The superannuation industry reached a major milestone on the first of July, with the superannuation guarantee system being in place for 30 years. However, it comes at a time of significant market turbulence, with fund performance dipping into the red this financial year. This is off the back of the growing challenges of inflation and interest rate hikes, as well as ongoing global supply chain difficulties due to COVID-19 and the war in Ukraine. Despite the market volatility we have observed over the period, $1 of super invested on 1 July 1992 in the median balanced option, with 60-76% growth assets, is estimated to be worth $7.67 today (depending on fees), underlining the significant benefits super has brought to Australians over the past 30 years.

Leading superannuation research house SuperRatings estimates a return of -3.3% for the median balanced option for the financial year ending June 2022. This is the fifth time financial year returns have been negative since the inception of superannuation in 1992.

Executive Director of SuperRatings, Kirby Rappell said, “Funds have had a challenging second half of the financial year, dragging on a solid first half. This was the 5th negative return for balanced options we have seen since the introduction of super 30 years ago; however, it follows the second highest annual return of 17.8% in 2021. So, when you look at it over the last two years, members’ balances are up.”

Mr Rappell continued “Superannuation is a long-term investment and funds continue to provide strong long-term returns on average and have outperformed the typical CPI+3.0% investment objective. When you consider that share markets are down around 10-12% across Australia and globally, super funds have done well to prevent some of the steep falls that we have seen from being passed through to members’ super account balances.”

The median balanced option declined by an estimated -3.4% over June, while the median growth option reduced by an estimated -4.4%. While capital stable options which hold more traditionally defensive assets such as cash and bonds only fell by an estimated -1.7%.

Accumulation returns to June 2022

Monthly 1 yr 3 yrs (p.a.) 5 yrs (p.a.) 7 yrs (p.a.) 10 yrs (p.a.)
SR50 Balanced (60-76) Index -3.4% -3.3% 4.2% 5.6% 6.0% 7.9%
SR50 Capital Stable (20-40) Index -1.7% -2.7% 1.9% 3.1% 3.5% 4.7%
SR50 Growth (77-90) Index -4.4% -4.3% 5.1% 6.8% 7.0% 9.1%

Source: SuperRatings estimates

Pension returns also declined in June, with the median balanced pension option down an estimated -3.9%. The median growth option fell by -4.8% while the median capital stable option saw an estimated -2.0% return.

Pension returns to June 2022

Monthly 1 yr 3 yrs (p.a.) 5 yrs (p.a.) 7 yrs (p.a.) 10 yrs (p.a.)
SRP50 Balanced (60-76) Index -3.9% -4.0% 4.6% 6.3% 6.6% 8.8%
SRP50 Capital Stable (20-40) Index -2.0% -3.2% 2.0% 3.4% 4.0% 5.1%
SRP50 Growth (77-90) Index -4.8% -4.9% 5.4% 7.3% 7.6% 10.2%

Source: SuperRatings estimates

30 Years of Super Fund Performance

The chart below shows that the average annual return since the inception of the superannuation system is 7.0%, with the typical balanced fund exceeding its long-term return objective of CPI+3.0%. If we consider this in dollar terms $1 invested in the median super fund’s balanced option would now be worth approximately $7.67 depending on the impact of fees.

Perils of Timing the Market

We continue to emphasise the importance of setting a long-term strategy for your superannuation. We suggest members remain alert and review their superannuation settings such as whether they are in the most appropriate investment option for their situation and checking their fees. We encourage people not to panic and speak with their fund or an adviser they trust before making any changes to their superannuation settings.

We found that a member who had a $100,000 balance and switched to cash from a growth or balanced option at the onset of the pandemic in March 2020 would be $35,000 to $45,000 worse off as at the end of June 2022. We continue to emphasise that while markets do dip at points over time, they are expected to recover over the longer term.

The chart below shows that over the last 15 years a member in the typical balanced option would have seen a balance of $100,000 in June 2007 grow to $206,769. A member in a growth option saw their balance accumulate to $205,647.
International Shares options have performed the strongest with the median option rising to $209,107, though it has been a bumpy ride across global markets in the last few years. While the median Australian Shares option sat slightly below its global counterpart at $207,525.

