In a year defined by the global pandemic and the locking down of economies, the superannuation system faced arguably one of its toughest test in its 29-year history.

Now, as super funds finalise their reporting for December 2020, the strength of superannuation’s comeback is clear. Despite the market turmoil in the first half of the year, Australia’s top super funds have posted some remarkable results.

Long-term returns have also held up well, evidenced by the 10-year performance rankings, demonstrating the quality of funds available to members.

According to data from leading research house SuperRatings, Suncorp was the top performing fund over the 2020 calendar year, with the Suncorp Brighter Super Pers – Suncorp Multi-Manager Growth Fund returning 9.6%. This was followed by Australian Ethical and Vision SS, whose balanced options returned 8.0% and 6.2% respectively.

Top 20 balanced options over 12 months

Source: SuperRatings

Moving out to 10 years, the top performers were UniSuper, whose balanced option has returned 9.0% p.a. over the last decade, followed closely by AustralianSuper and Cbus.

Top 20 balanced options over 10 years

Source: SuperRatings

Spotlight on risk and return in wake of COVID-19

It is important to consider not only the return that an option delivers but also the level of risk it takes on to achieve that return. A rough way to examine this is the variability in returns over time. Growth assets like shares may return more on average than traditionally defensive assets like fixed income, but this comes with larger ups and downs.

The table below shows the top 20 funds ranked according to their volatility-adjusted return, which measures how much members are being rewarded for taking on the ups and downs.

QSuper’s balanced option return of 7.9% p.a. over the past seven years is below some of its peers, but it has done this with a smoother ride along the way, meaning it has delivered the best return given the level of volatility involved.

Top 20 balanced options over 7 years ranked by risk and return

Option name Rolling 7-year return (% p.a.)
QSuper – Balanced 7.9%
BUSSQ Premium Choice – Balanced Growth 7.8%
Prime Super – MySuper 7.9%
Cbus – Growth (Cbus MySuper) 8.5%
CareSuper – Balanced 7.9%
MTAA Super – My AutoSuper 8.0%
Catholic Super – Balanced (MySuper) 7.7%
VicSuper FutureSaver – Growth (MySuper) Option 8.0%
Mercy Super – MySuper Balanced 7.7%
AustralianSuper – Balanced 8.8%
Aware Super (previously First State Super) – Growth 7.8%
Media Super – Balanced 7.6%
CSC PSSap – MySuper Balanced 7.1%
Sunsuper for Life – Balanced 8.0%
Hostplus – Balanced 8.4%
Vision SS – Balanced Growth 7.9%
HESTA – Balanced Growth 7.7%
Club Plus Super – MySuper 7.3%
Equip MyFuture – Balanced Growth 7.7%
Local Government Super Accum – Balanced Growth 7.3%

Source: SuperRatings

“What the calendar year figures hide is the rollercoaster movements members experienced as the market sold off back in March 2020 and then rapidly recovered,” said SuperRatings Executive Director Kirby Rappell.

“As members accumulate wealth over time, market movements will have a bigger impact on their account balance in dollar terms. This is a challenge for funds and members as the average super balance rises over $100,000, with the need for education and support paramount.”

While it is important to acknowledge those funds that have outperformed over 2020, members should bear in mind that long-term performance is what really counts.

“Overall, funds have done an excellent job of managing risks through a tumultuous period,” said Mr Rappell. “Super is a long-term game, so it’s pleasing to see long-term returns remain healthy and ahead of their CPI+ targets.”

Release ends

Warnings: Past performance is not a reliable indicator of future performance. Any express or implied rating or advice presented in this document is limited to “General Advice” (as defined in the Corporations Act 2001(Cth)) and based solely on consideration of the merits of the superannuation or pension financial product(s) alone, without taking into account the objectives, financial situation or particular needs (‘financial circumstances’) of any particular person. Before making an investment decision based on the rating(s) or advice, the reader must consider whether it is personally appropriate in light of his or her financial circumstances, or should seek independent financial advice on its appropriateness. If SuperRatings advice relates to the acquisition or possible acquisition of particular financial product(s), the reader should obtain and consider the Product Disclosure Statement for each superannuation or pension financial product before making any decision about whether to acquire a financial product. SuperRatings research process relies upon the participation of the superannuation fund or product issuer(s). Should the superannuation fund or product issuer(s) no longer be an active participant in SuperRatings research process, SuperRatings reserves the right to withdraw the rating and document at any time and discontinue future coverage of the superannuation and pension financial product(s).

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Important information: Any express or implied rating or advice is limited to general advice, it doesn’t consider any personal needs, goals or objectives.  Before making any decision about financial products, consider whether it is personally appropriate for you in light of your personal circumstances. Obtain and consider the Product Disclosure Statement for each financial product and seek professional personal advice before making any decisions regarding a financial product.