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Revealing advertising spend not in member interests: AustralianSuper chief

By Lachlan Maddock
2 minute read

AustralianSuper chief executive Ian Silk has said that providing details of the fund’s “very material” advertising and marketing spend to the standing committee on economics would hurt member interests.

While AustralianSuper pumped some $11 million into advertising this calendar year, the fund has refused to provide a detailed breakdown of how the money was spent. But while the fund “holds itself to very high standards of accountability”, telling members how their money is being spent could apparently hurt their interests. 

“The reason we have declined to provide the kind of detail you (standing committee chair Tim Wilson) have sought here is because to do so would be to the detriment of the fund’s members,” Mr Silk said.

“It’s a competitive industry. Funds advertise to retain and attract members…in AustralianSuper’s case, why we advertise is because the fund’s size and scale and how we deploy that size and scale is a key characteristic of how we provide what we think is a good service to members.”

Mr Silk said that AustralianSuper’s advertising campaign had been successful, attracting roughly 410,000 new members last financial year – the largest influx the fund had ever seen.

“Were we to provide details of the success of that marketing campaign to other funds, it’s possible that others might learn from that and in doing so might attract members to other funds that might otherwise have gone to AustralianSuper, and in doing so reducing the size and scale of the fund we can use to the benefit of existing members,” Mr Silk said. 

Advertising spend has emerged as a key issue in the wake of the announcement of the Your Future, Your Super reforms, with Mr Wilson noting that the $172.4 billion fund could soon find itself compelled to reveal further details. 

“A lot of other super funds are quite happy to provide this information, but apparently for AustralianSuper it’s essential to its marketing strategy,” Mr Wilson said.