Mr Rappell commented, “Members should prepare for continued volatility with a rocky road ahead for investment markets. If you are not approaching or in retirement, keep in mind that all market movements in the short term are not the real story as you can’t access your money now. You only realise that loss if you switch investment options or take your money out, which would take away the opportunity to participate in any future recovery.”

“Whereas the current situation is more concerning for those nearing or in retirement. Typically, we see these members sitting in investment options which are less exposed to these market movements which lessens the impact of the bumps. The silver lining of the recent interest rate rises is it will help those deriving an income from fixed income assets, following the anaemic cash rate levels we have seen in recent years.”

Release ends

We welcome media enquiries regarding our research or information held in our database. We are also able to provide commentary and customised tables or charts for your use.

For more information contact:

Kirby Rappell
Executive Director
Tel: 1300 826 395
Mob: +61 408 250 725
Kirby.Rappell@superratings.com.au

Leading superannuation research house SuperRatings estimates that the median balanced option fell by -0.9% in May, as funds face into global market headwinds.

The Reserve Bank of Australia increased rates for the second month in a row, signalling that it is facing inflation challenges head on, with a 50 basis point rise applied to the cash rate.

Our estimate of performance for the financial year ending 31 May 2022 has fallen slightly into the red at -0.3%, which is down from a return of 17.8% for the previous financial year.

Executive Director of SuperRatings, Kirby Rappell said, “It is not surprising to see a dampening in the performance of super funds, as the investment environment is very challenging lately. However, the benefits of diversification have been clear as the volatility of super fund returns remains much lower than share markets.”

Mr Rappell continued, “Whilst it has been a pretty challenging time for markets and savings, it is important to put this all into context. Superannuation is a long-term investment and funds have delivered strong performance on average over time. Markets and economies go through ups and downs, and while it’s hard to see your retirement nest-egg bouncing around, it’s important to remain focused on taking a long-term outlook and trying to avoid getting caught up in the noise.”

The median growth option declined by an estimated -1.2%. We saw capital stable options weather the storm somewhat, with a fall of -0.5% due to their greater exposure to bonds and cash.

Accumulation returns to May 2022

Monthly 1 yr 3 yrs (p.a.) 5 yrs (p.a.) 7 yrs (p.a.) 10 yrs (p.a.)
SR50 Balanced (60-76) Index -0.9% 1.6% 6.2% 6.5% 6.2% 8.3%
SR50 Capital Stable (20-40) Index -0.5% 0.0% 3.0% 3.6% 3.8% 4.9%
SR50 Growth (77-90) Index -1.2% 2.3% 7.6% 7.7% 7.2% 9.6%

Source: SuperRatings estimates

Pension returns also declined in May, with the median balanced pension option down an estimated -1.1%. While a drop of -1.3% was estimated for the median growth option and a fall of -0.6% was determined for the median capital stable pension option.

Pension returns to May 2022

Monthly 1 yr 3 yrs (p.a.) 5 yrs (p.a.) 7 yrs (p.a.) 10 yrs (p.a.)
SRP50 Balanced (60-76) Index -1.1% 1.9% 7.1% 7.2% 6.9% 9.4%
SRP50 Capital Stable (20-40) Index -0.6% -0.2% 3.2% 3.9% 4.0% 5.3%
SRP50 Growth (77-90) Index -1.3% 2.4% 8.3% 8.5% 7.9% 10.7%

Source: SuperRatings estimates

Financial Year Performance over Time

The chart below shows that the average annual return since the inception of the superannuation system is 7.1%, with the typical balanced fund exceeding its long-term return objective of CPI+3.0%. The estimated return of -0.3% for the financial year ending 31 May 2022 represents a slight dip and as you can see below, years in which performance has been negative are typically followed by bounce backs in returns and a positive outcome since 1992 is evident on average.

Check your Super

As a new financial year is approaching, now is the perfect time to think about your super and whether you have the settings right for your current situation. Running a health check on your super periodically is a great way to keep your super fit!

  • Investment: check whether the investment option you’re in suits the level of risk, or amount of bumpiness in your balance, you’re comfortable with. Most funds have a risk profile tool on their website that can help you decide which investment option is most suitable for you. Having a look at performance for your fund is also important.
  • Fees: check your fees. The typical total annual fee on a $50,000 account is approximately 1.1% of this balance. See how your fund compares to other funds and the broader market.
  • Insurance: check the type of insurance and level of cover you have. Changes introduced in September 2019 mean that new members under the age of 25 will not automatically be given insurance when joining a super fund and members with a balance of $6,000 or less will not have insurance unless they opt-in. There are tools on fund websites that can help you understand how much cover might be right for you.

