Following on from my previous post “Retirement Income Review: Robust or Rabbit Hole”, the RIR Report was released by Government on 20 November last year. The Government has not officially commented on the RIR yet but, as we are getting closer to the June Federal Budget and the 1 July legislated date for an increase in Super Guarantee (SG) to 10%, we are seeing the market commentary ratcheting up a notch or two. The ‘should it increase?’ or ‘should it not increase?’ debate will continue until the Government provides confirmation one way or the other.
The focus for this post, however, is not on SG but rather on the RIR’s findings regarding home ownership, specifically how it impacts on retiree’s ability to maintain their standard of living in retirement.
Before I jump-in, I’d like to revisit the purpose of superannuation (a key part of the Australian Retirement System). It was introduced to help Australians save for retirement during their working lives and reduce or minimise reliance on the Aged Pension. As the population continues to age and the number of working people supporting each retiree (over 65) decreases (having gone from 6 to 3.7 and projected to be at 3 soon), we need to continue saving and using retirement savings for their intended purpose if the system is to stay successful.
An important finding from the RIR was that the system favours home ownership (specifically mortgage free by age 65) as a way of substantially improving the likelihood of a person maintaining their lifestyle during retirement. However, house prices have been growing much faster than income over the past 30 years and it is taking first home buyers longer to save that initial deposit. This can lead to more people carrying a mortgage into retirement. Later entry into the housing market could lead to lower levels of home equity than previous generations, also consider the fact that we are living longer, and the result is a significant impact on retirement drawdown strategies. With interest rates at historical lows and house prices in the major cities being fueled by what some suggest is a healthy case of F.O.M.O., the dream of owning a home and more practically using this as an asset in retirement is becoming ever more unachievable.
Against this backdrop, the call from some ministers to use superannuation as a deposit for first home buyers seems irresponsible. There is a need for affordable housing and there is equally a need NOT to put further fuel on an already flaming hot property market. A holistic and carefully considered approach is required and not one dimensional, populist politics that may do more harm than good.
At the start of the pandemic, the Government dipped into the superannuation cookie jar by offering the Early Release Scheme (ERS) to support Australians caught between impossible choices. Choices between struggling today or potentially struggling in retirement. The Government had to act quickly with uncertain information, and they did. However, it is time to firmly close the cookie jar and go back to continuing with super’s intended purpose while working towards an affordable housing solution that will benefit all Australians and support, rather than detract, from the parts of the retirement system that are already delivering benefits.
The RIR found that Australia’s retirement income system is effective, sound and its costs are broadly sustainable. This achievement is often glossed over on the way to making a point about something in particular but let’s take a moment to celebrate this success.
Our superannuation system has been rated as the 4th best in the world and no structural issues were identified that require wholesale changes for the system to continue functioning into the future. It is perfectly reasonable to continuously monitor, review and tweak the system. However, we need to be careful to not use savings in the superannuation system as the cure for all ills in the economy… going down that rabbit hole may have a price to pay down the line.
2020 will forever be a year to behold and certainly the events of last year have shaped our present-day superannuation environment. This year many of the threads, in regards to monitoring, regulating and challenging super, will finally come together. How well these threads are woven, into a better future for people in retirement, is yet to be seen. However, one thing is for sure, they will change the system for ever. 2021 is the year it all gets real.
Some of us were in superannuation thirty years ago when it really was a cottage industry. But at $3 trillion dollars, and with about 50% more assets than the nominal GDP of the Australian economy, the super industry is now well and truly a force to be reckoned with. The past and continuing growth of super brings with it growing pains, and the need to continually ratchet up the quality and standards being delivered to Australians.
More regulation is inevitable
The idea that any government would just leave the private sector provider of such an important public good alone, and not subject it to increasing scrutiny, is fanciful. It is both inevitable and appropriate for the Government to pay close attention to super, when such a large bucket of money and the value of tax paid and super tax concessions is in play.
