Fears SMSF trustees will go it alone after financial scandals, as Aussie super named world number two

Fears SMSF trustees will go it alone after financial scandals, as Aussie super named world number two

Self-managed super fund trustees are being put off from seeking financial advice by the slew of recent scandals in the financial planning sector, according to taxpayer advocate group Taxpayers Australia.

Reece Agland, superannuation products and services manager at Taxpayers Australia, told SmartCompany the organisation has considerable anecdotal evidence to suggest trustees are being spooked by recent events, such as the Commonwealth Bank scandal.

“Talking with our member and SMSF clients, they are saying they are scared to go to a financial planner now because of all bad news and they are concerned they’ll receive bad advice,” says Agland.

Susie Salmon, head of superannuation and SMSF financial services at Crowe Horwath, told SmartCompany while she has not seen any evidence of this herself, SMSF trustees are generally more cautious than others with their super.

“SMSF trustees are more wary than other superannuants. They want to make sure they know how their investments are going,” says Salmon.

She says trustees are also more concerned with their independence, and the recent scandals have shown some financial planning institutions have a lack of independence.

Agland says a lack of trust in financial advice may lead trustees to miss out on investment opportunities or products. He says trustees must seek as much knowledge as they can to ensure the health of their SMSF.

“Even if [trustees] are scared to go to a financial planner, they should educate themselves to make better decisions.”

Meanwhile, the fears follow good news for Australian super, as a global superannuation index this week announced Australia as the number two global superannuation system.

The Mercer World Pension Index places Aussie super just behind Denmark in an annual survey of 25 superannuation systems, due in large part to our superannuation guarantee.

Salmon agrees the super guarantee and forced contributions have landed the country such a high ranking.

“The number one reason why we are so big and will become much larger is because we are forced,” she says, pointing out Australia is the only county in the world to institute such involuntary contributions.

“I’d expect we’d be number one soon. We are seen as one of the leaders in superannuation. They [the rest of the world] always look towards the Australian market.”

She also says Australians feel more invested in their super than other countries because the money is “our own personal” money instead of the government’s.

Salmon says because of their strong interest in controlling their own investment, SMSF trustees are key contributors to the strength of the Australian superannuation system.

Graeme Colley, director of technical and professional standards at the SMSF Professionals’ Association of Australia, told SmartCompany he agrees the SMSF sector is a major factor behind the ranking, given SMSFs are the fastest growing segment of Australian super and the funds, on average, hold about $1 million each.

“They are contributing, not only by the amount they’ve got in the funds, but from an investment point of view, they are certainly doing their part,” says Colley.

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