Super, Milestones & Pink Pranks: Q&A with Julie Lander, CEO of CareSuper July 2018

Julie+lander

It's been 16 years since Julie Lander stepped into the top job at CareSuper, and since then the fund has grown from $1 billion to $15 billion in assets and won numerous awards. Julie talks Industry Moves through her path to first becoming a 'believer in super', some highlights of her tenure so far, and the legislative changes needed to address the gender gap in retirement savings. She also hints at a fondness for pranks and a 'special pink wardrobe' - all in the name of raising funds for breast cancer research.

You joined the fund in 2001 and took over as CEO in 2002. What have been some of the biggest milestones during your tenure so far?

The Fund has grown and changed so much in that time. In 2001, it had $1 billion in assets under management and today has around $15 billion. There were about 20 staff and we now have a fantastic team of over 100 people who are committed to making a difference to our members’ lives. Obviously, the structure has changed as we have added teams and individuals with skills and experience not even envisaged in 2001. One of my greatest pleasures is seeing individuals develop and achieve while at CareSuper.

There have been several milestones in developing product, structures and systems as we have strived to deliver strong investment returns, more choice and better service to deliver great member outcomes. Others have occurred as we developed strategic solutions to meet the challenges of the myriad of legislative changes over the years.

There was also the successful merger with Asset Super in 2012 (coinciding with the introduction of MySuper and an office move which made for fun times) that has made a significant impact on the Fund’s continued growth.

The fund, now in it’s 32nd year, has won many accolades. Is there a particular award that you feel most proud of?

Winning the Fund of the Year award in 2011 was extremely rewarding recognition of CareSuper’s investment performance, product, service and governance as the country’s best by SuperRatings in that year. This was followed by Choice Fund of the Year and Money Magazine’s Fund of the Year two years running for 2016 and 2017. More recently for 2018, we were acknowledged again by SuperRatings, with the MySuper of the Year award.

However, it has also been gratifying to have received the awards that have recognised our integrity and long-term investment performance from other ratings agencies. All these awards reflect the dedication, innovation and hard work of all our staff, service providers and the Board. In a competitive market in which initiatives are constantly being rolled out, we have certainly been proud of the fact that as a medium-sized fund, we’ve delivered consistently strong investment returns and quality services, tailored for our professional and administrative membership.

"They won’t remember those crazily expensive shoes or handbag when they’re retired but will be grateful for their savings! "

The current ‘casualisation’ of the workforce, if continued, could have a hugely detrimental effect on future generations’ retirement? What steps do you feel can be taken to change that?

Yes, it is important that superannuation coverage is extended to ensure that all working Australians can live a better lifestyle in retirement and relieve the burden on the public purse. Obvious remedies include the removal of the $450 monthly earnings threshold under which employers currently don’t have to make contributions, looking for solutions to ensure that sham contracting arrangements are identified so that contributions are paid for all workers and encouraging or introducing stronger measures so that self-employed people make contributions to super for their future once they achieve a level of turnover or profitability.

As super funds, we need to make it easy for members to cater for their changing and flexible work patterns and ensure that people are not paying unnecessary multiple fees and insurance premiums. Providing technology and service enables this. We can also see that steps are being taken at a legislative level.

…and does CareSuper offer any solutions for women who, for a variety of reasons, will suffer a gender gap in retirement savings?

Again, there are legislative settings that should change – in addition to the removal of the $450 threshold, employers should pay SG on paid parental leave and as Women in Super has advocated, the Government could make additional contributions for low income earners eligible for the LISTO from age 25 until a balance of $100,000 is reached.

CareSuper provides tailored information and runs education sessions especially for women where we explain super generally, including the potential for super splitting and spouse contributions which can be particularly useful during parental leave to help to equalise a couple’s super and importantly keep the woman’s account growing.

As much as young people don’t want to think about their retirement, contributions made during one’s 20s are the most powerful in terms of compounding so I like to encourage young women in particular to think about making even small additional contributions in those years, given that they are more likely to take time out for family responsibilities. They won’t remember those crazily expensive shoes or handbag when they’re retired but will be grateful for their savings! Helping our young members develop good financial habits early is one of the ways we can get them to a better future.

What led you to your current career path?

My early career was in HR and I was fortunate to work with three employers that had their own corporate funds. Not only did that provide me with super before award super and SG were introduced, but it exposed me at an early age to the difference it makes in people’s lives as I interacted with people retiring from the workforce through my HR role. I was also secretary of one of the corporate funds and in all roles dealt directly with the administrators, investment advisers and managers and insurers. One of my roles was with an employer organisation that nominated directors to several industry super funds and it was active in the policy space too so I saw the benefits of the industry super model. You could say that I grew up with super even though it was not always my primary role. That experience made me a ‘believer in super’ and I decided to pursue the superannuation avenue full-time by joining CareSuper in 2001. Of course, my belief is in ‘profit to members’ super to maximise outcomes!

"Life is what you make of it in relationships and work!"

Have you had a mentor or someone who has influenced your life/career?

I have had several mentors, influencers and encouragers over my career – some older and some younger, some through work and some outside of work. You can learn from a lot of people – sometimes it’s not a formal mentorship but you can run ideas past people you trust and who demonstrate good judgment or ask what they would do in a certain situation.

You recently raised over 20k for the MDC walk/run. That’s a great achievement – how and why did you do it?

Pink Pranks

CareSuper has long been a supporter of the Mothers Day Classic – it’s such a successful event and supports a worthy cause in breast cancer research that helps so many families. Over half of our membership is female and we want them to enjoy not only a financially secure retirement but a happy and healthy one where they can live life to the fullest. If they are affected by breast cancer, we want them to have the best chance possible to recover and enjoy a long life with family and friends.

My motivation in raising funds through the corporate challenge is an extension of the Fund’s involvement and reflects a personal desire to overcome the effects of this disease. The CareSuper team does a great job in challenging me and promoting my ‘pink pranks’ to raise money. I now have a special pink wardrobe, including tutu, wig and leggings for the Mothers Day Classic.

Pictured: A screenshot from a video of one of Julie Lander's 'Pink Pranks' to raise money for breast cancer research.

Where did you grow up and what was it like?

I was very fortunate to have grown up in Melbourne’s eastern suburbs in a happy and secure environment with my parents and brother. Life was fairly simple then, with the benefit of hindsight – we went to school, played active games during the breaks (no ipads), participated in sport (mine were mainly swimming and tennis), rode our bikes to our friends’ houses, did our homework and spent time with family.

My father had his own business and I was introduced to rudimentary accounting in my teens when I was assigned the job of entering all the expenses in a huge ledger. Having parents who taught us about money has been a great advantage. When I got my first job, I was asked to pay board and did so willingly. I also learned the values of working hard, having integrity and treating others with respect. My father had also migrated from Europe so I also benefited from an appreciation of cultural difference and more interesting food!

If you could give advice to your 21 year-old self, what would it be?

Find an area of study or pursuit that excites and motivates you and go from there. Don’t be afraid to change course, keep learning, develop a wide range of friends and acquaintances, think about ways in which you can contribute to communities and organisations, find new interests. Life is what you make of it in relationships and work!

View Julie Lander's profile