Keeping it in-house: Jack McCartney on UniSuper's financial advice service

Thursday 15th March 2018

Derek Gascoigne

How do you service 400,000 members, across 37 different university campuses, with financial advice? UniSuper’s executive manager, advice and employer relationships, Jack McCartney, tells us about the $65 billion super fund’s in-house financial advice offering.

Jack shares the fund's approach on engaging members - since its inception in 2009 - and the take-up of advice from millennials to retirees, which he says results in the retainment of “90% of members’ funds.”

(Pictured: UniSuper's Derek Gascoigne, State Manager Advice.)

Jack McCartney

Q&A with Jack McCartney, Executive Manager, Advice & Employer Relationships at UniSuper

What sets apart UniSuper’s financial advice offering from others?

UniSuper provides a range of advice services to allow our members to get the help and information they need. For example, we provide three levels of advice, starting with general advice, which is available face-to-face, over the phone or via video call, and it’s at no additional cost to the member. Our scaled advice offering (Select Advice) is fee-for-service, and provides members with personal advice for one or two topics that meet a member’s specific needs. It goes beyond just intra-fund advice, including savings outside of superannuation. Again, this service can be delivered face-to-face, over the phone or in a video meeting. Then we have our Comprehensive Advice offering, which is a full, personal advice service. With this service, we prefer to meet face-to-face initially. We cover a very wide range of superannuation and non-superannuation advice needs. We also offer a review service for both our scaled and comprehensive offerings.

What has been the up take from your members for the financial planning service since you first launched?

UniSuper Advice has been running since 2009 but it’s fair to say that the growth has been significant in the last four years in particular. In that time, we’ve doubled the number of members who have received Select Advice or Comprehensive Advice, from about 6,000 to more than 12,000, and we’ve increased from $3bn under advice to over $10bn. We think this growth has been driven by our complete advice offering, particularly with the introduction just over four years ago of our on-campus consultants—who provide information and general advice to members on university campuses across Australia.

…and has interest increased year on year?

The number of new members seeking advice has increased every year. In FY17 we provided initial personal advice to over 2,700 members and this year personal advice is on track to grow more than 12%. In addition to this we will provide general advice help to more than 42,000 members.

Pedro Marin (Pictured: UniSuper Review Adviser,Pedro Marin.)

Do you have data around what type of members are utilising this service most?

We know that the average age of a member receiving scaled advice is lower than that of our members receiving comprehensive advice. Our comprehensive service is typically used by pre-retirees and retirees as they look to boost their wealth before retirement and make decisions about their pension options.

How does UniSuper ensure that its advisers provide unbiased advice to members?

Our advisers are not financially rewarded for client transactions, rollovers or setting up pensions. They’re salaried advisers who are focused on member satisfaction and providing strategic advice. This is reflected in our Net Promoter Scores, which are consistently over +70 for our advice service. We of course take the appropriate steps to satisfy the best interest duty under law. We also match this with an Approved Product List (APL) that enables an adviser to recommend super funds and products outside of UniSuper. As we are a pure fee-for-service model for personal advice, we are able to recommend what is right for the client, without bias. We advise on 21 other super funds, several non-super platforms, a separately managed account (SMA), life insurance bonds and five external insurers.

Nicky Dwyer (Pictured, UniSuper Private Client Adviser, Nicky Dwyer.)

With around 10% of your members utilising your financial advice service, what strategies do you have in place to get more people on board?

We have several strategies to help create awareness of our UniSuper Advice services among members and engage with them in locations that suit them. We have employees located on campus at our new UniSuper Centres which are now open at several universities, or branded UniSuper offices which are staffed so members can drop in when it suits them. We also have Member Centres in major cities across Australia which are helpful for members who no longer work on university campuses. Our advisers are heavily involved in our 500+ member seminars run each year and we have an engaged marketing team that runs targeted communications to members to inform them about our advice offering. Our website and secure member portal, MemberOnline, also make it easy to contact an adviser.

"We advise on 21 other super funds, several non-super platforms, a separately managed account (SMA), life insurance bonds and five external insurers."

Does UniSuper have a specific strategy for engaging millennials, making up 22% of your total member base, in the financial advice offering?

For millennials, we’re focused on their key moments and helping them make important decisions when super is relevant to them, for example when they’re starting a new job. A large part of our focus is on digital engagement which we believe will do more to engage millennials. Almost half have registered and used our digital MemberOnline service, and the fund engages with almost 60% of millennial members on a monthly basis via email, video etc.

In regards to advice, the general advice and scaled advice services are also used by a younger group of members, which helps to build their awareness of the tools available online and how to engage with us when it suits them. For our general advice phone and on campus services, millennials represent nearly 15% of the 35,000 members who contacted us last financial year, while over 6,000 members under 35 have engaged with UniSuper Advice since it launched.

Damian Brunello (Pictured, Damian Brunello, UniSuper Private Client Adviser.)

Did you consider the option of outsourcing the financial planning service, and if so how did you decide that the expense of setting up an in-house service would be of benefit to members?

Our members value that UniSuper is a differentiated super fund—many like that it’s not open to all and appreciate our close links to the universities. This created a strong case for an in-house advice service, tailored to meet their unique needs. We then focused on streamlining our advice process to deliver services efficiently to members. An effective triage process is critical; it’s important we deliver the right type of advice for what the member requires.

"We know that we retain over 90% of members’ funds when we provide them with advice, and the growth rates we’ve experienced tells us that members value it."

What other complementary services does UniSuper offer to cater for pension requirements of retirees?

We have established referral arrangements with estate planning specialists, tax specialists and aged care placement providers. These services are without conflict—no payment sharing or cross referrals are allowed. We conducted due diligence on the providers and we refer members, obligation free, when we believe a specialist can help.

At the recent ASFA conference, a poll was taken asking trustees and executives what out-sourced services they believed should be brought in-house, with 35.8% of respondents selecting financial planning capabilities. Do you predict that more funds will internalise their advice services in the near future?

We know that we retain over 90% of members’ funds when we provide them with advice, and the growth rates we’ve experienced tells us that members value it. We see a lot of opportunity in this approach, and think we provide the right range of services to suit our members. Given our experience, we feel more funds will follow this model.

Click here to read more on UniSuper's Financial Advice service.

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