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Financial Services Royal Commission Round 5 Hearings: Overview of week 2 Superannuation case studies

7 mins  20.08.2018

Royal Commission Round 5: week 2, 13 August 2018 – 17 August 2018

The Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry (Financial Services Royal Commission) fifth round of public hearings into the conduct of Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA) regulated superannuation trustees (RSE Licensees) commenced on 6 August and ran until 17 August (though, open findings in relation to each of the case studies will not be provided to the Commissioner until 24 August).  A high level overview of issues explored in some of the case studies considered in Week 2 is below.

 

Context

The Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry (Financial Services Royal Commission) fifth round of public hearings into the conduct of Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA) regulated superannuation trustees (RSE Licensees) commenced on 6 August and ran until 17 August (though, open findings in relation to each of the case studies will not be provided to the Commissioner until 24 August).  
A high level overview of some of the case studies relating to the duties of RSE Licensees and the case study concerning superannuation funds and Indigenous members (Q Super case study) is below.  

[Note: The ANZ/OnePath, AMP/NM Super and regulator case studies, and the closing statement to this round of hearings, will be covered in the next issue of Governance News which will be available on 27 August.] 

Duties of RSE Licensees case studies

The Commission heard a number of case studies concerning the duties of RSE Licensees carrying on from the NAB case study discussed previously in Governance News (see: Governance News 13/08/2018). 
Issues to be explored over the course of the hearings, including in relation to the case studies below, as highlighted by Counsel Assisting Michael Hodge QC in his opening statement to the Commission were outlined previously in Governance News here: 13/08/2018.

Use of member funds for the purposes of ‘political communication’?  AustralianSuper case study

This case study was largely concerned with the use of member funds to pay for online news site The New Daily and with a contribution made by the fund to an industry advertising campaign 'fox and henhouse'.  In both cases, the Commission heard, member funds were used – though neither ‘investment’ returned a financial benefit to members.

  • Use of member funds to pay for the New Daily: The Commission heard that the acquisition of an interest in The New Daily (a free news site) wasn’t perceived by AustralianSuper as being an investment intended to generate an investment return for the members, but rather was viewed by the fund as a marketing tool or 'a tool to enhance the fund's engagement with members' ie both to retain and engage existing members as well as attract new members.  As such, Mr Silk said that it is paid for out of the $1.50 per week member fee (which covers all non-investment costs, including marketing costs).  The use of members' funds in this way was justified, Mr Silk said because it was 'a worthwhile service to provide to members on the basis that it may yield…engagement dividends' (eg maintaining 'economies of scale' by retaining as well as by gaining members).  Asked whether AustralianSuper 'has a view as to whether it can use the fees that it collects to push a policy position in relation to superannuation?' Mr Silk said: 'Absolutely.  We believe we can use fees – member fees to advocate for policies that we believe are to the benefit of the fund’s members'.  The Commissioner asked: 'At the time of the original acquisition, was it any part of the purpose of New Daily that it would act as a voice for or a voice about superannuation and, in particular, industry superannuation?' Mr Silk agreed that this was the case.
  • $500,000 contribution to the industry campaign the 'fox and henhouse': A number of questions were asked concerning the use of member funds to contribute to an industry advertising campaign called the 'fox and henhouse' which Commissioner Hayne characterised as a form of 'political communication'.  Mr Silk said that the purpose of the advertisement was 'to prevent the lobbying effort that was being undertaken by retail wealth management companies, in particular the big banks, to change the default system from a framework that we [industry funds] say provided significant protection for workers to one that exposed workers to significant risks of misselling, cross-selling and conflicts of interest that would have done them significant damage'.  In addition, the Commission heard that a change of this kind would not be in members' best interests as it would lead to loss of existing members and loss of the flow of new members, possibly to funds with higher fees/lower returns.  As such, Australian Super determined that it was in the best interests of members to contribute to the advertising campaign to avert the change.  The Commission also heard that APRA had raised concerns both respect to AustralianSuper's use of member funds to contribute towards the advertising campaign, and with respect to the acquisition of The New Daily, to which Mr Silk had provided the same explanation.

Use of member funds for 'political communication'? 

Commissioner Hayne invited the parties to consider for the purposes of making later submissions, the question of whether 'political communication' could be in the best interests of members.  He said: 'the question, I think, is or may be that payment for a form of political communication directed to the perceived interests of – to what are perceived to be the interests of present or future members – here you arrive at a fork in the road – either is not, in the particular case, or can never be – I think is the proposition that’s being considered.  Again, another fork in the road.  Either is not or cannot ever be in the best interests of members.  That’s one formulation that might be being alluded to, or perhaps the other formulation is not, in this particular case, or cannot ever be, for sole purposes of maintaining retirement benefits for members'.  

