New Zealand’s second-largest stand-alone employer pension scheme has entered the Financial Markets Conduct Act (FMC) regime with a head full of steam and under a new banner.
Malcolm Johnson, chair of the recently-rechristened UniSaver, said the almost $800 million scheme is poised for growth – both organic and potentially via mergers with smaller funds – after officially transitioning to the FMC regime late in June.
Johnson said Unisaver, previously known as the NZ Universities’ Superannuation Scheme, used the FMC transition period to refresh the brand with the aim of making it “more member-friendly and to grow the membership”.
“As we grow, both existing and new members will benefit from lower fees and access to different asset classes [that larger funds under management could bring],” he said.
UniSaver has about 8,600 members – up from just over 7,900 as at the end of 2014 – sourced from employees of all of NZ’s universities (bar the Auckland University of Technology) plus a handful of ancillary organisations.
Johnson said UniSaver had recently widened membership eligibility to include contracted university research staff.
“The total number of people employed at New Zealand’s universities is something like 28,000,” he said. “Not all of them are eligible for UniSaver, of course, but there’s still plenty of room for growth.”
According to Johnson, there was also potential for UniSaver to take on board a few smaller employer schemes that may struggle to survive under FMC.
“[Folding in some smaller scheme] is not beyond the realms of possibility,” he said.
Meanwhile, the UniSaver rebrand – which won an International Association of Business Communicators ‘Gold Quill’ excellence award for the scheme’s PR adviser, Michael Metzger – was successfully implemented, Johnson said.
While the scheme trustees originally considered ‘UniSuper’ as a brand, the clash with the large Australian super fund of the same name ruled that out. Regardless, the UniSaver name fits better with the NZ regime, he said.
According to scheme’s 2015 annual report, the “similarity of the name ‘UniSaver’ to ‘KiwiSaver’ is deliberate”.
“It is intended to highlight that – through its locked-in section – UniSaver offers similar benefits to KiwiSaver but with a higher employer subsidy for most members,” the report says.
“It also coat-tails on New Zealanders’ familiarity with KiwiSaver and helps us to promote the university plan as being a similar option – but better.”
Johnson said the FMC transition was relatively painless for the scheme with the shift to a corporate trustee structure representing the biggest break from the past.
UniSaver invests via an implemented portfolio managed by Russell Investments with scheme admin supplied by Mercer and Aon filling the secretarial role.
Last week the almost $420 million NZ Steel Pension also entered the FMC world, filing its new set of documents on the Disclose website.
The defined benefit NZ Steel scheme reported membership of close to 1,200 as at last June, of which 735 were retired. According to the annual report, the scheme has hit 97 per cent of its funding ratio, which is projected to reach parity by 2018.
During the 2014/15 fiscal period the NZ Steel scheme hired ANZ Investments and AMP Capital to run its approximately $125 million global shares allocation, replacing the Russell Global Opportunities Fund.