John Maroney, CEO, SMSF Association 2019 National Conference Opening Address

Presented by John Maroney, CEO, SMSF Association at the SMSF Association National Conference 2019 on Wednesday 20 February 2019. 

Thank you, Deborah for those kind words.

A lot has happened since last year’s national conference. Everywhere we look the world is changing. Globally, geopolitics and financial markets are much more volatile than they used to be. Domestically, we have endured floods and fires, droughts and storms, continued political instability, major reviews and inquiries into the financial system, ongoing changes to the superannuation and financial system and much more.

Watching the program for our national conference being designed and developed is a fascinating process. We always seek to present a mixture of challenging, stimulating and topical issues, which include technical sessions, policy sessions and investment sessions that should help strengthen your professional competence and your capability to better serve your clients. I believe this year’s program has once again delivered on these challenges and goals.

Before commenting on the program content, I would like to thank all our sponsors, without whom this event would not be possible. In particular, I will thank each of our platinum sponsors:
• BT Financial for hosting this morning’s thought leadership breakfast
• CommSec Adviser Services for tonight’s welcome reception
• Schroders for the networking night
• Macquarie for the networking lounge
• OpenInvest for the brand awareness sponsorship, and
• Charter Hall for the closing lunch on Friday

Our premium, valued, products, education and media sponsors are also greatly appreciated for their ongoing commitment. Please make time to visit the exhibition hall and to talk to as many of the sponsors as you can.

Conference Program
The conference program will provide you with every opportunity to strengthen your skills, strengthen your determination and strengthen your resolve to deliver high-quality, high integrity and highly valuable advice and services to your clients.

This morning’s thought leadership breakfast considered what role the SMSF sector should play as the whole super system evolves. In addition to the wide range of deep technical sessions, we have plenary sessions focused on updates on the regulatory environment, challenges and opportunities facing SMSFs today, updates from our key regulators, the ATO, ASIC and FASEA (the newly established Financial Advisers Standards and Ethics Authority), insights regarding barriers to innovation, implications from the Royal Commission and an address from
our Minister, the Hon Stuart Robert MP, Assistant Treasurer.

Threats and opportunities
Over the past 12 months we have seen the emergence of a range of forces, reviews and proposals that could reshape the financial sector and the role within it played by self-managed super funds.

While the global financial crisis was a decade ago, the reverberations of that crisis are still with us.

We have seen dramatic hearings of the Royal Commission and its final recommendations. The SMSF sector was explicitly placed outside its terms of reference but the response from Government to the recommendations will have a significant impact on our environment.

The Productivity Commission had longer to study the superannuation system and its recommendations may have more of a direct impact on various parts of the superannuation system, including the SMSF sector.

The Productivity Commission focused on what would improve member outcomes across the whole superannuation system. This is a concept that we should pay careful attention to. We were pleased that they decided not to recommend a hard threshold regarding the establishment of self-managed super funds.

We believe it is appropriate that all advisers have a sound basis for recommending establishment of an SMSF and only when it is in the best interests of the client to do so. This applies whether the client has a starting balance of $100,000, $500,000 or $1 million. What really matters is the personal circumstances of the client and their informed decision as to whether an SMSF suits their personal circumstances.

We strongly support the Productivity Commission’s recommendation that all SMSF advisers should have specialist SMSF education. We have supported that view for many years and encourage policymakers to implement that recommendation in the near future.

Turning to FASEA, a lot has happened in recent months with the finalised standards indicating how FASEA will drive higher professional standards for all financial advisers. For most SMSF Association members, we do not expect that FASEA educational requirements will represent a major threat, although we do recognise that most advisers will need to undertake some further education.

By your attendance today, you have demonstrated your willingness to commit time, effort and financial resources to your continuing professional development and education. We will endeavour to provide appropriate support to you either directly or indirectly by working with education partners.

So, while many advisers may regard FASEA education requirements as a threat, I encourage those in this room to look for the opportunities that will arise as a highly educated and professional workforce emerges over the years ahead.

Another threat that emerged almost 12 months ago was the announcement of Labor’s proposal to deny refunds of excess franking credits. This issue has been subject to continuing debate in the media and in other forums. We have contributed to those debates, from a policy development perspective, as we believe the policy is poorly designed and it would be very unfair and discriminatory if the policy was implemented under the current proposed parameters.

The current Parliamentary Inquiry into the issue, chaired by Tim Wilson, MP, has received over 1000 written submissions and hundreds of oral submissions at public hearings in New South Wales and Queensland. Many of those submissions relate to individuals describing their personal stories about how the proposal would undermine their retirement plans and strategies that have been built up over many years.

The Association is scheduled to appear before the committee next week in Adelaide where we will continue to explain our concerns with the policy and the potential unfair impact it will have on SMSFs.

New Initiatives
Deborah has already outlined some of our key policy successes over the past year, so I won’t repeat them.
Key new initiatives last year included our inaugural SMSF Expo here in Melbourne in April and our first annual SMSF Week held in November. Both initiatives are part of our broader attempts to better engage SMSF trustees as a key component of the SMSF sector and link unadvised trustees with our specialist professional members.

We will also be relaunching our trustee website shortly. This will provide an enhanced educational facility for unadvised trustees and provide a resource for our professional members to engage their clients through our educational content. We recognise that there is an expectation from the Government, ASIC and other policymakers that SMSF trustees should have knowledge levels cognisant of their obligations and we believe this initiative will help accomplish that expectation.

Further, directly benefiting our professional members, we have trialled a new Technical Research Service to assist members with technical queries and will be rolling that out as a member benefit to all members soon.

We are also in the process of revamping our respected SSA accreditation. We will modernise the SSA by shifting it to a course-based education method, rather than the current single exam approach. This will be in line with the course-based learning that FASEA is pointing to as best practice. We are aiming for the new SSA program to be rolled out from 1 July this year.

On the education front, we are also revamping our CPD policy this year. This will ensure it aligns with FASEA’s new requirements. Furthermore, we recognise that many of you need to meet multiple CPD policy requirements and we will be designing the policy to minimise any burden on you.

On this note, we have a number of special offers around education and CPD at the conference for you. These special offers include access to complimentary session recordings by completing a short survey at the SMSF booth and discounts on Technical Day Series Early Bird Registration and Specialist Accreditations.

Conclusion
Finally, let me conclude by thanking the Board, my executive team and staff and all volunteers, for their support this year and for their preparation for this National Conference. In particular, I want to thank Deborah for her energy and enthusiasm in her role as Chair. In addition, I thank all the members who have contributed to the mission of the Association. Your professionalism and commitment for the SMSF sector are really overwhelming. With such a strong and committed membership base, I am very confident for the future of the SMSF Sector.

It is now my pleasure to introduce the Association’s Patron, the Reverend Tim Costello. Tim is well known in the broader Australian community and is becoming much better known within the SMSF sector. Given the trust deficit that has developed in much of the financial sector, Tim’s words and wisdom are always highly appreciated and I look forward to his thoughts today. Please welcome Tim to the podium.