  • Board Composition: Questions were also asked about the composition of the AustralianSuper board.  Asked whether the AustralianSuper board had a view on whether the number of independent directors should be increased, Mr Ian Silk said that the board 'is open to that'.  He went on to say that, changing the structure of the board in this way is not the board's preferred position.  Rather the board's 'starting position' is that the skills, qualifications and experience of directors is the 'overriding' consideration in terms of ensuring optimal board structure.  Asked whether the board or shareholders ultimately have power over board appointments, Mr Silk confirmed that the 'board has the clear final say'.

Use of member funds to retain/grow fund membership: Hostplus case study 

This case study largely focused on the approach Hostplus takes to attracting and retaining members and the role of the Trustee in respect to 'inactives, smalls, and multiples'.  Many Hostplus members, the Commission heard, are young and in casual work, and many have low balance accounts (160,000 accounts have a balance below $6000), hold multiple accounts or have inactive accounts (30% of the fund's members hold inactive accounts).  The Commission also heard that the tax deductions resulting from insurance premiums paid by these young members, are an important source of funds for Hostplus.  Further, attracting and retaining members is important to the fund for scale reasons, and since 2013 (when choice of fund and MySuper were introduced) retaining and growing membership had been a key focus for the fund.

  • Clarity of communication: Counsel Assisting Ms Dias noted that the fund communicates with members to 'stop them having their balance rolled over into the ATO where they are a lost member' and questioned the clarity of communication around this, alleging that communications could 'be misunderstood by the reader as suggesting…that they're going to lose their super, it's going to be taken by the ATO' and separately, that communications didn't 'tell the member the information they need to make an appropriate decision'.   Mr Elia said that communication could have been clearer, but denied that it was misleading.  He added that 'it is a – it is a balancing act for the trustee in order to balance out the overall benefits that a member continues to have by virtue of retaining their membership with Hostplus, and at the same time protecting the member’s account balances by virtue of erosion of fees and taxes'.
  • Fees on low balance accounts: Counsel Assisting went on to question whether consideration had been given by the Hostplus board to statutory requirements to 'offer insurance of a particular kind where it won't inappropriately erode member balances' stating that a review commissioned by the fund, conducted by Rice Warner had found that young members were over-insured.  She also alleged that 'Hostplus is reliant on these cohorts with the low balances who are young and not likely to need the cover.  They are essentially propping up the fund with their insurance premiums' (which Mr Elia denied is the case).

Duty of the trustee with respect to inactive, small or multiple accounts: a matter of balance?

Commissioner Hayne asked Mr Elia: 'Are you able to describe what you see as being the trustee's role, if you like, the trustee's duty, in respect of any or all of those groups, inactives, smalls, and multiples?'  Mr Elia responded that 'the trustee…has a duty to act in the best interest of…all the members of the fund.  We’re a fund of 1.1 million members.  So the challenge and the balancing act is to try and strike the right balance between looking at an individual’s personal circumstances, and then setting up the structure of the fund, both in terms of its fees and charges, insofar as it relates to insurance, to strike…that right balance.  And I think that’s the tension at the moment between the trustee’s obligation and the legislation as it relates to lost and inactive accounts'.  Mr Elia went on to say 'we must remember, someone has to pay.  And, ultimately, you have this notion of cross-subsidisation that will occur from – from bigger account balance holders or higher account balance holders.  So I don’t have a – the right answer for you, but these are some of the tensions that not only Hostplus but certainly other industry players continually grapple with in terms of the design of the fund'.

