Last week the FSC and the SMSF Association hosted the inaugural Women, Super and Wealth Summit at Sydney's Sofitel hotel, gathering the industry together to share thought-provoking ideas and startling figures about women's financial wellbeing. This week, Industry Moves spoke with FSC CEO, Sally Loane, and outgoing managing director and CEO of the SMSF Association, Andrea Slattery, about the highlights of the summit, the importance of mentorship and their key pieces of financial advice for women and girls.
Pictured: Andrea Slattery (left) and Sally Loane
Q&A with Sally Loane and Andrea Slattery
What initially attracted you to the world of finance?
Sally: After graduating from university I worked in the media as a journalist and broadcaster for 25 years, three of those in the Canberra press gallery. I was always attracted to politics and business issues. I introduced a wide range of business people and business stories to my audience when I hosted the Morning program on 702 ABC Sydney for 5.5 years. It was very different for the program. At Coca-Cola Amatil I spent nine years in the CEO’s executive team as Director of Media and Public Affairs. I wrote the company’s first ESG report in 2006 and produced them every 18 months. I was headhunted into my current role, CEO of the Financial Services Council. I was very attracted to the diverse portfolio of businesses in the FSC membership - superannuation, life insurance, funds management, trustee companies and advice. It was a steep learning curve, but I’ve always been up for a challenge.
Andrea: Working in an Adelaide accounting practice in the mid-1990s, I was introduced to self-managed super funds (SMSFs). From the beginning, I was strongly attracted to the concept of people taking control of their retirement savings and decided to make SMSFs the focus of a range of professional services in my professional life. I became recognised as one of the leaders in SMSF and tax advice in Australia, and, in 2002, established my own business consulting practice, specialising in setting up SMSFs and giving financial advice. From the outset, I could see that it was a viable and exciting business opportunity and I knew it would be a future driver and leader of national GDP.
Sally, you mentioned that Andrea had been somewhat of a mentor to you when you first entered the financial services industry. How did she help you to navigate your way through what was a new industry for you at the time?
Sally: Andrea reached out to me not long after I started. When we met I found that not only was she very knowledgeable, she was generous with her knowledge. She was also charming, open and friendly – and well-connected politically. I’m not sure whether it was because we were two women in the tough and often divided world of financial services, but we developed a friendship based on mutual trust and respect. Andrea is someone who gets things done. She’s a great role model for women in financial services.
Andrea, when you set up the SMSF Association 14 years ago, what support networks were available to you and what were some challenges that you faced?
Andrea: In 2003, when the SMSF Association was established, there were very few support networks available. The other associations shunned us; none believed SMSFs had a viable future. However, there was support from the ATO who believed the best way to protect the sector was to create an Association that could represent the various stakeholders and play an active role in formulating policy that would not only ensure the survival of SMSFs but also create a fairer and more equitable retirement savings system and build a profession to support the industry. It must be remembered that in 2002/03 the government and industry were introducing legislative changes that would eventually ‘squeeze out’ and abolish SMSFs as most had a strong belief that SMSFs were generally non-compliant. But I saw it as an opportunity to build a genuine profession through education, professional standards and recognition of excellence through accreditation programs. Today, it is the largest superannuation sector with about $675 billion in FUM, about 1.1 million members and nearly 600,000 funds.
Do you think mentorship is important to succeed in this industry? And do you think women are more inclined to seek mentorship than their male counterparts?
Sally: In my view, mentors are sought equally by men and women. I have worked from time to time as a professional mentor for McCarthy Mentoring, mainly for women in the business sector. I believe in it - it works - and I think it’s essential in all sectors, but probably even more so for women in financial services, as there are still so few in senior management positions. As well as mentors, women need champions to help open doors.
Andrea: I have a strong belief that mentoring is critical for women to achieve success in this industry. But whether women are more inclined to seek a mentor than their male counterparts is a difficult question to answer. What I can say is that I have a passion for mentoring and inspiring others, and throughout my career I have mentored across a range of professions (including sport) to help people achieve personal and professional goals. I have particularly spent time mentoring women through the SMSF Association and membership where we have an enviable record of them filling senior and Board positions.
Last week the SMSF Association and the FSC hosted the Women, Super and Wealth Summit. We heard from some very interesting speakers who offered great insight on the issue of the financial gender gap. In your opinion, what was one of the most enlightening comments/ideas made at the summit?
Sally: Annabel Spring (Group Executive Wealth Management, CBA) made a powerful economic argument for gender pay and super parity. She told us that if women were paid equally to men, the economy would benefit by $160 billion a year, and if women retired with the same super as men, this would add another $455 billion into superannuation funds. Holly Ransom told us that the super gap starts when men and women are in their 20s, and of course, keeps widening from there. I also liked what Yarra Capital Management’s chairman Mark Burgess said about men needing to ensure they don’t set women up to fail by promoting them over males, then leaving them to deal with disgruntled teams. Sam Mostyn and Diane Smith-Gander, both successful and prominent NEDs, made powerful arguments for quotas, not just targets, for getting women into senior roles and on boards.
