with the Northern Territory Chamber and Union Body about future members and the appointment of a Co-ordintor at the appropriate time. As a temporary measure, the South Australian Co-ordinator also looked after the Northern Territory.



Message from Trustee Company Chairperson John Hope in 1990 Annual Report













I was keen to market the fund to prospective employers and members and had discussions with Board Members to establish a strategy to encourage employers who had company run “Blue Collar” funds to transfer their membership and assets to the A.R.F. This involved the printing of Employer Reports and Member Reports that highlighted the positives of the Fund and such matters as the comparative low administrative costs, good investment returns and excellent communication between the Board and members.

The first 1989/1990 Annual Report of the Australian retirement Fund was printed on re-cycled paper sent to all stakeholders. A smaller version that was of interest to members was also printed and forwarded to all members of the fund.



The investments of the fund were also growing rapidly and thanks to JANA, the rate of return on the portfolio was also comparatively better than our competition.



This rapid growth brought it own problems, one of them being the tardiness of A.S.A. in the processing of contribution returns and benefit payments and reporting. The complaints from both employers and members got the stage that we had to do something dramatic to get the message to the AMP and ASA. As the term of the appointment was approaching, I met Mr Gary Weaven at a hotel in Melbourne in the presence of a Co-ordinator of another industry fund. We quite openly discussed the problems with ASA and the fact that we would have to seriously consider putting the next contract out to tender. Gary knew, even though the person present was asked not to disclose the contents of our discussion to any one, that it would be reach the ASA. Sure enough, I got a call from the management of ASA a few days later to say that they wanted a meeting to look at improving the administration. AMP did not want to loose the ARF to Jacques Martin who administered CBUS and some other industry funds and they agreed to a time table that would see a substantial improvement.





The investment of the fund based on recommendations of J.A.N.A. good market returns together with a substantial improvement in the administration of the fund gave me the opportunity to use the approved marketing strategy and encourage employers to transfer their superannuation funds to the A.R.F.


During the second year, the Chairperson’s position was transferred to Mr Ian Ross. I organized a Strategic Planning Meeting with the Directors and staff to determine the strategy we would adopt to market the Fund. To date, I am not sure whether this was a good idea as I felt that some of the proposals were in conflict with the strategy adopted by the A.C.T.U and there appeared to be a conflict of interest. As the majority of Directors and staff were in favour of the proposals, we had no choice.



The second 1990/1991 Annual report highlighted this strategy. New staff were also appointed and as the regular collection of contributions from some employers was becoming a major problem, we were the first Industry Fund to appointed Roy Tyack as Debt Collection Manager to fulfill this function. This saw an immediate improvement in the cash flow.




The support staff now consisted of Ann Lang, Colleen Sells and Wendy Hollingsworth in Melbourne and Michelle Fenech in Sydney.

Messrs Garry Weaven and Alex Doherty from the A.C.T.U, resigned as directors and were replaced by Messrs Ian Ross and Brian Daley. Mr Broomhall from the Amalgamated Footwear & Textile Workers Union also resigned and was replaced by Mr Tony Woolgar.
Industry Panels were also established consisting of equal numbers of employer and employee representatives to oversee the implementation of various industry awards with respect to superannuation.



During the 1991/1992 year, Ms Caroline Briggs was appointed as Marketing Manager to promote the fund to prospective members and their employers.
Marketing of the Fund to prospective new members and employers was in the strategy approved by the Board of Trustees. Our research indicated that CEO’s and the Directors of companies administered their company blue collar funds “reluctantly” as they had been established for a large number of years by previous Boards of Directors before the advent of industry funds and were pleased to have the responsibility taken away from them.
We contacted a number of companies who were members of the Chamber of Manufactures who had approached them indicating that they were prepared to close their non-executive finds and transfer them to the A.R.F. We met with the CEO’s of these and other companies, “sold” the benefits of transferring their members and assets to the ARF.and were very successful in increasing the membership of the fund. The rapid increase in membership and funds under management were causing structural difficulties and in time we transferred offices. The offices were much roomier and with good lighting and the staff were able to have their own offices. The Board also agreed to the renting of new premises in Brunswick for the Co-ordinators as this would give them their own offices as well and being in the suburbs close to the industrial areas where employers in the Fund had their premises, better opportunities for communication.