Kirby Rappell commented, “Getting the foundations right for your super is the best way to put yourself in good stead for a lifestyle in retirement that meets your needs. It is also beneficial to contact your fund and obtain guidance, support and advice to help set those foundations. Funds also provide access to advice service on investments, insurance, retirement and other topics to help you through the journey. This may be available through your fund directly or by using an adviser that is part of their network. Contact your fund to see what is available and how much it will cost – putting in the effort now can make a big difference to your future self.”

Release ends

We welcome media enquiries regarding our research or information held in our database. We are also able to provide commentary and customised tables or charts for your use.

For more information contact:

Kirby Rappell
Executive Director
Tel: 1300 826 395
Mob: +61 408 250 725
Kirby.Rappell@superratings.com.au

A market bounce in March has supported super fund performance, with the global economy maintaining a reasonable degree of momentum. However, inflation concerns continue to mount as consumers face cost pressures.

The Reserve Bank of Australia kept rates on hold at a low of 0.1% citing ongoing inflation challenges and uncertainty due to the war in the Ukraine, although we see expectations of interest rate rises increasing.

Leading superannuation research house SuperRatings estimates that the median balanced option rose by 1.1% in March. Over the financial year to 31 March 2022, we see an estimated return of 2.4% for the median balanced option.

Kirby Rappell, Executive Director of SuperRatings said, “It is pleasing to see performance recover over the month, as we head towards the end of the financial year. It has been a rockier year for super fund members, although funds seem to be navigating the uncertainty reasonably well. While many Australians feel the impact of natural disasters and increasing inflationary pressures, super continues to support improved long-term financial security for many.”

“I’ve said it before and I will say it again, it is important to focus on the long-term when it comes to your superannuation. The rebound in performance over the March period reinforces this, if a member had switched when they saw performance fall in February, they would have locked in the loss instead of benefiting from the recovery we have now seen.”

The median growth option increased by an estimated 1.6%. The capital stable option, which has less exposure to equity markets in favour of bonds and cash, rose by 0.1%.

Accumulation returns to March 2022

  Monthly 1 yr 3 yrs (p.a.) 5 yrs (p.a.) 7 yrs (p.a.) 10 yrs (p.a.)
SR50 Balanced (60-76) Index 1.1% 7.6% 7.5% 7.5% 6.9% 8.4%
SR50 Capital Stable (20-40) Index 0.1% 3.1% 3.7% 4.0% 4.0% 5.1%
SR50 Growth (77-90) Index 1.6% 9.2% 9.0% 8.8% 7.7% 9.5%

Source: SuperRatings estimates

Pension returns have also risen in March, with the median balanced pension option up an estimated 1.2%, compared to an increase of 1.8% for the median growth option, while performance is estimated to be flat at 0.0% for the capital stable option.

Pension returns to March 2022

  Monthly 1 yr 3 yrs (p.a.) 5 yrs (p.a.) 7 yrs (p.a.) 10 yrs (p.a.)
SRP50 Balanced (60-76) Index 1.2% 7.8% 8.3% 8.1% 7.4% 9.4%
SRP50 Capital Stable (20-40) Index 0.0% 3.1% 4.0% 4.5% 4.3% 5.5%
SRP50 Growth (77-90) Index 1.8% 9.6% 9.6% 9.3% 8.5% 10.6%

Source: SuperRatings estimates

We estimate that the return over the financial year to March 2022 is sitting at 2.4% as shown below. Further, since the inception of superannuation, we have only seen 4 negative financial year returns (FY02: -3.1%, FY08: -6.4%, FY09: -12.7%, FY20: -0.8%). The average annual return over this period sits at around 7.2% pa which is ahead of fund objectives which are typically inflation + 3.0% over rolling 10-year periods.

Evidently, while the superannuation road may be bumpy at times, over the longer-term the typical balanced option shows a positive story for Australians.

Kirby Rappell commented, “We are currently on track to end the 2022 financial year in positive territory, depending on how investment markets perform over the June quarter, though performance will be far more muted than that observed in FY2021. While it is pleasing to see performance recover over the month of March, superannuation should be viewed with a long-term lens as there will be ups and downs over shorter term periods.”