Andrea: There was no shortage of enlightened thinking and inspirational ideas to emerge from the Women, Super and Wealth Summit. But for me what best encapsulated what the day was all about was Craig Banning, who is CEO of Navwealth Group. Craig spent considerable time telling his co-panellists and the audience about the critical importance for the financial planning industry to engage husbands and wives as equals when devising their wealth management and superannuation strategies. It must be a partnership. Yet he was honest enough to say that when his wife first discussed with him going into business as a florist he dismissed the idea out of hand. Impractical. Unprofitable. What he failed to understand was that it was his wife’s passion, that its commercial success was of secondary importance to her fulfilling a lifelong dream. As he said, he needed to listen to her, to understand that this dream was very important to her. It was a very poignant note of which to end the session. As the facilitator, Diane Smith-Gander said, “I don’t think anyone can top that.”
"As well as mentors, women need champions to help open doors." - Sally Loane
It’s obvious that you’re both extremely passionate about educating women and girls about the financial world. What would your key piece of advice be for those who may not be totally engaged with their super fund(s)?
Sally: Talk to girls (and boys) about super and the magic of compound interest from the moment they get their first paid job, even if it’s babysitting at school. Test their knowledge about super – do they know what it’s for; did they choose their fund; do they know what fund they’re in, do they know if they’ve got more than one fund; do they know what fund managers do. If they don’t, make learning easy – send them links and videos; apps to download, let them know about exciting new savings products available for their generation on apps. Communicate with them on their digital platforms, via social media. Remind them super is their money, for their future – they have the power to control it. Tell them that they didn’t let their employer choose their bank when they started their job, so why would they let their employer choose their super fund? Show them how compound interest works.
Andrea: My over-riding piece of advice would be to employ a recognised specialist advisor. Having a competent and experienced advisor, armed with the right qualifications, giving you full and frank advice about your superannuation is imperative. It’s not just super. This advisor would be responsible for advising you on all aspects of your financial well-being, from personal and family, to tax, to business advice and right through to wealth generation, estate planning and superannuation.
What are your goals over the next twelve months?
Sally: For myself, stuff as much as I can into super, as I don’t have enough. For the FSC, we want to ensure that we land Super 2.0, a system which is fit for purpose for the next generation. Right now the default system encourages disengagement and ambivalence, it’s unsustainable and unfair. It’s a rust-belt system bound up by the old industrial relations system which can’t innovate or offer competition and choice. Millennials won’t put up with it. The opening up of the default system to choice and competition will not only be great for consumers, it will kick start an arms race in innovation of new, flexible products and services. A couple more work goals will be to complete the next stage of the life insurance Code of Practice, particularly for insurance in super; successfully launch the Asia Region Funds Passport and persuade the Government to lower and simplify our withholding tax regime in order to build our exports of Australian fund managers’ expertise and services; and hold the best-ever annual Leaders Summit in Sydney in July.
Andrea: Having just stepped down from being the Managing Director and CEO of the SMSF Association, I am now looking to build a new career as a non-executive director with listed companies and government Boards, public speaking and senior advisory roles. I believe my experience for 14 years as a managing director and chief executive and my broad director experience over the last 20 years equips me well for these roles.
"I have a strong belief that mentoring is critical for women to achieve success in this industry." - Andrea Slattery
What’s the best piece of advice that you’ve received?
Sally: I learned three things from my three separate careers: check your facts, always; be prudent with costs – ask, will that expenditure deliver positive results; and back yourself.
Andrea: My parents always said ‘The world is your oyster. You can achieve anything with hard work, honesty, integrity and courage, but always make sure you leave the place a better place than when you found it’. This advice has held me in good stead, both in the good times and the not so good times and I have always believed that I can actually have it all and leave a legacy. I hope that I have made a difference in people’s lives whether I ever got to meet them, they are people I work and have in my circle of friends or they are part of my beloved family. My husband has also continued to provide me with that same advice and has supported me in all I do and in all I am.
Other insights from the Women, Super and Wealth Summit.
Sam Mostyn - President of the Australian Council for International Development
"I’m a big supporter of targets and quotas and I know that’s controversial because a lot of people feel that if you’re the recipient of a target or quota that you somehow weren’t the best person for the job or that you lack some form of merit. I promise you that couldn’t be further from the truth. We do need to see women, in equal numbers, on our major company boards."
Martin Fahy - CEO, The Association of Superannuation Funds Australia
"The casualisation of the workforce will impact women. I think as we move towards augmentation we will have lots of work and fewer jobs and I think men will crowd women out of the workplace…changing a narrative is a really, really hard thing to do."
Mark Burgess - Managing Director, Emerging Policy Advisory
"80% of the problem is with men….we need to help and mentor our young executives. There is no point in us promoting female executives and giving them disgruntled workforces to deal with. We’ve got to bring everyone along and make sure that merit, for example, is emphasised."
Annabel Spring - Group Executive, Wealth Management, Commonwealth Bank of Australia
"Women achieving financial security needs to shift from that specialist gender topic to a mainstream economic narrative because it has mainstream economic consequences...I think this conference should exist today because it doesn’t have to exist tomorrow."