  • Sole-purpose test and use of funds for marketing/promotional activity: Counsel Assisting queried how corporate packages eg payment of $260,000 by the fund, to host employers and other stakeholders each year by taking them to the Australian Open, is 'the best use of trust money'.  'Why do you think employers need to be entertained in this way, to choose or to retain their choice of Hostplus as the default status fund?' she asked.  Mr Elia said that it was necessary in order to build relationships (in order to retain default fund status) and to build brand awareness.  He also said that it was consistent with industry practice, noting that a number of competitor funds do the same thing: 'It is a competitive market out there…We’re not the only organisation that embarks on corporate hospitality, but it’s a very, very important part of our retention program, and we do it for the sole purpose of retaining the membership of Hostplus.  And we have been very, very successful in retaining those…relationships by and large, and we see that through the growth of the fund' he said.  He added that were marketing banned, 'that's perfectly fine by me.'  Commissioner Hayne said: 'I think I understand the points you’re making, but the premise for them is that performance is not enough to sell; is that right?' to which Mr Elia agreed.  Noting that APRA had 'expressed concern' about the fund's expenditure, and referencing for example, spending on internal events for staff, Ms Dias queried whether this spending was justified.  Mr Elia said that spending on events for internal staff (the partners) is justified in the interests of retaining the loyalty of key staff who deliver strong returns to members, and added that the recommendations of a review of spending had been implemented.
  • Merger not possible?  Counsel assisting also questioned whether the fund had 'given proper consideration to alternative means to secure that end, for instance, merger' to which Mr Elia answered that Hostplus had been in 'numerous merger discussions' over the past 20 years with a small fund in the sector but that 'they fail for various reasons'.

The equal representation model/reasons for failed merger: Energy Superannuation Fund (ESF) case study

This case study was concerned with (among other issues): the operation of the 'equal representation model' of governance (where employers and unions each nominate directors) and with the reasons for the failed merger between ESF and EquipSuper.

  • Equal representation model and board skills: In the context of outlining the process by which board members are appointed, the Commission heard that, the Trustee ultimately maintains control over the appointment process, and in assessing the suitability of a nominee.  Mr Wilson of Energy Super said the Trustee would require that the nominee provide particular skills (as per the skills matrix) and meet particular fit and proper person requirements.  This process would also involve, he explained, engagement with the sponsoring organisation, to outline what skills were required, and then engagement with the nominee to ensure that they had the necessary 'passion for the members for the fund' (which he said may not be reflected in a skills matrix) and industry knowledge.  The Commissioner asked Mr Wilson 'how hard, in your experience, is it to administer that [the appointment process]?  And related to that may be how effective do you think it is what you get out at the other end, as it were, of the process?' Mr Wilson replied that 'it's very effective' and further agreed that it 'yields good governance, adequate governance, proper governance of the fund' with 'no holes' in terms of board skills.
  • Reasons for the failure of the proposed ESF/Equip Super merger: The Commission heard that though the ESF board were of the view that the proposed merger with Equip Super was in the best interests of members, the merger ultimately did not go forward because Equip Super ultimately did not agree to continuing union board representation and 'compliance with the [ESF] board skills policy'.  Asked whether there may be 'circumstances where something is in the best interests of members but not be in the best interests of unions' Mr Wilson said that 'It just so happens when we talk about superannuation funds that the interests of unions and the interests of members of the funds are so aligned as to be indistinguishable.  It’s what we do'.  He added that if union representation at board level could not be guaranteed going forward, then it could have negative consequences for members 'what’s going to happen to our members in Far North Queensland, what’s going to happen to our members in Cairns and Townsville. Who is going to service them?' he said.

(Alleged) conflicted payments/reasons for failed merger: Catholic Super case study

This case study was largely concerned with two issues: exploring the reasons behind the failed merger of Catholic Super and the Australian Catholic Superannuation Retirement Fund and separately, with (alleged) conflicted payments and the effectiveness of conflict management systems at board level.

  • Why the merger did not go forward: The Commission heard that despite mutually agreeing to the benefits (for members) of a merger in principle, the two funds were unable to reach agreement to go forward because they could not agree on which fund should merge into which.  The Commissioner asked: 'What does it matter a hill of beans which fund merges into which?' Mr Haysey responded: 'We felt, to protect our members’ interests and given our structural arrangements as I described earlier, that it wouldn’t be in our members’ best interests for their retirement savings to be put at risk, given that the – the policies and procedures that were in place to achieve those outstanding returns might, in fact, not be able to be guaranteed going forward' [ie if Catholic Super were not the successor fund].
  • (Alleged) conflicted payments/oversight of conflicts: The Commission heard that Catholic Super is currently investigating executive Robert Clancy (who has been put on leave by the fund) regarding his delay in disclosing conflicts of interest, namely that his brother and wife held interests in businesses engaged by Catholic Super to undertake various contract work.  The Commission heard that Catholic Super paid $1.5m in contracts and $500,000 in sponsorship money to businesses of which Mr Clancy's brother was a director, and his wife a shareholder.  The Commission heard, that once disclosed, the 'control' put in place to manage this was that the relationship with the businesses would be managed by Catholic Super CEO or COO (not Robert Clancy).  It had since emerged, the Commission heard, that the relationship may not been managed in this way and consequently that it is now under investigation by the fund.  The Commission also heard that Mr Clancy was being investigated over his credit card use (unauthorised expenses of $46,000 over a three year period).  In addition, questions were asked regarding the practice that allowed senior executive staff to incorporate personal travel and accommodation (and other minor expenditure) provided it was reimbursed, a practice which the Commission heard has since ceased.

