At a star-studded dinner at Sydney’s Ivy Ballroom, UniSuper and QSuper, won the two top awards at the third annual Chant West Awards night, but for many in the room, it was Bruce Watson of AUSCOAL who stole the show with an impromptu and heartfelt appeal for the victims of the Nepal earthquake.
Watson, AUSCOAL’s chief executive, didn’t think he’d make it to the Awards last Wednesday night. He was in Nepal with his family when the magnitude 7.8 earthquake struck on April 25. They were trekking up a mountain when the earth started to shake. All his family are safe but their guides suffered major damage to their homes. Having seen firsthand the devastation the earthquake could wreck, after receiving AUSCOAL’s award for Best Specialist Fund out of field of five finalists, Watson took to the stage to ask guests to donate “even just the cost of a bow-tie” to the earthquake appeal.
Chant West founder Warren Chant credited AUSCOAL’s ability to negotiate a suitable insurance arrangement with its insurer OnePath, when only two insurers in the world would consider insuring coalminers, and its attention to members, when announcing the award.
“[AUSCOAL] is very popular with its members, even in the wake of major redundancies, it manages to retain 85 per cent of its members,” Chant said.
Watson says they try to offer members who have been made redundant, as a result of the end of the mining boom, as much help as possible which starts from the day they receive the notice of redundancy.
The other top fund in the category was HESTA.
Of the 12 categories awarded on the night, representing the high calibre of funds and superannuation products available, some had as many as 10 finalists.
The asset consultant of the year, although the first announced was by far the “most influential group in the industry in terms of their ability to influence member outcomes,” Chant said.
Of the five finalists JANA Investment Advisers and Towers Watson were named the best two consultants with Towers Watson taking out the top gong. JANA had won this award for the previous two years.
Chris Bowen, the shadow treasurer, was on hand early in the evening to present the award for Innovation Best Fund, which went to Mercer LifetimePlus. He said that the industry should not just be proud of what it’s done for members, but also for the skills that funds have developed as a nation.
“Superannuation, as far as I’m concerned, has a big future…It needs to be nurtured, protected and developed,” he said.
The Integrity Best Fund award, presented by AIST’s Tom Garcia, went to CareSuper and the Longevity Product Best Fund went to Challenger Liquid Lifetime Annuity.
Before presenting the award for Best Fund Insurance, Ian Fryer, head of research at Chant West, mentioned some of the challenges in the provision of insurance.
“Group insurance has taken a battering in recent years,” he said.
This is due to a greater awareness by members of their ability to make a claim through their fund but also to greater lawyer involvement.
“The end result is more claims being submitted, some of them many years old,” Fryer said.
The three top products in the category were NGS Super, Plum and Telstra Super with the award going to NGS Super.
Member services represent 25 per cent of Chant West’s overall fund evaluation and the winner of the award, Sunsuper, was credited for taking member segmentation to another level.
Investments also represent a significant chunk of overall valuation, at 35%, and the top three funds in the Investments Best Fund category were AustralianSuper, REST and UniSuper. All three are at the forefront of in-house management. AustralianSuper has increased internal management to approximately 20 per cent of total assets, two years into a five-year plan to boost its capacity to do so. REST started bringing management in house as early as 1997 and at UniSuper, chief investment officer John Pearce began to increase in-house management when he joined the fund in 2009. It now has 55 per cent of total assets, or $28 billion, of funds internally managed.
UniSuper – which has an investment committee with five members that have been CEOs or senior executives at major funds management businesses – was the winner of the award.
The award for Advised Product of the Year went to Colonial First State FirstChoice Wholesale Super and the Corporate Solutions Fund of the Year went to Plum.
The two main awards for Pension Fund of the Year and Super Fund of the year both had 10 finalists in each category. The top three for Pension Fund of the Year were Colonial First State FirstChoice Wholesale Pension, QSuper and UniSuper.
“It’s not just enough to tweak the super product – the pension offer needs to be thought through carefully with the target market clearly top of mind,” Andrea West said when presenting the award, along with Jeremy Cooper, the chair of retirement income at Challenger.
The winner – QSuper – has been at the forefront of creating ‘cohorts’ for members based on age and account balance and its approach to pension assets is no different, the judges said. By segregating its members pension assets it has been able to create tax efficiencies.
Receiving the award from Jeremy Cooper, QSuper CEO Rosemary Vilgan said: “It’s incredibly gratifying to receive this for the third year in a row.”
The three top funds in the Super Fund of the Year award this year were QSuper, REST and UniSuper. In this category funds had to be strong in all areas, but especially member services and investments, which represent a combined 60 per cent of the evaluation. Key people, including board and management, also came into the equation.
QSuper was credited for its mass-personalisation, an ambitious project but one that is fast becoming a reality and REST’s stand out strength was its investments. But it was UniSuper that was named the best fund on the night, clearly because of its strong investment capability, but initiatives such as video member statements and good value insurance were also mentioned.
Accepting the award, which was announced by Tony Abbott via videolink, and illustrating the collegiate nature of the fund, UniSuper CEO Kevin Sullivan said: “It takes a lot of people to win an award like this.”
Penny Pryor is editorial director for the Switzer Super Report and Switzer Daily.