Release ends

We welcome media enquiries regarding our research or information held in our database. We are also able to provide commentary and customised tables or charts for your use.

For more information contact:

Kirby Rappell
Executive Director
Tel: 1300 826 395
Mob: +61 408 250 725
Kirby.Rappell@superratings.com.au

 

With half the country in what seems never ending rounds of lockdowns and pandemic fatigue setting in, one of the last things most Australians want to do is look at their Superannuation balances and investment options. That is, however, exactly what SuperRatings is wanting us to do, as neglecting your super or responding to short term market moves can have a detrimental effect on your super balance.

SuperRatings Executive Director Kirby Rappell says, ‘We looked at the impact of switching out of a balanced or growth option and into cash at the start of the pandemic and found that those with a balance of $100,000 in January 2020 and who switched to cash at the end of March would now be around $22-27,000 worse off than if they had not switched.’

This effect of switching into cash as a response to market turmoil is also seen when looking at returns over the past 15 years. In this period, a typical balanced Super option has risen substantially, with a balance of $100,000 in July 2006 accumulating to $247,557, more than doubling in size. Those members investing in a growth option have experienced an even stronger result, with a similar starting balance growing to $254,006. Share focused options have delivered the highest returns, with the median Australian shares option growing to $276,099 and the median international shares option growing to $271,051, though these types of options involve greater risks. Over the same period, a $100,000 balance invested in cash would only be worth $151,158 today.

When considering your Super options, you don’t need to go it alone as many Super funds provide advice and tools to their members. Says Mr Rappell, ‘Most funds will offer scaled advice for free or at a low cost, with members able to get advice on topics such as contributions, investment options, insurance in the fund and the transition to retirement.’ Scaled advice is general in nature so you will need to check if your situation and goals align with the advice.
Continues Mr Rappell, ‘For members who want more tailored advice, some funds will offer comprehensive advice that will also take into account your financial assets outside of superannuation.’ While there will be a cost associated with this comprehensive advice, most funds will allow the cost of the advice to be deducted from the superannuation account, just make sure you check any costs and how they can be paid before agreeing to get the advice.
Looking at more recent returns, balances continued to grow in July. The typical balanced option returned an estimated 1.3% over the month and 18.5% over the year. The typical growth option returned an estimated 1.3% for the month and the median capital stable option also increased 0.9% in the month.

Accumulation returns to July 2021

FYTD 1 yr 3 yrs (p.a.) 5 yrs (p.a.) 7 yrs (p.a.) 10 yrs (p.a.)
SR50 Balanced (60-76) Index 1.3% 18.5% 7.9% 8.4% 8.0% 8.6%
SR50 Capital Stable (20-40) Index 0.9% 7.8% 4.5% 4.5% 4.8% 5.3%
SR50 Growth (77-90) Index 1.3% 22.7% 9.2% 9.5% 8.9% 9.6%

Source: SuperRatings estimates

Pension returns were also positive in July. The median balanced pension option returned an estimated 1.3% over the month and 20.0% over the year. The median pension growth option returned an estimated 1.5% and the median capital stable option also rose an estimated 0.9% in the month.

Pension returns to July 2021

FYTD 1 yr 3 yrs (p.a.) 5 yrs (p.a.) 7 yrs (p.a.) 10 yrs (p.a.)
SRP50 Balanced (60-76) Index 1.3% 20.0% 8.4% 9.1% 8.5% 9.5%
SRP50 Capital Stable (20-40) Index 0.9% 8.6% 5.2% 5.2% 5.2% 5.9%
SRP50 Growth (77-90) Index 1.5% 24.4% 9.7% 10.3% 9.8% 10.6%

Source: SuperRatings estimates

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).

Copyright © 2021 SuperRatings Pty Ltd (ABN 95 100 192 283 AFSL No. 311880 (SuperRatings)). This media release is subject to the copyright of SuperRatings. Except for the temporary copy held in a computer’s cache and a single permanent copy for your personal reference or other than as permitted under the Copyright Act 1968 (Cth.), no part of this media release may, in any form or by any means (electronic, mechanical, micro-copying, photocopying, recording or otherwise), be reproduced, stored or transmitted without the prior written permission of SuperRatings. This media release may also contain third party supplied material that is subject to copyright. Any such material is the intellectual property of that third party or its content providers. The same restrictions applying above to SuperRatings copyrighted material, applies to such third party content.

