The problem with super is super.
Since the 2002 Financial Services Review, there have been at least a dozen enquiries, commissions and reviews into Australia’s superannuation, insurance, investment, and financial services industries.
Last week APRA and ASIC jointly produced a new report highlighting that Australia’s superannuation industry is failing most superannuants.
Coincidentally also, last week, the country’s biggest superannuation fund – AusSuper – used AFR’s Chanticleer as a platform for their possible response to the country’s under-served retirees – “AusSuper’s retirement revolution” (sorry, paywall).
Paul Schroder, AusSuper’s CEO, proposes a revolution.
He might be onto something.
Helping Australians answer basic questions such as living their best possible financial lives and not outliving their money were among the motives for introducing compulsory super thirty years ago.
What is Schroder’s revolution?
Schroder believes that if his AusSuper teams could understand a member’s superannuation, property, and savings balances, assess their eligibility for pensions and other support, and understand their goals, he can help more Australians confidently enjoy their entitled retirement.
The thousands of financial planners and accountants offering holistic advice for decades might dispute that such a proven proposition is a revolution. They are right.
But Schroder’s revolution is less about an advice proposition and more about a tipping point.
To understand the seeds driving Schroder’s revolution, consider what happened on the day immediately after the handing down of the 2018 Royal Commission Report.
The share prices of the banks rose.
After a year of staggering Royal Commission headlines, bank analysts were pessimistic about banking share prices expecting Hayne’s final report to recommend new laws outlawing financial product providers from acting as advice providers.
Hayne, however, surprised many when he left the advice door open for product providers.
Some observers might say Hayne’s Report didn’t matter as the banks quickly divested themselves of their legacy financial advice divisions to regain needed reputational ground.
Schroder and fellow industry superannuation giants realised that they had a period of ‘free kicks’ to get their amalgamation, digitisation, and product diversification plans in place before the inevitable return of banking and financial groups with new plans to clip into the guaranteed torrents of superannuation.
Giants like Schroder’s fund could not believe their luck when lawyer Michelle Levy tabled the two-year review of Hayne’s report – The Quality of Advice Review – last December.
Since Hayne’s report, the headlines had inflamed a ‘guilty-till-proven-innocent’ compliance sentiment that effectively strangled the delivery of financial advice, sent the cost of advice soaring, and forced some good advisers into retirement.
Ms Levy’s “good advice” recommendation was manna from heaven for giants like Schroder.
The government took six months before giving the ‘good advice nod’ to Schroder’s giants. It has paused seeking more consultation before agreeing “good advice” is a fit and proper offering from the banks, insurance groups and others.
Schroder’s momentum was building.
Last week’s APRA/ASIC report was possibly too good a catalyst to announce the market has reached a logical tipping point – his revolution.
What could possibly go wrong?
Ask Justice Hayne.
Hayne summarised his Royal Commission findings in one word – Greed.
The consequences of advice from a product-based provider will always be a product.
However, the consequences Australians seek from advice are trust, confidence and a secure financial path.
All of these are compromised when conflicts are present.
Schroder may aim to serve the greater good of all advice seekers.
The reality is that he and all financial product providers are fundamentally conflicted.
They have never made a cent providing advice.
They have made billions providing products.
Therein lies the perennial problem at the heart of the delivery of financial advice that Australians deserve – greed – the greatest of all our sins.
Greed twists everything – the systems, paradigms, narratives, power and even legislation that continues to prioritise the interests of the providers of financial services above those they are meant to serve.
It’s not fair.
Australians deserve much better.
Possibly even a revolution that separates financial advice from financial products.
What do you reckon?
Photo credit: shutterstock_721905709
ABOUT JIM STACKPOOL
For over 30 years, Jim has influenced, coached, and consulted financial advisory firms across Australia. He founded a training firm, Certainty Advice Group, to coach, skill and build advisory firms delivering comprehensive, unconflicted advice with fees priced purely on client value. He has grown a solid and collaborative community of advisory firms aligned to his firm’s comprehensive advice model – Certainty Advice – Australia’s only Certification Mark accredited by ACCC and IP Australia for impartial financial advice. He presents at conferences, has judged professional advice awards, written industry white papers, chaired practice management curriculums for tertiary institutions, and authored four books on financial advice – his latest – What Price Value – was released in March 2022.