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Super funds ‘inherently conflicted’ on intra-fund say Super Consumers

Mike Taylor13 January 2022
Business man in suit pushing against walls closing in

A superannuation consumer group has cautioned the Federal Government against allowing an expansion of the intra-fund advice regime in the context of the Retirement Income Covenant, arguing that it will create superannuation fund conflicts of interest.

Super Consumers Australia has canvassed Australia setting up a function similar to the UK’s Money and Pensions Services, arguing that superannuation funds are inherently conflicted in providing advice around retirement income products.

It pointed out that the Pension Wise service in the UK gives people access to free, impartial, specialised guidance – delivered face to face or over the phone – about pension options and provided a free online tool to help people choose how best to access their pension money.

Referencing calls by some superannuation funds for an expansion of the intra-fund advice regime, Super Consumers Australia said it would “encourage policy makers to proceed with caution with this approach as there is an inherent conflict in allowing funds to provide guidance on their own products”.

“By way of a simple example, a fund in which the average member has a very low retirement balance may justify only providing an account-based pension in the retirement phase on the grounds that this is the best solution for its members,” it said. “This fund has no incentive to inform its customers about other types of products that may help them achieve their retirement goals.”

“This would be a disservice to members in cohorts which the fund has decided aren’t significant enough to develop specific strategies. Without independent guidance these groups of consumers may not look beyond the products their fund has on offer, which may be totally inappropriate for their needs.”

Super Consumers Australia said this was why it saw a strong need for a new model and cited the UK experience with the Pension Wise service.

“Given we are about to start a new market of new retirement income products for people, Australians are going to be in the same position as UK consumers. Equally middle Australians could benefit from a service which provides access at scale to independent and conflict free guidance.”

Mike Taylor

Mike Taylor

Managing Editor/Publisher, Financial Newswire

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David Adams
2 years ago

Well, that’s the problem with this isn’t it? On one hand you have policy in the form of a retirement income covenant which basically requires trustees to provide advice to their members on moving into the pension phase. On the other hand section 99F doesn’t allow trustees to provide collectively charged advice for the simple act of moving from the accumulation phase to the pension phase. What is it to be, SCA? Because you can’t have both.

2 years ago

as the sponsor and overseer of a mandated retirement income system, the government has a duty to all Australians to offer factual guidance and nudges as to a person’s options p, and the generic pros and cons of these, approaching and at retirement. A service such as the UK Pension Wise facility would be welcomed.

But, this should not be seen as conflicting with the existing band now we’ll established product guidance (general) and financial planning (personal) advice services. Indeed, rather than there being a conflict of interest between these elements, these should be harnessed as a confluence of interest – all centred on a person’s best next actions and maximised retirement outcomes.

a truly engaged, committed and visionary government should be focused on this, not continuing to pursue old and irrelevant partisan agendas.