Robin Bowerman, Chair, SMSF Association, 2020 National Conference Chair Address

SMSF Association National Conference 2020 at the Gold Coast Convention and Exhibition Centre

It gives me great pleasure to open the 2020 National Conference on the Gold Coast – the first time in the Association’s history we have held this annual event outside a capital city.

I am certain that over the next two-and-half days the program will offer you, our valued members, the chance to gain a far better understanding of our industry in ways that will enhance your skill set, increase your business opportunities and expand your networks.

To my mind it’s an exciting, thought provoking program, for which we have Peter Hogan and the members of the National Conference Technical Program Committee to thank for bringing it all together. It’s a difficult task to devise a program that’s attuned to the trends, challenges, and many changes in our industry, but once again I believe the committee has done exactly that.

The committee, of course, doesn’t work in isolation. They have the full support of the staff under the leadership of our CEO, John Maroney. Let me put on record my thanks to John and his team for their committed support to ensuring the national conference is another resounding success, and, on a personal note, for all their assistance to me over the past six months. And it would be remiss of me not to acknowledge the enormous contribution of my predecessor, Professor Deborah Ralston. Thanks Deb.

Deb’s term as chair was due to end at this conference but as most of you will be aware, she was appointed to the Retirement Income Review panel and it was important for her to step aside to avoid any perceived conflicts of interest. In the interim, I have happily been holding the reins, but going forward Andrew Hamilton will be the new chair of the Association. Many of you will know Andrew – indeed, this will be his second stint leading the board – and I am sure you share my sentiment that the chairmanship of the Association could not be in better hands.

Let me also thank our partners of this year’s event. I know our CEO, John Maroney, will acknowledge their contribution in more detail in his address on Friday. Suffice for me to say this event could not happen without their support, and I urge every one of you to spend time in the exhibition speaking to them.

I also need to thank the Minister for Superannuation, Financial Services and Financial Technology, Senator Jane Hume, and the Shadow Assistant Treasurer and Shadow Minister for Financial Services, Stephen Jones, for taking time out of their busy schedules to address the conference. At a time of enormous change in our industry it is always good to hear from our legislators.

Which brings me to the central theme of my address.

Members don’t need me to remind them just how much change has happened in the past four years. If a starting point is required, then it’s the 2016 federal Budget and the subsequent legislation that took effect on 1 July 2017. I can still vividly remember attending some of the Technical Day sessions in 2017 as specialist members struggled to come to grips with the complexities of the changes.

Since then we have a Productivity Commission report on competition and efficiency in superannuation, the 2018 ASIC Report 575 that raised some serious questions about the quality of SMSF advice, the Labor Party’s proposal to remove the refundability of excess franking credits, the development of the FASEA education and ethical standards, and the legislation that is flowing from the Financial Services Royal Commission. And all this has happened in full public gaze.

It’s little wonder that SMSF specialists look harried.

No one can contest the enormity of the change, and the demands, some unfair, that it has placed on our industry. A glass half empty would seem a fitting description of the outlook for the industry.
But I would beg to differ. I think that very much where we find ourselves today is a glass half full.

Why my cautious optimism? I think it’s very easy during times of significant and structural change to lose sight of the long term, to become subsumed in the urgency of the day-to-day.
What I would urge members to do is to remember the Association’s mission – to lead the professionalism, integrity and sustainability of the SMSF sector.

We have done this since our founding in 2003, and it’s exactly why, I would argue, that much of the change, difficult as it is to negotiate at times, will put our industry on a far more professional and sustainable basis. In this environment, SMSF specialists, who have always been at the cutting edge of professional SMSF advice, will be the beneficiaries of this brave new advice world.

So, while the change our industry is currently experiencing is generating head winds, in the long term the changes that are aimed at raising ethical and professional standards across our industry will provide a strong tail wind.

This is not to argue that all the change that is currently envisaged will necessarily benefit our industry. I believe your Association has established a good track record in identifying threats that we believe will be detrimental to the well-being of the sector and advocating strongly on your behalf for those threats to be amended or abandoned.

But the broad thrust of the changes is aimed at raising standards across the industry, and I am convinced that SMSF specialists, those aiming to deliver the highest professional standards for the ultimate benefit of their clients, will not just survive but flourish in such a regulatory, legislative, and educational framework.

Last night we had our first awards function to celebrate our first cohort of new Fellows. The Board decided that it was the right time in the Association’s history to recognise those specialists who had joined the Association in the early years and who had occupied leading roles in the SMSF sector for more than 15 years. Please join with me in congratulating the first cohort of Fellows whose names are being shown on the screen.

In future, the Board will invite applications for Fellowship from all specialists who have more than 15 years of membership and meet the specified selection criteria.

We also provided the Chair’s award to Peter Crump, the CEO’s award to Craig Day and the highest achievement in the SSA and SSAud exams to Philip Broderick and Lu Huang, respectively.

Let me conclude by saying that it has been a privilege and a pleasure to be Chair of the Association for the past six months.

My thanks to my fellow directors for all the support they have given me. It has certainly made my task that much easier. Let me introduce all our directors, so members will know who they are and can speak to them during the conference. Andrew Hamilton – Vice Chair, Robyn FitzRoy, Liam Shorte, Bernie Ripoll, Tracey Scotchbrook, Michael Houlihan and Scott Hay-Bartlem.

Pictured (left to right) Andrew Hamilton, Robyn FitzRoy, Liam Shorte, Hon Bernie Ripoll, Tracey Scotchbrook, Michael Houlihan and Scott Hay-Bartlem.

Finally, to our members, please enjoy the conference. We have got off to an excellent start with this morning’s Thought Leadership Breakfast, and I am confident the rest of the program will be just as compelling.

It is now my pleasure to introduce our special guest speaker, Senator the Honourable Jane Hume, Assistant Minister for Superannuation, Financial Services and Financial Technology. Please welcome Senator Hume to the podium.

Robin Bowerman, Chair,
SMSF Association