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).

Copyright © 2021 SuperRatings Pty Ltd (ABN 95 100 192 283 AFSL No. 311880 (SuperRatings)). This media release is subject to the copyright of SuperRatings. Except for the temporary copy held in a computer’s cache and a single permanent copy for your personal reference or other than as permitted under the Copyright Act 1968 (Cth.), no part of this media release may, in any form or by any means (electronic, mechanical, micro-copying, photocopying, recording or otherwise), be reproduced, stored or transmitted without the prior written permission of SuperRatings. This media release may also contain third party supplied material that is subject to copyright. Any such material is the intellectual property of that third party or its content providers. The same restrictions applying above to SuperRatings copyrighted material, applies to such third party content.

Lonsec has partnered with AMP to make its Retirement Managed Portfolios available via MyNorth Managed Portfolio.

The portfolios harness the depth and breadth of Australia’s leading research provider, allowing users to build high-quality retirement solutions incorporating Lonsec’s best investment ideas. Underpinning the portfolios is Lonsec’s strict quality criteria, requiring funds to be rated ‘Recommended’ or higher by its investment research team.

“Our managed portfolios give financial advisers access to investment solutions supported by one of Australia’s largest investment research and consulting teams,” said Lonsec CEO Charlie Haynes.

“Being able to draw on our investment selection and portfolio construction expertise is a real plus, and we’re proud to be able to extend this access via the North platform users.”

Lonsec’s Retirement Managed Portfolios are objectives-based and focused on delivering an attractive and sustainable level of income while generating capital growth through a diversified portfolio of managed investments.

Lonsec offers three Retirement portfolios: Conservative, Balanced and Growth. Each are designed to achieve different risk and investment objectives over various timeframes. They are constructed using a range of funds that play a specific role, such as income generation, capital growth and risk control, and backed by Lonsec’s rigorous governance and review processes.

“Our Retirement Managed Portfolios have been constructed to manage the risks most relevant to investors in the retirement phase,” said Lonsec’s Chief Investment Officer Lukasz de Pourbaix.

“By diversifying across asset classes, managers and return sources, we aim to manage risks such as capital drawdown, which can materially impact the longevity of a retirement portfolio, particularly in the early stages of transitioning from superannuation to the pension phase of investing.”

“We’re very excited to be working with AMP to make these portfolios available to AMP’s North wrap users.”

Inclusion on North further expands the distribution of Lonsec’s Managed Account offering, following its existing availability on the BT, Macquarie, HUB24, Netwealth and Praemium platforms.

Lonsec’s retirement portfolios have been constructed to meet the income and capital objectives of investors in the retirement phase as well as to manage risks that are specifically relevant to retirees.

AMP’s North platform offers advisers flexible and efficient access to a range of investment products, which now include Lonsec’s retirement portfolios, giving advisers the tools they need to meet their clients’ goals.

Super members have every reason to be optimistic about 2020, but when it comes to a repeat of 2019’s double-digit returns, it would be wise to temper expectations.

According to estimates from leading research house SuperRatings, 2019 was the best year for superannuation funds since 2013, with the median balanced option returning 13.8%. Despite a selloff in Australian shares in December, funds entered the new year in a strong position as markets shrugged off a string of negative economic news and rising geopolitical tension.

However, funds are already battling the new normal of lower yields and returns, which will make a repeat of 2019’s results unlikely in 2020.

Looking back over 2019, the median balanced accumulation option returned 13.8% over the year to the end of December and has returned 7.7% p.a. over the past decade. December saw an estimated fall of 0.9%, ending an otherwise stellar year for Australian shares, on a sour note. Markets were driven predominately by the health care and materials sectors, while the financial services sector, despite delivering a positive result, remains largely beaten down, thanks mostly to the major banks.

The median growth option returned an estimated -1.1% in December and 16.0% over the year, while the capital stable option returned an estimated -1.0% and 7.0% respectively.

