John Maroney CEO, SMSF Association 2018 National Conference Opening Address

SMSF Association National Conference 2018 at the Melbourne Convention & Exhibition Centre

Thank you, Andrew, for those kind words.

It’s a year since I first attended the SMSF Association’s National Conference as a guest and Chief Executive-in-waiting.

It didn’t take me long to realise why this annual event is so eagerly awaited by our members – and why it demands so much attention, not only in our superannuation sector but across the industry, in government circles, the regulatory authorities and the media.

The program is always challenging, stimulating, and varied. It has the right mix of issues, be they technical, educational, policy, or investment, to take all the SMSF specialists in this room the next step along their professional journey – to take you “Beyond”.

It is my pleasure to acknowledge our Patron, the Reverend Tim Costello, who will address the conference shortly. For many years, his has been an insistent voice for a more compassionate, caring Australia, so I am sure he will have a compelling message that will both inspire and challenge us.

Let me also thank our sponsors. Without their commitment to this event, it simply wouldn’t happen. In particular, thank you to our Platinum sponsors:

  • Vanguard for hosting this morning’s Thought Leadership Breakfast;
  • CommSec for the Welcome Reception – “Beyond the paddock”;
  • Schroders for the Networking Function – “Light up the future”;
  • Class for the Final Day Luncheon and
  • BT for the Networking Lounge

Our Premium, Valued, Product, Education and Media sponsors and their ongoing commitment are also greatly appreciated. Please take the time to visit them in the exhibition hall.

Changing times

No one in this room needs to be reminded what a tumultuous time it has been for our industry since the 2016 Federal Budget changes were enacted.

The impact of those changes is still being felt by our industry; indeed, in areas such as estate planning we are still on a path of discovery as to the consequences of the biggest overhaul of superannuation in a decade.

The magnitude of these changes became very clear when I attended our Technical Days and I know the changes will continue to occupy much discussion and debate among delegates, inside and outside the forums, at this conference.

To my way of thinking, these changes explain exactly why “Beyond” is the right theme for this conference.

It’s a clarion call for action, for our members to commit to a charter of excellence that takes them “Beyond” what is legally expected.

By doing so professionals demonstrate they are primarily motivated by their clients’ needs.

It also reflects a key principle of this organisation since its inception, to never accept the lowest common denominator when it comes to SMSF advice.

Everyone in this room has been diligently working to build an SMSF profession because, we know, that at its core, the word profession encompasses integrity, trust, knowledge, and expertise.

This is what your clients expect – and by going “Beyond” it’s what you can deliver.

Improving competence and knowledge takes time; there are no short cuts. But its importance cannot be overstated. Constantly adding to your skill base is integral to your professionalism.

It is what clients recognise and want, a critical element to ensure their trust and loyalty. In turn, this trust and loyalty nurture the client relationship, providing the environment for more informed decisions that lead to better outcomes for both clients and their advisers.

Conference program

As I said earlier, the program prepared for this conference will give you every opportunity to fine tune your skill set for 2018 and “Beyond”.

This morning’s Thought Leadership breakfast, dissecting the issue of a broader role for the superannuation system beyond providing retirement income, set the bar high. I’m confident that the rest of the program will provide equally informative and stimulating sessions.

Certainly, there will be no shortage of issues this year with the Productivity Commission report into the superannuation system expected soon, the Royal Commission which Andrew touched on in his speech, and key decisions from the Financial Adviser Standards and Ethics Authority.

How the Authority oversees the transition to new standards for the advice sector by 2024 is critically important to many advisers in this audience.

I don’t think anyone questions the fact that improving the educational standards of financial advisers is an important reform that will ensure they are well prepared to deliver the best quality advice to consumers and assist them meet their long-term financial goals.

The proposed guidance on “Existing Adviser Qualifications Pathway” is a critical first step in providing certainty for advisers on how they can meet the new degree standard educational requirements by 2024. We understand that this proposed guidance at this stage is only an outline of their approach, with a lot of detail to be fleshed out later this year. We look forward to a constructive consultation process over the next several months.

The Authority’s Chief Executive, Deen Sanders, will outline their proposals and describe the consultation process in tomorrow morning’s plenary session. To find out more about their thinking don’t miss that session!

About the Association

After seven years at the Bank for International Settlements and the International Association of Insurance Supervisors in Basel, Switzerland, I was very excited to return to Australia and to continue my career in the superannuation industry.

The 1.1 million SMSF members with over $700 billion of assets are very important to the broader Australian economy, and command a growing level of respect and attention. As the only organisation representing both professionals and trustees in this sector, we have an onerous responsibility to nurture this sector to the best of our ability.

This means we can never sit still. We take the enormous legacy of the past 15 years that has been bequeathed to the current board and executive team and will build on it.

Since assuming the CEO role, I have been working carefully with the Board and management team to implement the Association’s key strategic goals such as the trustee initiative and establishing new strategic partnerships while also developing new policy initiatives. I am pleased to announce two of these initiatives.

Firstly, we have established a think tank with the ATO, under our strategic partnership, to consider how enhanced use of technology and digital SMSF solutions can deliver improved outcomes for SMSF members. A key goal of the SMSF Future Think Tank is for SMSF members and their advisers to have access to timely and accurate information about their retirement savings to facilitate their ongoing engagement and to be better prepared for retirement. We are delighted that BGL, Class, SuperConcepts and Heffron have agreed to be foundation members of the Think Tank. More information on this initiative will be provided during the regulatory panel on Thursday.

Secondly, we have established a Technical Research Service for members, which we are launching on a pilot basis at this conference. The Technical Research Service pilot was approved by the Board last month, as a new member benefit to begin in April. The pilot will allow an initial group of members to seek technical guidance from the Association’s technical team, with a view to extending the Service to all members during the following 12 months. This is a very exciting initiative for members and more information is available at the SMSF Association stand in the exhibition hall.

While there, please take the opportunity to have a look at some special offers only available to Conference attendees, including a pilot facility to showcase key information from our Trustee Knowledge Centre to your clients via your website.


Finally, let me conclude by thanking the board, my executive team & staff and all volunteers, for how they have gone out of their way to ensure I have enjoyed a seamless transition into this role and for their preparation for this national conference. The support I have received from every quarter has made my transition far less daunting than it might otherwise have been.

In particular, I want to thank Andrew for his diligent and professional Chairmanship and my predecessor Andrea Slattery for doing everything possible to ensure a smooth handover and for introducing me to many of her extensive contacts who are very strong supporters of the SMSF sector.

In addition, I thank all the members who have made me feel so welcome.  Your belief, commitment and enthusiasm, for the SMSF sector are truly inspiring.

With a membership base like this I am very confident for our future.

It is now my pleasure to introduce and welcome to the podium the Reverend Tim Costello.

John Maroney, CEO,
SMSF Association