Inside Money

Business writer David Chaplin blogs on personal finance

Inside Money: KiwiSaver to get Aussie super-rated

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Superratings was the first firm to shine a light on Australian super funds. Photo / Thinkstock
Superratings was the first firm to shine a light on Australian super funds. Photo / Thinkstock

Australian superannuation research firm, SuperRatings, is about to direct its rigorous scrutineering skills to New Zealand's KiwiSaver market.

The first firm to shine a light on the numerous and often opaque Australian superannuation funds, SuperRatings was instrumental in bringing a greater degree of transparency to the industry.

Amazingly, SuperRatings only launched in 2002, 10 years after the compulsory superannuation system kicked off in Australia but it has become an influential voice over its decade-long existence.

I vaguely recall the company's launch and its founder, Jeff Bresnahan, was often seen floating around the Australian publishing house I worked in at the time.

SuperRatings, of course, banged on a lot about the high fees buried in many superannuation funds, especially in those offered by retail providers such as banks and insurance companies (as opposed to those run by the, mainly union-based, industry fund sector).

Bresnahan told me retail super schemes are finally producing lower-fee products, partly as a result of SuperRatings, and others, "rattling the cage".

The new MySuper rules, which require all super schemes offering default funds (of which, more than 80 per cent of Australians belong to) to switch to low-fee products, is also having a huge impact in Australia.

But SuperRatings isn't just concerned with fees and performance. Its researchers forensically examine most aspects of super fund life (including life insurance, which is generally offered as part of the package across the ditch).

For example, the firm charges super funds to produce reports that analyse "over 1000 points of fund operations, including a quantitative and qualitative review of growth metrics, investments, administration, fees, member services, advice, education and insurance structures".

In many ways KiwiSaver is a much simpler environment than the Australian superannuation system but SuperRating's experience in dredging through the minutiae of scheme operations should be of value here too.

SuperRating's push into NZ (it also launched recently in Hong Kong) will be headed by Darren Howlin, research manager at the group's retail fund rating business, Lonsec.

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