Over a decade ago, the Super System Review recommended many changes to improve the system, especially for people who weren’t really engaged with their super. MySuper, SuperStream and improved governance standards are all important and successful legacies of that Review.
An interesting development of the past year or so is that better tools, to support improved oversight, are finally catching up with the Government’s aspirations to make further significant changes to superannuation policy settings.
Better data is key to … everything!
There was one major area where previous recommendations weren’t quite as successfully implemented, and that was in relation to data. Back then, the prudential regulator, APRA, got a lot of data but only for MySuper products. Also, issues with delayed and changing projects and consistency and quality, meant promises to support comprehensive public analysis of the data wasn’t fulfilled.
In the past couple of years, there have been some positive developments. The pandemic delayed these to some extent, but it also underlined the need for good, effective and even-handed regulation.
Initiatives to publish comparative MySuper performance (the Heatmap); consolidate small and inactive accounts; remove insurance from accounts being eroded by the cost of premiums; and increase focus on performance reporting and disclosure, each have an impact on serving members better. However, they are even more impactful when taken as a whole and treated as the foundation for the next phase of improving the system.
All of the fund and regulator assessment tools need the basic core that good quality reporting gives. This is needed for Member Outcome Assessments, Business Performance Reviews, the Financial Accountability Regime, meeting Design and Distribution Obligations and for the YourSuper comparison and performance assessment tools announced in the budget.
The Government is on surer ground when it gets its agencies to extend the breadth and depth of data reporting. It is terrific that the current timetables, for initiatives such as the extension to Choice products and the Heatmap to all products, look like being met.
The super industry is adaptable and robust
The findings of the Royal Commission, and the implementation of tighter rules around financial advice, saw most of the banks selling off their wealth and superannuation businesses. However, this along with the cost of adhering to higher standards, has accelerated the growth of the largest funds and the merger of funds across the industry.
There are now less super accounts, less accounts with insurance, less lost super, less APRA-regulated funds but more mega funds with more than $100 billion in assets.
The super industry is proving resilient to Government curve balls and, whether it is the measures allowing early release of super in response to the pandemic or a potential freeze in SG increases, it will continue to thrive and maintain a focus on members.
The future may be complicated but … it is bright
There are still some problems with providing an even playing field for measuring products but provided the Government doesn’t get too caught up in the culture war with industry funds, the overall trend is in the right direction.
The layers, complexity and interrelationship between the various initiatives can be difficult, even for seasoned industry veterans to follow, and the cost of implementation can be eye-watering. However, IQ has been working in this space for 20 years and continues to be the market leader in operationalising regulatory change and making transitions, integration and improved operating models happen.
Within a year or so, all the key data initiatives and the assessment tools will be in place and super funds, their members, the retirement income system and the community will be better for it.
We look forward to supporting our clients with the challenges that this year will present and, we are well placed for the next round of changes that will inevitably be around the corner.
Carefully chosen from an impressive talent pool to be just the right fit for IQ and our clients, we are very happy to introduce you to our 2021 Graduate team.
I am fortunate enough to have just started as a Graduate Consultant at IQ Group. My background is quite varied. I studied a Bachelor of Applied Science, majoring in Psychology at RMIT. I decided that I wanted to combine my passion for understanding human behaviour in a corporate environment. I went on study a Master of Management (Marketing) at the University of Melbourne, ending my degree by spending my last semester studying Managerial Science at University of Geneva, Switzerland. After exposure to the world of consulting, I knew it was where I wanted to be.
When I received the offer from IQ Group, I couldn’t have been happier and more grateful for being given this opportunity. Now four weeks in, I feel already part of a great team. The first two weeks involved sessions on all aspects of Australia’s financial sector- Insurance, Tax, Super etc (given by many different experienced IQ consultants).
I am now working with a great Consulting Director and what I am most excited about is the variety of work. I can already tell that no day is the same. Working across different clients and projects is interesting as there is always something new to learn. Additionally, keeping up with such an evolving sector with all the legislation changes definitely keeps us on our toes.