Estimated accumulation returns (% p.a. to end of December 2019)

  1 mth 1 yr 3 yrs 5 yrs 7 yrs 10 yrs
SR50 Growth (77-90) Index -1.1% 16.0% 9.0% 8.2% 10.0% 8.2%
SR50 Balanced (60-76) Index -0.9% 13.8% 8.1% 7.4% 8.8% 7.7%
SR50 Capital Stable (20-40) Index -1.0% 7.0% 4.7% 4.5% 5.2% 5.4%

Source: SuperRatings

Pensions performed similarly well in 2019, with the median balanced option returning an estimated 14.9% over 2019, compared to 18.2% for the growth option and 8.0% for the capital stable option.

Estimated pension returns (% p.a. to end of December 2019)

  1 mth 1 yr 3 yrs 5 yrs 7 yrs 10 yrs
SRP50 Growth (77-90) Index -1.2% 18.2% 9.9% 9.3% 11.1% 9.1%
SRP50 Balanced (60-76) Index -1.0% 14.9% 8.8% 8.0% 9.7% 8.5%
SRP50 Capital Stable (20-40) Index -1.0% 8.0% 5.4% 5.2% 5.8% 6.1%

Source: SuperRatings

“We’re anticipating a solid year for super in 2020, but the key challenge for funds will be the low return environment,” said SuperRatings Executive Director Kirby Rappell.

“Even with the possibility of a pickup in economic growth, yields are extremely low and it’s getting harder to find opportunities in the market. Company earnings growth is slowing, and Australian consumers are under pressure, so fundamentally it will be more challenging than 2019. That doesn’t mean it will be a bad year, but super members should not expect to bank another 13 per cent.”

Super’s long-term growth story still a winner

As the chart below shows, 2019’s double-digit return compares favourably to recent years and is significantly higher than the average return (6.4% over the past 20 years). Based on SuperRatings’ estimate of 13.8%, 2019 would represent the highest return since 2013 and the fourth-highest over the past two decades.

Median balanced option calendar year returns 2000-2019

* Estimate

Source: SuperRatings

Following the volatility of 2018, super funds saw steady growth over 2019 with only three down months during the year, with the largest fall in the median balanced option estimated to be -0.9% in December.

The main drivers of performance typically come from equities, of which Australian shares generally make up the greatest proportion. As the chart below shows, the Australian share market delivered a return of 18.4%, while international shares delivered 25.4% (unhedged) and 25.8% (40% hedged in Australian dollars). Meanwhile, listed property returned 14.2%, fixed interest – another major asset class for funds – returned 4.4%, and cash returned 1.5%. Another important asset class is Alternatives (including private equity), although market-based measures of performance are harder to determine as they are offered within diversified portfolios rather than standalone options.

Asset class returns in 2019

Returns based on the following indices: S&P/ASX 200 Index, MSCI World ex-Australia Index (USD), S&P/ASX 300 A-REIT Index (Industry), Vanguard Australian Fixed Interest Index ETF, Bloomberg AusBond Bank Bill Index (AUD). Hedging based on AUD/USD exchange rate of 0.7058.

Since the GFC, funds have ridden market turbulence through 2011, 2015 and 2018 to build significant wealth for members. Looking back over the past 15 years to 2005 (before the GFC hit), the median balanced option with a starting balance of $100,000 would have grown to an estimated $259,340 by the end of 2019 (a return of 159.3%). Similarly, the median growth fund would have risen to an estimated $264,208 (a return of 164.2%).

Growth in $100,000 invested over 15 years to 31 December 2019

Source: SuperRatings

Expect further fund consolidation in 2020

Over the course of 2019 there was a number of high-profile mergers, and 2020 is expected to see more funds come together to achieve greater scale. Mergers have typically been based on geographic proximity, similar industry sectors and strategic fits, with funds seeking merger partners that are strong in areas in which they may be weaker.

A key driver of mergers will be the sustainability of operating expenses, which as the chart below shows, is a challenge for some funds across all size categories. Though, smaller funds are more likely to have a high cost per member (CPM) and management expense ratio (MER), which measure the operational costs of the fund relative to its size.

Sustainability of cost structures

Source: SuperRatings

“With the increased regulatory scrutiny on the sector, funds are focused on the challenge of increasing scale and driving down fees,” said Mr Rappell. “It’s pleasing to see that there’s a clear focus among providers on their plans to adapt to the changing landscape, which should support continued uplift in member outcomes.”

