State Super Financial Services is spreading its wings. The NSW Government-affiliated 160-planner advisory group, which has $16 billion in its investment funds and the country’s fourth-largest allocated pension, is looking for new like-minded ‘partners’. It has also changed its name.
Now called StatePlus, the business is owned by the $35 billion closed defined benefit fund known either as STC or SASS (full name: State Authorities Super Trustee Corporation or SAS Trustee Corporation for short). For the past 25 years it has both provided an unbiased financial planning service to its shareholder’s members and also provided a reasonable financial return. But the members are getting older and the fund is shrinking.
These days only about 25 per cent of StatePlus’s growth comes from STC members directly, and perhaps another 25 per cent indirectly from their family members. The rest comes from various other public sector fund members and retirees. It has about 60,000 clients and services them through 18 offices, the most recently being opened in Perth.
Peeyush Gupta, the chair, and Michael Monaghan, the managing director, held a briefing in Sydney last week to discuss their aims and aspirations for StatePlus. Gupta is best known as a co-founder of IPAC Securities. He is currently also a director of NAB, MLC Life, Charter Hall Direct Property, NSW WorkCover and other boards. Monaghan is a former general manager of the old Lend Lease (MLC), a chief executive of Intech prior to its sale and partner of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu.
While the fund is declining in value, it’s not panic stations. The age of the average client is about 66. More importantly, the firm is positioned at the top end of the scale for quality of advice and independence. About 55 per cent of its planners have the highest, Certified Financial Planner, designation, compared with only about 24 per cent generally. All the others are either in the process of becoming CFPs or gearing up for the courses.
Monaghan said that StatePlus had started dialogues with “a number of other funds” as partners. He also said, with the new office in Perth, it was possible that StatePlus could expand overseas at some stage in the future, although there were no current plans for this.
Super funds, it has to be said, have not made a great fist of financial planning for their members. In the past few years they have tried harder to build their numbers, but fund-employed planners are still a small proportion of the estimated 23,000 total planners in Australia.
NSW’s other big super fund, the $60 billion defined contribution First State Super, has its own planning force of about 60 and has also started to open shop-front-style offices. It would seem an obvious “partner” for StatePlus, along with some public sector funds based in other states.
StatePlus has invested about $50 million recently to upgrade its digital service delivery and streamline key processes, which Monaghan believes is crucial for the future.
“The goal was to be multi-channel so clients can make their own choice about how they want to do business with us either through digital or traditional channels,” he said.
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