9 minute read
Superannuation, or super, is a fundamental Australian way of saving for retirement.
The Commonwealth Superannuation Corporation (CSC) delivers superannuation services to employees of the Australian Government and members of the Australian Defence Force. CSC plays an integral role in guiding members towards their retirement aspirations, with a strategic focus on ensuring sufficient member savings and empowering them to make informed decisions.
CSC collaborates with the ANU College of Business and Economics (CBE) to provide university students with a range of professional development opportunities. These include internships, work-integrated learning courses and mentoring though student-led initiatives such as the ANU Tax Clinic. CSC’s engagement with CBE also extends to employer meet-up events, and ongoing recruitment of CBE graduates.
In this interview, Peter Jamieson, CSC’s Chief Customer Officer, discusses this partnership. He also shares his insights on how the COVID-19 pandemic has shaped his workplace, as well as the financial stress being experienced among many Australian consumers.
Q. What workplace insights have you gained from the COVID-19 pandemic?
The importance of providing our staff and customers a safe and healthy workplace became even more apparent during the COVID-19 pandemic. CSC’s vision is to build, support and protect better retirement outcomes for our clients and their families, and an important part of that is investing in mentally healthy workplaces.
I was very impressed by our ability to adapt to changing circumstances. For example, the work done to streamline our processes around early access to super for those who were financially impacted by the pandemic.
Now, of course, we face the challenge of informing and educating consumers about strategies for getting their super back on track, when they’re ready to do so.
We always knew we had a team of passionate and committed people at CSC. The last 12-18 months reinforced this view, as everyone adapted to different ways of working. We now have a much deeper understanding of how each of us works at our best – for some it’s at home, for some it’s in the office, and for others it’s a mix of both. However, our commitment to our clients has remained consistent, regardless of how or where we are working.
Q. Can you talk us through some of the customer-engagement challenges and solutions CSC has dealt with due to the COVID-19 pandemic?
Learning about our ability to adapt, and the passion of our people during the pandemic has paved the way for launching our Transformation Program, which will fundamentally change our customers’ experience with us over the next few years. We are changing how we work, what we do and the tools we use to provide clients with more proactive support. We are committing to helping each and every one of them get to the retirement they want.
The pandemic really highlighted for us the importance of being able to reach our customers quickly and effectively, with the information they need. We needed to reassure our consumers that their super contributions were being processed, and pensions were being paid – that despite the uncertainty in the world around us, CSC was operating business as usual. However, we had to move very quickly into the virtual environment and be available online, via email and over the phone, which made us re-evaluate our digital offering. In 2020, we committed a large-scale investment into improving our online services.
Q. From your experience, how has the pandemic shaped financial stress for Australian consumers?
The pandemic was a genuine surprise, and the stress that affected financial markets had a very real flow-on effect for the Australian people. It continues to threaten peoples’ health, as well as loss of income for households and businesses. It’s no surprise that financial stress, and with it emotional stress, is on the rise.
For us, our key focus is protecting our customers’ retirement savings. During the time of market turbulence, our investment strategy worked as designed. We proactively reduced our exposure to expensive share markets around the world before the pandemic. That meant our clients’ account balances fared better than equity markets during the 2019-20 financial year.
As the pandemic continues to affect many parts of life, our investments have been very robust and agile to manage the risks, and take advantage of the opportunities from these changes. Our investment strategy aims to capture most of the gains when markets are rising strongly, while avoiding losses when markets are weak.
Despite the disruption and uncertainty, our focus on our customers has not wavered.
Q. Can you tell us more about CSC’s partnership with CBE to provide university students with workplace learning opportunities?
CSC has tasked some of the best and brightest from CBE to help research and develop ways to better understand and support our customers.
Recently, through the Special Industry Project (SIP), CSC asked students to research our consumers and develop an algorithm that will score every client on how they’re tracking to achieve a quality outcome in retirement, both financially and non-financially.
SIP not only strengthened our relationship with CBE, and our potential future customers, but we also benefitted from the fresh perspectives of these keen business minds helping us to build a better understanding of our clients.
Q. What were some of the key takeaways for your sector from the recent Federal Budget?
CSC’s news update on the 2021-22 Federal Budget in May highlighted the following takeaways related to super and of relevance to some of our customers:
• The maximum amount of money able to be released through the First Home Super Saver Scheme will be increased from A$30,000 to A$50,000 of savers’ voluntary contributions.
• The Government will lower the minimum age for the downsizer super contribution from 65 to 60. This will allow Australians nearing retirement to make a one-off post-tax contribution of up to A$300,000 per person (or A$600,000 per couple) when they sell their family home.
• Australians aged between 67 and 74 will no longer be required to meet the “work test” – under which they must work at least 40 hours in a 30-day period – in order to make non-concessional or salary sacrifice contributions to their super fund. The existing A$1.6 million cap on lifetime superannuation contributions will continue to apply (increasing to A$1.7 million from 1 July 2021).
The College is always keen to explore collaborations with the public and private sector. Please get in touch if you would like to know more about partnering with us.
Click here for more details on CBE’s extensive range of specialised programs.