Fee arrangements/transition to MySuper: Colonial First State (CFS) and Suncorp case studies

Colonial First State case study

This case study focussed (among other issues) on the approach taken by Colonial First State (CFS) to transferring members to MySuper accounts; the continued payment of 'grandfathered' commissions; and the fee model around CBA financial advisers recommending CFS.  In addition, questions were asked about the approach adopted by CFS to engaging with the regulators and around the approach taken, given the 'many hats' worn by the entity, to assessing what is in the best interests of members.  A high level summary of some of the issues raised in relation to the issue of transferring MySuper accounts follows.

  • Transfer to My Super Accounts: Questions centred around the requirement that, as at 1 January 2014, default contributions were required to be paid into an authorised MySuper product.  The Commission heard that Colonial First state did not transfer a number of accounts by the deadline and subsequently reported the breach to the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA).  Over the next three and a half years, the Commission heard, CFS transferred the initial 'tranche' (15,000 accounts) and further 'tranches' of accounts as they were identified, and provided updates to the regulator on progress.  Counsel Assisting questioned the time taken in transferring the accounts and the clarity of communication with members about it, alleging it was motivated by a desire to maintain commissions (an allegation which was rejected by Ms Elkins).  Asked why the process of transferring accounts had not been accelerated as APRA had requested initially, it was explained that the board was 'reluctant' to do so 'because of the operational risk in the business at the time' in transferring large numbers of accounts, rather than smaller 'tranches' due to the other technology projects occurring in the business at the time.  Counsel Assisting alleged that CFS had determined that 'rather than implementing a computer project now to transfer the members over, it would just accept that there would be more offences’.

Suncorp case study

This case study was largely concerned with fee arrangements: the monitoring of fee arrangements, the clarity of communication with members concerning fees and the approach taken by Suncorp to transitioning members to MySuper accounts.

  • Use of ‘tax surplus’: The Commission heard that the trustee of the Suncorp Master Trust, Suncorp Portfolio Services, collects 15% of superannuation contributions which it remits to the tax office.  However, as the trustee is also entitled to claim certain tax deductions, the trustee is left with a 'tax surplus'.  The Commission heard that these funds are not paid back to members, but rather are paid to another Suncorp entity in exchange for a broad range of 'additional services' including administrative and other services.  Counsel Assisting Michael Hodge QC questioned the adequacy of the fee monitoring systems in place alleging that as there is no clear allocation of funds against specific services, and as the 'additional services' provided may duplicate services provided by other entities, it isn't clear to the trustee (or to members), whether members may have been charged twice for the same service.
  • Transitioning to MySuper accounts: Questions were also asked about the approach adopted by Suncorp to transitioning clients to MySuper accounts, Counsel Assisting alleging that Suncorp delayed transitioning clients to maintain commissions, and encouraged advisers to 'take steps [contact their clients to make an investment decision] that will maintain grandfathered commission[s]'.  Though agreeing that clients were transitioned over the 9-19 June period (ie close to the deadline for transitioning clients), Suncorp disagreed with the allegations.

Dual regulated entity (DRE) structure – acting in the best interests of members: IOOF case study

Among the issues explored in this case study were (alleged) conflicts of interest arising from the structure of IOOF group, and more particularly the DRE structures within the group, the commission exploring with the IOOF witnesses a number of examples of instances in which it was alleged that profit interests had (allegedly) outweighed the best interests of members.  The approach taken to managing and rectifying the over-distribution of funds from Questor to members, the reporting of the issue to APRA and the communication to members regarding the issue, was explored in some detail. 