I am a recent graduate with a bachelor’s degree in Commerce majoring in economics and management. I am passionate about business, economics and social science throughout every stage of my education.
My IQ journey has been an exciting experience, the graduate program has given me the opportunity to further diversify my skills and progress my knowledge in superannuation and consultancy. I enjoy providing my support to the graduate team with exciting projects and intensive training in areas of the business including Business Analytics, Change Management and Project Management.
My passion for philanthropy has inspired me to play an active role in supporting social and environmental issues throughout my community both globally and locally. I have initiated charity and fundraising initiatives including walks, donation drives and giving back to my African community through a personal project called The TANAKA Initiative. With the aim to provide education to young women on basic hygiene and the female reproductive system, and sustainable care strategies whilst also providing utilities. With the objective of giving back to the Zimbabwean community.
The IQ group is full of intelligent and experienced individuals who are willing to provide guidance and support when required. It is a rewarding experience to be a part of a team that values everyone and encourages graduates like myself. I am so proud to be a part of the IQ group. I am looking forward to continuing to grow and learn in an environment that fosters a great culture and network of professionals.
After graduating from the University of Queensland as a Bachelor of Commerce, with a major in finance, I relocated to Sydney to attain a graduate position within the financial services industry. IQ Group stood out to me due to the company’s specialist nature and market leading position within the superannuation consulting space.
Since joining IQ in early February, I have experienced a resounding amount of support and guidance throughout the graduate program. From the commencement of the program, the graduate cohort began a two-week intensive training schedule. The two weeks also provided a variety of opportunities to meet previous graduates and other IQ staff in a social setting. Being able to establish a network and feel a part of the team so quickly speaks to the inclusive and positive culture IQ perpetuates.
Additionally, graduates are provided the resources to complete two third-party accreditations to further consolidate essential knowledge and perform at a high level when transitioned to our client engagements. The streamlined format of this introductory period has left me feeling prepared and eager to contribute as we move to our client engagements. I am excited to progress through the IQ graduate program and continue to learn from the experienced team at IQ.
I am a recent graduate having studied a Bachelor of Business: (Information Systems) (Applied) at RMIT University. I have previously been working in IT support and data analysis roles and am very keen to get into the consulting area. During my final year of university, I wanted to make sure that I would be challenging myself and applying my problem-solving and analytical skills in a practical environment and feel that the IQ Group Graduate Program is doing that perfectly.
During my first two weeks, I spent most of my time learning about all the different skills and processes for working on a project, while also developing my knowledge of the superannuation industry for my RG146 qualification. The program aims to tackle areas like project management, change management and business analysis and I can’t wait to get involved in all of these on my first engagement. The amount of support I’ve received from the IQ Team so far has been amazing and cannot wait to continue building relationships in the welcoming culture at IQ Group.
A little while back now I completed a Bachelor of Commerce degree with a major in Human Resource Management. Throughout my degree, I dived into the various concepts and research surrounding the field which formed an interest and a passion. I had the opportunity to write and research an essay on the future of HR which was selected as a national student finalist for the AHRI awards. I am interested in the strategic role HR plays to organisational success and sustainability, whilst also being at the forefront of navigating some of today’s biggest challenges and changes.
I have recently moved into the Business Support Graduate Program. I have been gaining a greater understanding, and appreciation, of how various support functions within the company work together not only to keep things running day-to-day, but also to achieve growth. I am also undergoing an RG146 which, whilst early days, is allowing me an insight into the industry and the role IQ has in the superannuation industry.
I have really enjoyed being part of IQ Group and working with a supportive team that encourages me to learn and grow while investing in my skills and understanding. I look forward to the many more opportunities to learn, deepen my professional skills, and support others in the team.
