#1 fund for weathering market ups and downs3
SuperRatings' Pension of the Year three years in a row4
CEO Michael Pennisi addressed QSuper’s first Annual Members' Meeting on 10 November 2020. Here are his comments:
Welcome. It is great to have so many of you taking such a keen interest in your retirement savings.
I and everyone at QSuper are very aware that we are the custodians of your superannuation savings and that you put a great deal of trust in QSuper to help you achieve the retirement that you deserve. This is a big responsibility and I can assure you that each and every person within the QSuper Group is committed to this.
It seems almost trite to say that this past year has been extraordinary and unprecedented. These are words that have been used regularly over the past eight or so months. As we sat with our friends and families at Christmas in 2019 none of us could have predicted what was going to transpire.
While 2020 has presented its challenges, I am a firm believer that difficult times inevitably bring great opportunity and often, pleasingly bring out the best in people.
And this past year has certainly shown this to be the case, none moreso than the tireless efforts of QSuper members, many of whom are the firefighters, police and emergency services workers who battled the fires in 2019 and earlier this year, our front-line nurses, doctors and health workers who have kept us safe from the coronavirus and our teachers who have done such an excellent job distance learning with our children. To each and every one of you we say a heartfelt thank you.
I often talk about the fact that we at QSuper essentially do three things for you, our members:
In terms of investing, I’m pleased to say that the investment strategy QSuper put in place a decade ago has delivered over the medium to long-term and importantly through the volatile markets of the past eight months.
Our strategy was built on feedback from you, our members. You told us that you are looking for solid performance, less ups and downs, a smoother ride with less uncertainty for your retirement savings and I am pleased to say that this has been the case.
In the year to June 30, our Balanced fund returned -0.3% (for Income) and -0.47% (for Accumulation) against a market backdrop that saw global equity markets fall more than 30%.
This result sees QSuper again reinforce our position as one of the leading funds in the country and retains our position in the top-five performing funds in the country and saw QSuper awarded the investment Smooth Ride award at the recent industry SuperRatings awards.
QSuper has always proactively monitored and managed liquidity to ensure that the fund remains strong and equipped to take advantage of market opportunities. As at 30 June, 2020 QSuper’s liquid assets totalled $27 billion, or 30%, and we boast one of the most solid liquidity positions of any fund in the country and this strength provides us with options going forward.
It has also been a year that has seen us strengthen our focus on sustainable investing with the most visible outcome of this being the transition in-house of QSuper’s Socially Responsible investment option.
Secondly, I’d like to touch on our commitment to protecting our members.
In the 12 months to 30 June this year, QSuper has paid over 7,500 insurance benefits, totalling in excess of $350 million. We must never forget that these statistics are people – they are members and family members who rely on QSuper to provide financial security in their most dire times.
An issue that we are paying careful attention to is the fact that over recent years the number of members who need to rely on QSuper insurance and are receiving insurance benefits is increasing quite markedly. This is an issue being seen across the industry and is an area of focus for the QSuper board with a program of work underway to review the appropriateness and costs of the current insurance suite and to consider the product of the future.
We remain committed to ensuring that our members are well served and receive very good value from their insurance in terms of both cost and level of cover.
In light of the increasing insurance claims we have experienced, we need to ensure that premiums are appropriate and sustainable for all members. We will be writing to all members to advise that insurance premiums will be increasing from 1 January 2021 for many members.
I can assure you that this decision has not been taken lightly and we only increase premiums to reflect the true cost of insurance and to ensure a fair and equitable outcome for members. The details of what the premium changes mean to individual members will be set out in the correspondence members will receive in coming weeks.
When I reflect about our role in protecting members, a significant additional risk I think about is the risk that our members may run out of money during retirement or, as we quite often see, live quite frugally in retirement for fear that they will consume all of their retirement savings prematurely.
To address this risk, we are working hard in the background to develop a product to provide greater confidence to members and to deliver an income stream such that they can have comfort that their retirement savings will be there for their whole retirement. This product has still some way to go before we can share any details with you but it is looking quite promising.
Finally, in the spirit of protecting your interests, the events of the past year have highlighted the importance of ongoing investment in technology and cyber security to ensure that services can be maintained in the event of unplanned events and that your personal details and your savings are protected.
The significant investment we have made in these areas over recent years has served our members’ extremely well. With the onset of the coronavirus restrictions earlier this year, these technology investments enabled us to quickly and seamlessly switch our operations from our business locations across Queensland to having over 95% of our employees working from home.
This was achieved without our members experiencing degradation in services at a time of great uncertainty and meant that we were able to answer calls, provide advice and pay benefits to the standard we expect of ourselves.
Which brings me to the final theme I would like to talk about this evening – helping our members to make informed decisions.
QSuper has always been a leader in providing services, member seminars and advice to our members and our investment in services continued this year with a number of innovations including the release of our new QSuper app.
Over many years, QSuper has been assessed by ratings agencies as being at the forefront of funds in the country in terms of the number and proportion of members that benefit from our contact centre, our expansive regional seminar programs and the delivery of advice.
We are extremely proud of this fact and are committed to not only maintaining our focus on this, but enhancing this for our members.
And this has never been more important. As COVID evolved earlier this year, we responded quickly to our members seeking more advice and reassurance.
In a matter of weeks, together with QInvest we pivoted our financial advisers to provide more immediate, accessible and focussed advice on QSuper. Quite simply, to answer the calls for assistance on QSuper related questions and advice. I am pleased to say that more than 19,000 of our members received advice in the 2020 financial year.
This was not an easy decision and I pay tribute to our people for their commitment to doing the right thing for members and to think outside the square to make this change. As a result, more members will have more accessible and affordable advice on a range of topics relating to their superannuation including, investment selection and switching and QSuper retirement and pension payments.
Whereas we previously delivered 2,000 seminars annually across Queensland communities and workplaces, this was simply not possible under the COVID restrictions and the team quickly pivoted to deliver online investment updates and general seminars. This is on top of the inquiries from members serviced either by phone, email or through our member centres.
In closing, in these uncertain times it so important that we are able to rely on trusted institutions, those that have supported us through the good years and more importantly, those that will continue to be solid and strong institutions when the going gets tough.
And that is the role I see that we play at QSuper – we have been your fund for over 100 years and the decisions we make today are for the long-term benefit of you, our members.
The trust you afford us is the reason we do the things that we do and we will work hard to continue to repay that trust for many years to come.
For over 100 years QSuper has been there for members – in the good times and the tough ones – and today is no different.
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