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Super performance test is driving investment decisions: Chant West

By James Mitchell
3 minute read

Chant West has argued that it is seeing “clear evidence” that the Your Future, Your Super performance test is influencing the investment behaviour of superannuation funds.

In a new paper, the research house said the dire consequences of failing the test (public shaming, member anxiety and existential threat to the fund) so far outweigh the rewards for passing, that some funds would make passing the test their prime investment focus.

“Of the 13 funds that failed the first test in 2021, only two now survive,” it said.

“But funds have a strong survival instinct and quickly worked out what they needed to do to pass the test, with the result that no fund failed in 2022 that had not already failed in 2021.”

Chant West said it is seeing clear evidence of how the test is influencing funds’ investment behaviour.

“We forecast that some funds’ ‘best ideas’ might be compromised, and we know of several instances where funds have not taken up investment opportunities that they would have taken up eagerly before the test,” the research paper said. 

“Perhaps of more concern, we know of several funds that terminated diversifying strategies in 2021 because they had relatively high YFYS tracking error when those strategies (e.g. alternatives, portfolio protection, lower volatility equities, shorter duration fixed interest) would have provided very effective protection in the FY22 investment environment when major asset sectors fell significantly.”
The Your Future, Your Super measure, was introduced in 2021 and is aimed at increasing member engagement, reducing fees, increasing performance, and holding trustees to account for the decisions they make. 
The government is currently reviewing the system and seeking feedback on unintended consequences.

Chant West argues that the current test is that it is so myopic, relying on just one measure over one period.

“Evaluating super funds properly is complex and multi-faceted, and ideally requires a whole range of measures to be taken into consideration,” it said.

“These might include the current test together, perhaps, with return versus peers, return adjusted for risk, and return versus a simple reference portfolio. 

“Each of these measures has merits, but each also has its own drawbacks.”

The group has proposed a composite of two of the approaches: risk-adjusted returns and the simple reference portfolio (SRP).
“By combining these two approaches we end up with a metric that captures their merits and minimises their shortcomings. It also addresses the two key factors that determine fund members’ investment outcomes, namely risk and return,” it said.