Helen Twose 's Opinion

Personal finance and KiwiSaver columnist at the NZ Herald

KiwiSaver: Moving funds across the Tasman tricky

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Portability of superannuation between this country and Australia seems to operate mostly one way at present.

Since last July anyone making a permanent move between New Zealand and Australia can take all their superannuation funds with them. Photo / APN
Since last July anyone making a permanent move between New Zealand and Australia can take all their superannuation funds with them. Photo / APN

I have been emailing ASB KiwiSaver scheme and also other providers in Sydney, but only faced "no responses".

I have had KiwiSaver with the ASB scheme for just a few years, and although the amount might sound very small, it is substantial for me - approximately $4000.

I moved to Sydney in May last year and wanted to shift my KiwiSaver to my superannuation here, and as per the written letter received from ASB, there are no providers in Australia that will allow transfers.

I am with Australian Super at the moment in NSW and would like to know if there is any superannuation provider in NSW that will accept my transfer from ASB KiwiSaver in NZ.

Technically speaking, since last July anyone making a permanent move between New Zealand and Australia can take all their superannuation funds with them.

This replaced old rules that allowed KiwiSavers to cash up their funds, minus the member tax credit, which had to be refunded to the Government, if they had left New Zealand for good.

This rule still applies to anyone moving overseas to a country other than Australia.

Under the new transtasman superannuation portability rules providers are required to release customer funds but, and here's the catch, it is voluntary to accept funds sourced from a provider across the Tasman.

In New Zealand a number of KiwiSaver providers are now accepting transfers, says Bruce Kerr, executive director of Workplace Savings, the industry body for superannuation funds.

"But the other way around it's become a little problematic," says Kerr.

He says the problem of regulations making it voluntary for superannuation schemes to accept transfers from New Zealand has been compounded by Australian superannuation players being focused on a raft of major regulatory changes introduced there to strengthen superannuation rules.

"We're hearing that [KiwiSaver transfers are] not high on the priority list for Australian superannuation scheme providers."

Workplace Savings keeps a list of New Zealand providers accepting Australian superannuation funds on its website - but Kerr says he isn't aware of any Australian providers geared up yet to take KiwiSaver funds.

I asked the major New Zealand KiwiSaver players who have superannuation operations on both sides of the Tasman, including ASB, if any of their Australian counterparts were ready to accept KiwiSaver funds.

Nick Stanhope, ASB's executive general manager of wealth and insurance, had this to say: "The Australian superannuation industry has been through an unprecedented level of change over the last two years, including FOFA (Future of Financial Advice), SuperStream (industry initiative to digitise data) and MySuper (Australian KiwiSaver equivalent) and is in a period of compulsory industry reform.

"These changes are impacting the capacity to undertake other developments such as accommodating the transfer of KiwiSaver balances to Australian complying superannuation schemes.

"New Zealand's KiwiSaver providers, on the other hand, have more readily adjusted their processes and systems to accommodate Australian superannuation balance into their KiwiSaver schemes.

"There are a small number of Australian superannuation funds that are accepting KiwiSaver transfers and we have successfully transferred members' savings from the ASB KiwiSaver scheme to a complying Australian superannuation fund.

"We offer current or proposed members of the ASB KiwiSaver scheme a comprehensive service that assists with the transfer of their Australian savings into an ASB KiwiSaver scheme account, without charge."

Stanhope's comments were echoed by ANZ, BNZ, Westpac and AMP, which all responded to questions about transfers between New Zealand.

All were able to accept Australian-sourced funds but were not yet in a position to offer transfers to the Australian counterparts with common ownership.

Obviously all KiwiSaver providers will release your funds and a few transfers have been made to smaller Australian providers.

Unfortunately no one was prepared to name names so if any readers have successfully moved KiwiSaver funds to Australia please get in touch.

While unable to speak for all providers, a Westpac spokesperson says there are likely to be cost benefit differences to providers on each side of the Tasman contributing to the different approaches.

"Firstly, transtasman transfers represent a more significant commercial opportunity for New Zealand providers due to the greater maturity of the Australian industry.

"In Australia superannuation has been compulsory for more than 20 years whereas KiwiSaver was introduced in New Zealand in 2007," Westpac says.

"This means larger balances in Australia for potential transfer to KiwiSaver schemes than the reverse.

"There are also a far higher number of Australian superannuation schemes than there are KiwiSaver schemes which dilute the potential opportunity for Australian providers.

"In addition, given the more recent start date of KiwiSaver, KiwiSaver schemes are more likely to be on more modern and flexible systems than many Australian schemes. This reduces the cost of required systems and process changes needed to make transtasman transfers."

So what can you do?

Kerr, whose organisation represents a number of KiwiSaver players, says the industry body has been in touch with the assistant treasurer in Australia about a number of matters and "this is one that is being added to our list for conversation".

"The advice at the moment is bear with us, we're working with the legislators to try and get it resolved.

"In the meantime the money is well invested in KiwiSaver. It is a low-cost product even by comparison to transferring to an Australian scheme so the member is not, from an investment perspective, disadvantaged if their money is staying in KiwiSaver for a bit longer than they might otherwise be comfortable with.

"It became a bit of a hot button because people who migrated to Australia earlier in KiwiSaver's history could withdraw from KiwiSaver and get their hands on their funds and then when this stuff came into play that opportunity was closed down.

"I think the concepts around transtasman portability should be lauded.

"It's relatively new legislation and it was somewhat rushed at the last minute to get it into place and like all good things there are unintended consequences and the industry on both sides of the Ditch is aware of them and is talking with the regulators.

"I imagine in time it will get resolved to the satisfaction of the people who want to do this stuff."

Disclaimer: Information provided is stated accurately to the best of the respondent's knowledge at the time of publication. It is general in nature and should not be construed, or relied on, as a recommendation to invest in a particular financial product or class of financial product. Readers should seek independent financial advice specific to their situation before making an investment decision.

To have your KiwiSaver questions answered by the Herald's panel of industry players, email Helen Twose, helentwose@gmail com

- NZ Herald

Helen Twose

Personal finance and KiwiSaver columnist at the NZ Herald

Helen Twose is a freelance business journalist who writes regularly about KiwiSaver and entrepreneurial companies. She has written for the Business Herald since 2006, covering the telecommunications sector, but has more recently focused on personal finance and profiling successful businesses.

Read more by Helen Twose

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