Workplace Savings NZ (WSNZ) has closed its Wellington office as behind-the-scenes merger talks with the Auckland-based Financial Services Council (FSC) continue apace.
WSNZ, and its predecessor organisation Association of Superannuation Funds of NZ (ASFONZ) founded in 1969, has been based in Wellington for decades, due to its proximity to government and a number of scheme headquarters.
The resignation of long-time WSNZ chief, Bruce Kerr, last year (who officially finished up at the end of this March) sparked a rethink in the organisation, including scoping out a potential merger with the FSC.
At the time the FSC was facing an internal revolt as a number of insurer members staged a walk-out following the publication of a critical report of the life insurance industry by Melville Jessup Weaver (MJW). The MJW review, which recommended a capping of upfront commissions, was commissioned by the FSC.
While several FSC insurance members – including Partners Life and Asteron – tendered resignations in protest at the MJW report, all are still listed as members on the industry body website.
FSC members are required to give 12 months notice.
After almost five years as FSC chief, Peter Neilson, resigned this February with his replacement, Owen Gill, joining in April with a mandate to also head Workplace Savings.
In a note members in April, WSNZ said Gill’s appointment “signals support from the Board of the FSC and the Council of Workplace Savings to work together to strengthen industry advocacy in New Zealand”.
“Recognising that there is a lot of cross over in objectives and membership of the organisations, the time seems right to investigate how best to leverage the resources of the organisation to achieve better outcomes for financial services industry and customers,” the WSNZ note says.
Both WSNZ and FSC reported surpluses in their most recent accounts. After recording a deficit of more than $435,000 in the 2013/14 financial year (partly due to funding the MJW insurance report), the latest FSC financial statements show the industry body achieved a surplus of almost $245,000 in the 2015 fiscal period on member subs of just above $1 million, leaving total equity of about $33,000.
In the year to December 2015, WSNZ reported a surplus of almost $30,000 on revenue of just under $300,000 (including member fees of $71,000 and sponsorship of about $120,000). The superannuation fund and KiwiSaver industry group has cash assets of almost $340,000, the accounts show.