  • Use of the ‘general fund’ to compensate members:  The Commission heard that an asset had mistakenly been recorded as income, and that Questor had distributed it to the then unit holders in 2009.  In 2011, the issue was identified, whereupon it was determined that Questor would reduce the distributions to be made to members over the next three years to recover the funds (including the distributions to members who had joined the fund after the error had been made and who therefore received no benefit from the over-distribution).  The Commission heard that no consideration was given to the option that Questor replenish the funds itself.  Questions were asked as to how the decision to take this approach had been made, Counsel Assisting Michael Hodge QC alleging that Questor acted without prior approval by the board.  IOOF CEO Mr Kelaher was also asked whether there 'was any issue with Questor as RSE licensee sitting by and allowing itself, as a responsible entity…to reduce the distributions for three years' which Mr Kelaher denied was the case.  Mr Hodge went on to allege that 'before the whistleblower notification [concerning the reduced distribution] it had been intended to wait until the end of the three-year period before doing the further assessment of the impact on members and proposed compensation', which Mr Kellaher also denied was the case.  
    Ultimately, the commission heard that members were paid (in part) out of the ‘general reserve’ of the superannuation fund (which Mr Kelaher maintained is ‘not an asset of the members’).  ‘You’ve used the members’ money, which is the reserve, to pay the members?’ Mr Hodge asked.  ‘No, we’ve used the general reserve to compensate members’ Mr Kelaher responded.  When asked subsequently whether members would expect that the money be paid by Questor (not taken out of general fund), Mr Kelaher said that that would be one interpretation.
  • Communication with members: Questions were asked concerning the level of oversight and reporting of the issue, and also about the clarity of communication to members.  The Commission heard that members were informed that ‘we identified an historical distribution error that resulted in income being credited to your CMA at a lower rate than it should have been’.  Counsel Assisting alleged that this was misleading given that it was decision, not an error.  Mr Kelaher agreed that ‘on subsequent inspection’ the communication could have been more precise, adding ‘I’m not sure what turns on it’ on the basis that ultimately members were in his view, compensated.
  • APRA’s expectation that trustees act in the best interest of members: The Commission also heard that APRA had raised concerns about the approach taken to managing and rectifying the issue, stating that its expectation was that Questor, ‘immediately replenish the super funds general reserves utilising funds from Questor as responsible entity’.  Asked to comment on IOOF’s response to APRA Mr Kelaher maintained that in his view, in circumstances such as this, Questor was obliged to balance the interests of members of the fund against the interests of members of managed investment schemes of which it is responsible entity.  Mr Hodge said that this was not the case, noting that APRA had had challenged this view, and more particularly had said that there was no need to ‘engage in this balancing exercise’ ie that the interests of members must be paramount.  Asked whether he accepted that this was the case, Mr Kelaher said that he ‘accepted APRA’s position is final’.
  • Dissolving the Dual Regulated Entity (DRE) structure? The Commission heard that APRA had raised concerns more generally with respect to the structure and governance at IOOF and had ‘insisted’ that the dual class structure should be dissolved. Mr Kellaher said that the board had considered APRA’s request at a recent board meeting and had resolved to appoint an independent chair to the trustee board, and to add an independent director.  Commenting on concerns raised by APRA, Mr Kelaher said that the board does not 'share the view of APRA that there are legitimate concerns about these structures’ adding that 'it’s [the structure] a matter of indifference.  These structures had – had evolved over time and were sort of de rigueur 10 years ago.  Maybe they weren’t appropriate any further.  And – so I guess in the current environment, it was seen as that that was the preferred structure.  We [the board] really don’t have any – any particular barrow to push in that'.

Superannuation funds and Indigenous members

Context/issues to be explored

This case study concerned the treatment of Indigenous people and superannuation.  In introducing the case study, Counsel Assisting Rowena Orr QC noted that it follows on from evidence that was given in the previous round of hearings (see: Governance News 09/07/2018; 16/07/2018) concerning dealings between Indigenous people living in regional and remote communities and financial service providers.  
Ms Orr then went on to outline some of the major barriers some Indigenous people face in engaging with, and accessing, their retirement savings including (among others): geographical location (isolation), identification issues (lack of flexibility in current identification systems), language barriers (as English is often not a first language); limited financial literacy (in some cases); and issues arising from lack of recognition of kinship obligations.  Ms Orr said that despite 'increasing recognition' of some of these issues — including the establishment of the Indigenous Superannuation Working Group, the release by AUSTRAC of updated guidance in relation to the customer identification of people of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander background, and the Big Super Day Out event — the Commission had heard evidence (during the last round of hearings) that these barriers continue to prevent a number of Indigenous people from accessing their superannuation entitlements to an extent, because knowledge/recognition of policies agreed by industry are not necessarily well understood or implemented at every level.

