Q: You have an extensive background in business development, sales management and investment and strategic advice both in Australia and the UK. Tell us about your professional career to date. How did you get into the superannuation game?
After an early career in real estate sales and management, I travelled to the UK for the 1999 Rugby World Cup and decided to stay a while. I worked as a National Business Development Manager for a property portal during the dotcom boom and then as the London Regional Manager for The Credit Protection Association, which was my formal introduction to financial services.
After returning to Australia in 2003, I was hired by Rural Funds Management (RFM) as their State Manager, Business Development for NSW and the following year was fortunate enough to meet my future wife.
One of my key responsibilities was to run training seminars for financial planners and dealer groups on technical areas such as portfolio theory (how adding a new asset class to a mix of assets affects the risk and return of the whole portfolio). As my relationships deepened, it became clear that advisers were hungry for more advice and information on industry best practice models in dealing with their clients’ superannuation accounts than I was then qualified to provide, so I began investigating tertiary opportunities.
2008 saw the birth of our first child and in 2009 after what had been a fabulous six years with RFM, I took the opportunity to be a stay-at-home dad for three years while completing a Master of Financial Planning. In that time, we also welcomed our second child.
With two young children and no family in Sydney, we were ready to make a move. When the opportunity arose to take up a Senior Financial Planning position in Ballarat I jumped at the chance. This gave me the 360° view of the superannuation industry and put us in proximity to my wife’s family in Melbourne, while enjoying the considerable benefits of a regional lifestyle.
The position at Prime Super came along last year and it ticked all the boxes. It was Ballarat based, drew on my previous experience and qualifications and was with a very well respected and independent superannuation institution.
Q: We are now several months into the COVID-19 crisis and there are signs life is starting to return to normal. There were fears the virus would decimate superannuation funds – what has been the reality?
The fear was that superannuation funds may not have enough assets in cash to meet member claims under the government $10,000 COVID-19 Early Release of Super initiative.
Further, it was mooted that some of these funds could be forced to sell assets in a falling market and therefore would need to sell more assets than normal due to reduced valuations.
Prime Super is a relatively conservative institution and we were not challenged in meeting these redemptions. Indeed, even those super funds that were thought to be more at risk due to higher likely claims and/or more illiquid assets have all been able to comfortably meet the claims of their members.
Although there have been strong opinions about whether the Early Release program was good or bad, at Prime Super we took the view that once the decision had been made, we should make every effort to get the money to members as efficiently and quickly as possible.
Q: The questions being asked by members has likely evolved as the impact of the virus has. What is the main piece of advice you are offering them now?
The main message would have to be that, despite the devastating consequences for individuals, families, communities and the economy, members do not need to be overly concerned about the value and security of their retirement nest egg. Prime Super has performed very well in the good times and particularly well in thi