Aware Super's retirement solution

By Penny Pryor

Aware Super's head of retirement segment Jacki Ellis says she has "fallen in love" with the challenge of solving the retirement problem for Aware Super's members.

"You do need to think about it as a solution that we're trying to deliver to members, that they will value, that works for their full personal circumstances, that takes into account the aged pension and other assets and things like that, and also, what it is that they're seeking to achieve in retirement," she says.

The fund currently offers retired members an account-based income stream but is also looking at longevity solutions such as annuities, deferred annuities, group self-annuitisation ie GSAs (sometimes referred to as pooled annuities) and deferred GSAs.

"But one of the things we're conscious of is flexibility will be quite important to embedding those structures. That's been one of the challenges with longevity protection in the past - that they're not flexible enough to really be tailored to suit personal circumstances. And we've just seen time and time again in our research how important that personalisation piece is, Ellis says.

"We're still doing the research, to understand exactly what product we want to bring to market in that respect, but it is something that we are well progressed on."

Aware Super has a head start in terms of the number of members it already has in retirement, managing $30 billion in retired assets for over 100,000 members, and has a unique understating of the needs of retirees.

The retirement income covenant, and its requirement that super funds have a retirement income strategy, is starting to see a shift from the somewhat paternalist approach the industry has had with regards to accumulation - i.e. more is better - to understanding that a "one-size-fits-all" approach may not work in retirement.

"It's such a tendency for the industry to apply that [one-size-fits-all] to retirement, but it's perfectly legitimate for a member to say, you know what, I would prefer to have a low income that meets my needs, that's invested more conservatively, because I can sleep at night, and I don't feel a need to check my balance every day," Ellis says.

"I've literally heard members say that I invest in the conservative option because I then don't have to check my balance every day and only feel I have to check it once a month."

Aware Super is also aware of how important the advice piece is for retirees and also offers members hybrid digital advice to make appropriate advice available to more members.

We're developing out hybrid digital advice tools, which we are really excited about that will really help empower members to understand what it means for them and their full personal circumstances in a way that's really easy for them to access that they can also kind of phone a friend if you like," Ellis says.

More and more retirement is being talking about as a transition, not as a final point in time where your ability to earn money stops. And Ellis is excited by the opportunity the industry now has, with a focus on retirement partly brought about by the retirement income covenant, to reconsider how we all consider retirement.

"I think that there's a lot of opportunity for us to reshape what retirement means for our members and really help shift them away from that anxiety and overwhelm to a sense of empowerment and optimism," she says.