The returns from the Fund Investment managers were impressive and the crediting rates to member accounts were substantially higher that the consumer price index.

During the year the Board of Trustees also approved the appointment of an Administration Manager to ensure that the fund was complying with all Federal and state legislation in relation to superannuation funds. Interviews were conducted by a panel comprising the General Manager and Board Members who were on the Administration Policy Committee and Paul Byrne was selected as the Administration Manager. The Committee monitored the performance of the Fund Administrator to ensure that members and employers were receiving a high level of service and that ARF remained a complying fund.
A sub-committee of the Administration Policy Committee examined the payment of discretionary benefits such as death and disability benefits. The mandates given to the various investment managers and their performance against benchmarks where they were allowed to use financial instruments known as synthetic investments to assist their management of the fund’s assets were monitored by the Investment Committee on a regular basis. Futures contracts, forward transactions and options were types of financial instruments that were used in the course of investment strategies. In particular, options over shares and indexed futures were bought to give the fund the protection in the event of a market fall. Fund Managers agreed that such instruments would not be used to gear up the investments they managed on the fund’s behalf. The implementation of the strategy was left to individual investment managers within the constraints of their mandate. The three pillars that the Fund Trustee endeavored to maintain were the objectives in relation to investments.


The Benefit objective was to make sure that the benefits for members increase at the same level as wage increases or higher so that member accounts kept in line with the cost of living.


The investment objective was to earn enough on investments so members receive a rate of interest that aims to be at least 3% above inflation, averaged over 10 years and the credited interest rate each year would be no more that 5% below the previous year’s crediting rate.


The reserve objective was to build reserves within the fund with the aim of smoothing the crediting rate to members over time.






After receiving professional analysis and advice the Trustee decided that a reasonable level of reserves would be 10% to 12% of total assets.

This objective was maintained during the period to 1993/1994 as the table below that was published in the 1994 Annual Report shows.


Financial Year/Earning Rate of Fund/Crediting Rate-Member’s accounts/Consumer Price Index

1989/90 / 16.2% / 14.5% / 7.7%
1990/91 / 12.0% / 10.0% / 3.4%
1991/92 / 12.5% / 10.0% / 1.2%
1992/93 / 13.2% / 10.75% / 1.9%
1993/94 / 6.6% / 9.5% / 1.7%
As a member of the Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia I had the opportunity of marketing the Australian Retirement Fund when the editor said that they were running feature article in the March 1993 issue. I was of the opinion that collectively, given the administrative structure industry funds and the method of using service providers in the administration and investment of the fund was far more efficient than having an in-house operation and the cost differential would be sufficiently attractive for employers to transfer their employees and their own self managed funds into the A.R.F. The service providers agreed to negotiated benchmarks that had to be reached and their performance was judged against these.

I met with several companies in Melbourne and Sydney and was successful in bringing new members from these organizations into the A.R.F.
As I was now approaching my 55th birthday, I decided that the administration of the A.R.F was now progressing very satisfactorily with the appointment of a Marketting and Administration Manager and my job was becoming a routine job that I thought could be performed by a competent manager other than myself. I was approached by Jim Benson the Managing Partner of C.S.A. Consulting to join the firm as their General Manager. After discussions with Ruth, we decided that this would be a good move as we had started planning a move to Yarrawonga in Northern Victoria.


I resigned in April 1994 and moved to C.S.A.Consulting. In some ways I was sad to leave, but with every intention to move to Yarrawonga in 2000, this was the best option. If I had stayed, leaving after another 5 years would have been very hard.

Ian Silk who was the General manager of the A.M.P. administration company A.A.S. took over as Chief Executive.



AustralianSuper 2011 Chief Executive - Ian Silk and Chairperson - Elana Rubin

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