However, there remains a number of providers who are struggling to deliver sufficient value for money and the industry’s ability to address this is critical. APRA released its MySuper Heatmaps in December 2019 which highlight laggards based on investment returns, fees and sustainability metrics and has emphasised a tougher approach going forward. APRA also now has stronger powers to force underperforming funds to merge, which is likely to further drive consolidation across the industry.

Release ends

We welcome media enquiries regarding our research or information held in our database. We are also able to provide commentary and customised tables or charts for your use.

For more information contact:

Kirby Rappell
Executive Director
Tel: 1300 826 395
Mob: +61 408 250 725
Kirby.Rappell@superratings.com.au

A combination of factors has created fertile ground for market volatility, resulting in a bumpy ride for super members, who have experienced six negative monthly returns over the past year.

According to SuperRatings, the median balanced option return for August was an estimated -0.5%, with the negative result driven by a fall in Australian and international shares. The median growth option, which has a higher exposure to growth assets like shares, fared worse, returning an estimated -0.9%.

In contrast, the median capital stable option, which includes a higher allocation to bonds and other defensive assets, performed more favourably with an estimated return of 0.3% (see table below).

Estimated accumulation returns (% p.a. to end of August 2019)

1 month 1 year 3 years 5 years 7 years 10 years
SR50 Growth (77-90) Index -0.9% 5.2% 8.8% 8.0% 10.2% 8.5%
SR50 Balanced (60-76) Index -0.5% 5.3% 8.0% 7.5% 9.2% 8.0%
SR50 Capital Stable (20-40) Index 0.3% 5.3% 4.8% 4.8% 5.4% 5.7%

Source: SuperRatings

Investors were caught off guard in August as trade negotiations between the US and China broke down, while a range of geopolitical and market risks, including further signs of a slowing global economy, added to uncertainty.

In Australia, a disappointing GDP result for the June quarter revealed a domestic economy in a more fragile state than previously acknowledged. Action from the Reserve Bank to lower interest rates is expected to assist in stabilising markets but could be detrimental for savers and retirees who rely on interest income.

Pension products shared a similar fate in August, with the balanced pension option returning an estimated -0.6% over the month while the growth pension option returned an estimated -1.0% and the capital stable pension option was mostly flat with an estimated return of 0.3%. Long-term returns are still holding up well, with the median balanced option for accumulation members delivering 9.2% p.a. over the past seven years (in excess of the typical CPI + 3.0% target) and the median balanced pension option returning 10.2% p.a.

Estimated pension returns (% p.a. to end of August 2019)

1 month 1 year 3 years 5 years 7 years 10 years
SRP50 Growth (77-90) Index -1.0% 5.9% 9.9% 9.2% 11.5% 9.4%
SRP50 Balanced (60-76) Index -0.6% 6.2% 8.7% 8.0% 10.2% 8.8%
SRP50 Capital Stable (20-40) Index 0.3% 6.2% 5.5% 5.5% 6.3% 6.4%

Source: SuperRatings

“There will always be negative months for super members, but the timing of negative returns can have a real impact on those entering the retirement phase,” said SuperRatings Executive Director Kirby Rappell.

“For members shifting their super savings to a pension product, a number of down months in relatively quick succession will mean they begin drawing down on a smaller pool of savings than they might have anticipated. As members get closer to retirement, it’s important that they review their risk tolerance to make sure they can retire even if the market takes a turn for the worse.”

As the chart below shows, down months in the latter part of 2018 took their toll on pension balances, although they were able to recover through 2019 to finish above their starting value by the end of August 2019.

Pension balance over 12 months to end August 2019*

Pension balance over 12 months to end August 2019
Source: SuperRatings
*Assumes a starting balance of $250,000 at the end of August 2018 and annual 5% drawdown applied monthly.

Comparing balanced and capital stable option performance shows that the balanced option suffered a greater drop but was able to bounce back relatively quickly. A starting balance of $250,000 fell to $232,951 over the four months to December 2018, before recovering to $252,091 at the end of August 2019.

In contrast, the capital stable option was able to better withstand the market fall, with a starting balance of $250,000 dropping to only $241,746 in December before rising back to $252,201.

While both performed similarly over the full 12-month period, a member retiring at December 2018 could have been over $8,500 worse off if they were in a balanced option compared to someone in a capital stable option. While a capital stable option is not expected to perform as well over longer periods, it will provide a smoother ride and may be an appropriate choice for those nearing retirement.

