(Pictured: Debbie Wilkes)
Industry funds have a way to go to reach the probable new standard of one-third independents on their boards. Only 21 (11.0 per cent) of the 190 trustee directors of 20 of Australia’s largest industry funds are independent, according to a study by Industry Moves. UniSuper, HostPlus and MTAA, are the only funds with at least three independents.
The study looked at the 15 member funds of the “Industry Super Funds” marketing group, which was formed to advertise and promote industry funds, as well as five other funds.
Debbie Wilkes, principal of Industry Moves, said the study was the first in a series of reports concerning fund governance. Others to follow will be public sector, corporate and retail funds. The research looks at gender diversity on boards too, as well as the make up of the investment committees.
“It will be interesting to be able to compare the fund groupings on those matters,” Wilkes said.
There is political pressure on funds to have at least one-third of their boards “independent”. This was to be legislated under former Assistant Treasurer Arthur Sinodinas. However, his resignation following corruption allegations has slowed the process down. The new Assistant Treasurer, Josh Frydenberg, may take up the reins on the issue at some stage. Most funds can see the writing on the wall and are moving towards the goal of one-third independents, one-third industry association representatives and one-third union representatives.
On gender diversity on the boards and investment committees of industry funds, the performance is a lot better than with the number of independents – probably better than most ASX-listed companies.
Of the 190 trustee directors, 59 (31.0 per cent) are female and four of the 20 funds have female chairs. There are 21 of the female trustee directors who are also members of their fund’s investment committee.
HESTA (8), NGS Super (6), Care Super (5), Media Super (4) and LegalSuper (4) have the highest representation of women on both their boards and as board representatives on their investment committees. Three funds – Maritime, Energy Super and TWU Super have no women on their boards.