Proactive program of engagement/possible ways to improve access and engagement: Q Super case study

Q Super representative Lyn Melcer described to the Commission her visits to remote communities with Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) Indigenous Outreach Officer Nathan Boyle stating that the visits enabled her to better understand some of the issues (eg barriers to proving identity (among other issues)) at play.  
Ms Melcer said: 'I thought we treated – as in our industry, treated all our members equally because we had exactly the same rules for everyone.  What Lockhart River showed me was that although that might be right, not everybody starts in the same place'.  Ms Melcer when on to give details of a number of examples of the issues she had witnessed on her visits to remote communities, and the improvements to processes used by funds that had been implemented as a result eg implementation of more flexible AUSTRAC guidance on confirmation of identity and simplifying communication to help ensure it is better understood by members (among other measures).   Asked whether the 'proactive program' described was an 'impost' on QSuper, Ms Melcer said that it was not and went on to say that she regarded it as an obligation to take the 'additional' steps to assist members to access/engage with the fund.  'As a superannuation fund it – money has to be paid into a superannuation fund.  People have no choice about superannuation, they need to go somewhere.  So clearly we’re obligated to make sure that people can get the money when they need it.  In the situations we’re talking about, particularly in remote and far remote communities, they need their money.  So of all the people who probably need it, this is the category of member who needs to be able to access it.  And it is our systems, as in the industry systems, that we’ve made it difficult for people.  So it is also incumbent upon us to help everybody work through the systems we’ve created, in my personal view' she said.
Asked about possible ways to improve the experience of vulnerable people in remote communities in relation to superannuation, Mr Melcer suggested:

  • Recognition and respect for kinship structures: Amending the current legislative requirement which only permits a person to nominate their legal personal representative or a dependant to receive death benefits to better reflect kinship structures for example by 'looking at some extension of that definition of dependency to include a cultural – a child who’s adopted under cultural law' she said.
  • Early release of superannuation on the basis of severe financial hardship: Ms Melcer said that Q Super allows the early release of superannuation in cases of severe financial hardship but that this is not universal across the sector.
  • No lowering of the preservation age?  Asked whether lowering the preservation age (in recognition of the fact that many Indigenous people do not live long enough to enjoy the benefit of their retirement savings) should be considered, Ms Mercer said that in her view it should not, 'the argument behind lowering it is because people of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander heritage have a lower life expectancy.  I don’t want to give up on that battle of closing that by saying let’s reduce the preservation age and let them get their money earlier but I do acknowledge that’s the truth and that that’s what happens…So I think that there are other ways that we can do that, we can get – people need to get their money to live as well'.  Ms Melcer went on to suggest that one of the options to be considered might be 'guidance around how we handle total and permanent disability payments and maybe one of the criteria that the trustees and doctors can look at is the life expectancy of the person that they’re dealing with, the distance from where they are to getting health – to see doctors, just to get treatment, all of those things must alter a person’s life expectancy.  So if we can be more broad about that, that would be helpful'.
  • No need for financial services entities to ask for clients to identify themselves as Indigenous in order to improve services: Referencing the evidence given by Mr Boyle and Ms Edwards in Round 4 hearings, regarding the value of financial services entities asking their customers and members to identify themselves as Indigenous, Ms Orr asked Ms Melcer's views.  Ms Melcer replied that she disagreed there was a need to collect the information on the basis that to do so is unnecessary provide access to the service for individual members – 'I’m not a believer in collecting personal data unless we have a reason to use the personal data' she said.  Ms Melcer gave as an example the fact that 'a bank only needs to look at where the money is coming from to know a person is on income support payments.  If they do a bit of extra effort they could put that money into a fee-free account' without having to obtain data identifying the client/member as indigenous.
  • Meeting with members and taking a proactive approach: Asked what steps superannuation funds should be taking to assist vulnerable Indigenous people living in remote and regional communities and other vulnerable members, Ms Melcer said that visiting communities to better understand the issues in play would be 'step number 1'.   Asked whether the superannuation industry does enough to ensure that funds are acting in the best interests of their Indigenous members in remote communities an other vulnerable members, Ms Mercer said that 'the funds can do more, but I think it's because they just don't know' and reiterated the value in meeting with members.

[Sources: Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry: 9 August 2018 – Draft Transcript for Day 43; 10 August 2018 – Draft Transcript for Day 44; 13 August 2018 – Draft Transcript for Day 45; 14 August 2018 – Draft Transcript for Day 46; 15 August 2018 – Draft Transcript for Day 47; 16 August 2018 – Draft Transcript for Day 48

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