“Super fund returns have generally held up well under challenging conditions, but there’s no doubt this has been a challenging year for those entering retirement,” said Mr Rappell.

“Under these market conditions, timing plays a bigger role in determining your retirement outcome. At the same time interest rates are at record lows and moving lower, so the income generated for retirees and savers is less, particularly if someone is relying on interest from a bank account. In the current low rate and low return environment, it’s harder for retirees to generate capital growth and income.”

A world-beating performance from Australian shares has been overshadowed by the re-emergence of geopolitical uncertainty and a wave of risk aversion in global markets, leading to softer performance for super funds in the final stretch of the financial year.

According to estimates from leading superannuation research house SuperRatings, the typical balanced option return was -0.7% in May as funds were dragged down by falls in international shares triggered by the re-emergence of the US-China trade conflict and uncertainty surrounding central bank policy.

The bright side has been the resilience of Australian shares and property, both of which saw a brief boost from the Coalition’s surprise election win, but this was not enough to save super funds from a month of negative performance.

Markets have since recovered following May’s weakness, but members should not expect a bumper end to the financial year. The year-to-date return is sitting at 5.1% for the median balanced option, which is below the 8.5% per annum return achieved over the past ten years.

Estimated median Balanced option returns to 31 May 2019

Period Accumulation returns Pension
returns
Month of May 2019 -0.7% -0.7%
Financial year return to 31 May 2019 5.1% 5.8%
Rolling 1-year return to 31 May 2019 4.8% 7.3%
Rolling 3-year return to 31 May 2019 6.8% 8.1%
Rolling 5-year return to 31 May 2019 6.6% 7.6%
Rolling 7-year return to 31 May 2019 8.7% 10.5%
Rolling 10-year return to 31 May 2019 8.5% 9.7%
Rolling 15-year return to 31 May 2019 7.5% 8.1%
Rolling 20-year return to 31 May 2019 6.8%

Interim results only. Median Balanced Option refers to ‘Balanced’ options with exposure to growth style assets of between 60% and 76%. Approximately 60% to 70% of Australians in our major funds are invested in their fund’s default investment option, which in most cases is the balanced investment option. Returns are net of investment fees, tax and implicit asset-based administration fees.

Members in the median growth option, which includes higher weightings to growth assets like Australian and overseas shares, suffered a larger fall of 1.2% in May, while the median International Shares option fell 4.0% and the median Australian Shares option held firm, returning 1.4%.

“It’s been a disappointing end to the financial year for super, but long-term performance remains robust,” said SuperRatings Executive Director Kirby Rappell. “The median balanced option return over the past 10 years is around 8.5%, indicating that super has delivered solid returns even in a low interest rate environment.”

Downside risks to the Australian economy, including weak inflation, falling home prices, and tighter credit conditions are taking their toll on consumer confidence, while the geopolitical risks in the form of US-China trade negotiations have also contributed to market volatility.

SuperRatings Index return estimates to 31 May 2019


Source: SuperRatings

However, the Australian market has held up reasonably well over the financial year to date, with the S&P/ASX 200 Index returning 7.6% so far to the end of May, outperforming global share performance of 6.3% measured by the MSCI World Ex-Australia Index. Listed property has been the leading asset class so far this financial year, with the S&P/ASX 200 A-REIT Index returning 14.5%. Both property and shares saw a modest boost in May with the negative gearing debate now effectively put to bed following the federal election.

“Labor’s negative gearing proposals were thought to favour developers by limiting tax concessions to new stock, but so far the improvement in sentiment has outweighed any negative impact, which may give some super funds a temporary boost to their property portfolios,” said Mr Rappell.

Long-term super performance steady

The negative performance for super funds in May has been reflected in a slight fall in the Balanced and Growth option indices for the month but long-term performance remains strong. According to SuperRatings’ data, $100,000 invested in the median Balanced option in May 2009 is estimated to have reached an accumulated $217,391 today.

The median Growth option is estimated to be worth $230,873 over the same period, while $100,000 invested in domestic and international shares ten-years ago is now worth $244,382 and $258,181 respectively. In contrast, $100,000 invested in the median Cash option ten years ago would only be worth $129,748.

Growth in $100,000 invested over 10 years to 31 May 2019


Source: SuperRatings

Release ends

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