IQ Group provides graduates with their career ‘head start’ through training and career development. We provide the right tools and training to ensure our graduates can achieve career success through mentoring, support and e-learning. Our graduates receive:
a structured program with an initial intensive skills development training boot camp, providing Business analysis, Project Management, Data and Change skills, as well as RG146 qualification;
12 months of formal mentoring by a Principal Consultant;
great exposure to a variety of work environments and a network of professionals within the industry;
valuable experience on a wide range of engagements working with a great IQ Group team and clients; and
being part of the IQ Business Group with opportunity to travel across Australia.
Our 20th wedding anniversary arrived amidst all this tumult. As it was later in the year, we were able to get out and celebrate with a night out and stayover in the city.
I’m grateful to have retained full time employment and for the relative simplicity that comes with working from home and working without the COVID related impositions that face other industries such as hospitality. Although it was unfortunate to miss out on an overseas trip this year, I’m so grateful we are not stranded overseas. I really feel for the people who are and for those stranded here such as overseas students.
What has been your biggest success/es in 2020?
At an organisation level, both at IQ and the Client, was the implementation of BCP and being able to sustain that over an extended period. At a team level, it was project completion at the onset of the pandemic while picking up previously outsourced activities that were returned to onshore. At a personal level, it was mainly just to keep going, keep doing the things I would ordinarily do – work, study and sport even when it became harder.
What are you most looking forward to next year?
I’m cautious. I suspect that it will be similar to 2020 but hopefully without the devasting bushfires. I’m hoping for some further restorations of normality including a return to the office in some form and to normal event calendars.
What do you have planned for the Christmas break?
Visiting relatives and friends is our Christmas tradition. Christmas is rotated between different relatives in different parts of the country and overseas, however this year will be from home again.
For more from Chris … refer to our LinkedIn page (https://www.linkedin.com/posts/iq-group-australia_christmas-questions-with-chris-hunt-iq-activity-6746605913823694848-aj3s)
What an interesting year 2020 has been – locked up for what seemed like an endless period of time. Yet, we got through it. It proved our resilience and adaptability.
In June, I moved into a townhouse from a unit, and this turned out to be a godsend. It gave me a small yard and garden, and this provided additional coping mechanisms for surviving lockdown. It also turns out I have a bit of a green thumb.
I am grateful that my family, friends and their families all came through COVID without illness or death. I am also very grateful that I was one of the lucky ones who had a job and could pay the bills and put food on the table. I am grateful for working for an amazing company that adapted so they could look after their staff. It was very much appreciated.
In 2020, I have also learnt that you can grow tomatoes from slices of tomato, capsicum from the seeds in a capsicum and spring onions from the butts of spring onions. Who knew!!
What has been your biggest success/es in 2020?
Increasing delivery for a client from 12% to 45% in 6 months and building a strong team that is respected within the company. Also, adapting to delivering a project via Skype / Bluejeans / Teams etc, while living in a totally different state. Once thought impossible, now completely probable.
What are you most looking forward to next year?
I am looking forward to 2021 but only hope that it won’t be a repeat of this year. Perhaps, as they say, we should see the terms and conditions for 2021 first. I would like to travel again as I have always seen it as the reward for hard work throughout the year and I miss it.
I look forward to delivering my project on time and on budget and since there has been more compassion this year, I would like to see that continue.
What do you have planned for the Christmas break?
Every Christmas I spend the day with my Italian family. Lots of food, drink and laughter. People coming and going all day. Then, for some rest and relaxation, I am flying to Brisbane (finally) to see my Aussie family, before a few days on the Mooloolaba beach to recharge the batteries. I am disappointed I can’t go to Singapore, as I normally do, but this year has been about adapting and that is what I will do! Happy Christmas.
PHOTO: Angie’s amazing tomatoes
For more from Angie, refer to our LinkedIn page: (https://www.linkedin.com/posts/iq-group-australia_christmas-questions-with-angie-perry-iq-activity-6744759886544039936-WTtD)