UniSuper has grown its financial advice team by almost one-third over the last year and this expansion should continue over the medium-term, according to Jack McCartney, the fund’s executive manager of advice and employer relationships.

As part of this expansion, it is placing more advisers in on-campus locations at a number of universities around Australia.

“We’ve now got 20-odd campus consultants. We’re taking a proactive approach instead of waiting for members to see us,” McCartney says.

UniSuper currently has an on-campus presence at a number of universities, including Sydney University, University of NSW and Australian National University in Canberra.

The industry fund’s member base consists primarily of university employees. This means the average balances of UniSuper’s members are, on average, higher than other industry funds.

In catering to these members’ demands, it has recently launched a separately managed account (SMA) service as its equity solution, and is beginning to work more in the high-net worth space.

“Strategically, it means that we’re getting more contacts at higher levels within the universities, so that’s good from a relationship point of view,” McCartney says.

Moving beyond intra-fund

With a focus on providing more general advice on superannuation and group life insurance, it is also starting to give more non-super advice.

“We’re trying to identify issues for [our members], and as a new initiative this is going very well.

“We’re in a very privileged position and we want to retain that right and opportunity, so that’s why we’re constantly improving our services, including the advice and member services,” McCartney says.

“The other industry funds haven’t quite embraced [advice] the way we have. I think they will…we’ve just seen the retention levels in our fund increase dramatically.

“We’re retaining pretty much 90 per cent of our super pension members through advice.”

The amount of review business its advisers are conducting is also picking up markedly. “To be honest, we’ve probably not been very proactive in this in the past, but now we’re actively calling up members and inviting them in for a review.

“People like that, and they want to see us. So we’ll see a lot of growth in that side too,” McCartney says.

Around 78 per cent of its members indicated they were interested in an annual advice meeting in the most recent member survey, and around 35 per cent wanted to see their adviser twice a year.

This has driven its program of increasing its hiring of new advisers and paraplanners, along with developing its internal resources through from paraplanning to advice.

Driven by a service culture

McCartney believes the culture of UniSuper is a key attributed that attracts planners to the business. “It’s really about a service. Even though people here are well paid, it’s really around providing great service.”

Its net promoter score for first-time member appointments in October was 71 – something McCartney says he hasn’t seen before – up from 14 in June and 55 in August.

“In some cases, previously, the advisers picked up early on that they couldn’t necessarily help the client on this occasion, so the energy level [in the meeting] dropped a bit.

“But we’ve now made it an absolute priority that for every member that sees an adviser, they’ll have a wonderful experience. If they can’t give advice, they’ll give them information or help them in other ways.

He says this helps in creating greater advocacy around the business: “If we provide good service, they’ll come back when the time is right. It’s about building trust.”

In addition to financial advice, UniSuper is now also assisting its advisers with estate planning via a formal national referral partnership with law firm Mills Oakley.

It is also finalising the details of a referral partnership for taxation advice with another mid-tier firm.

“If we can become more of a one stop shop for them, that’s going to be beneficial going forward – that’s a strategic decision as well,” McCartney says.

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