Lynda Cross (left) and Vicki Doyle

Super funds have a hard-won race ahead of them to win the hearts and minds of members as they step further into the world of dishing out financial advice to members.

The Quality of Advice Review sought to address the accessibility and affordability of advice, while Minister of Financial Services Stephen Jones wants to reduce the cost of advice as he gives new liberties to super funds to dish out advice.

Recent advice by digital advice provider, Otivo, found that while 84 per cent of Australians trust their super fund, only one third have researched the advice their super fund can offer them.

Meanwhile, research from Aware Super on 100,000 of their own members found that those who received advice had an average of $150,000 more in super at retirement and reported two and a half times more voluntary tax-efficient super contributions than non-advised members.

But while the QAR reforms present a massive opportunity for funds to up their services, it’s well-known that not at all funds are confident in taking on the responsibility, instead preferring to focus on investment.

Funds have grappled with fulfilling obligations under the Retirement Income Covenant to develop a retirement income solution to members, as well as maintaining a competent level of member services.

The pecking order

The path funds take to implementing financial advice will be another important differentiator between funds for members, though most funds are elbow-deep in a digital transformation that includes tools that help members answer their online questions via the fund’s website.

This digital-first strategy as a means of reaching more of their members in an affordable way follows years of rapid industry growth and consolidation as large super funds realise they can’t get by with a handful of their own in-house advisers.

UniSuper has revealed it wants to become a home for advice professionals as it sets out to grow its financial advice footprint. While it already has a sizeable adviser workforce of about 160 full-time equivalents able to offer varying levels of financial advice to its members.

Cbus, meanwhile, says it will focus on members with lower balances and those forced into early retirement due to injury who cannot afford to pay for comprehensive financial advice.

“Our members typically have relatively straight-forward needs, and would benefit from simple answers to simple questions, however, there continues to be a gap between what super funds can help them with, and comprehensive financial advice,” Cbus head of advice, Lynda Cross says.

Advice for all

Rest established an internal team of financial advisers in 2017, with digital tools for members launched around that time, too.