The outgoing chair of an industry fund has called for more trustees to put member interests first, backing the prudential regulator’s focus on fund mergers as necessary to weed out underperformers.
In a statement, Equipsuper chair Andrew Fairley – who will step down from his position on 30 June after 12 years with the fund – said trustees should embrace “logical mergers” where they were in the best interests of members.
“It is a fundamental duty of all trustees to put members’ interests ahead of their own interests. I don’t think that that is always the case,” Mr Fairley said.
He added that APRA’s recent focus on fund underperformance had been “very helpful” in empowering members to make informed decisions about moving funds, and this would be further bolstered by the application of an outcomes test in conjunction with the government’s incoming reforms.
“APRA’s traffic light approach is very helpful. The more disclosure of underperformance, the better informed the sector is and consequently members become,” Mr Fairley said.
“Members must have the ability to vote with their feet where they are part of an underperforming fund.”
Mr Fairley encouraged trustees to look at innovative ways to share resources, following Equip’s 2019 partnership with Catholic Super that had seen the two funds create a shared trustee, Togethr Trustees.
Equip and Catholic Super chief executive Scott Cameron said in his years with the fund, Mr Fairley had also pioneered a skills-based approach to trustee board selection, through undertaking a skills matrix for the Equip board and insisting all new board members possess the required skills.
“Andrew’s leadership has been integral to our growth and success,” Mr Cameron said.
“He has ensured a skills-based professional approach for the trustee that has created better retirement outcomes. Beyond Equip and Catholic Super, he has been a guiding force across the industry.”
Mr Fairley, who would continue in his role as industry director at AFCA following his resignation from Equip, said the fund was on track to achieving better scale and member outcomes as a result of its strong leadership.
“We believe that we can achieve $50 billion in funds under management and up to 300,000 members by being agile, innovative, having a strong skills-led board, and with consistent investment capabilities which are proven over time,” he said.
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