Increase in fund mergers requires increased focus on people 

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The people merging process has to become much smarter, much more transformative.

The pace of mergers in the superannuation sector is forecast to rise this year – and impact more people in our industry than ever before.

Superannuation funds MTAA Super and Tasplan recently announced they will be known as Spirit Super after completion of their merger on 1 April 2021. Spirit Super will be Australia’s newest industry super fund and have some $23 billion funds under management with 326,000 members.

LGIAsuper and Energy Super are expected to finalise their merger as early as this July, with the resultant group having $20 billion in FUM and 120,000 members.

Late last year QSuper and Sunsuper announced they will also merge, creating one of the largest funds in Australia, with combined assets of about $182 billion – putting it ahead of Australian Super and its $170 billion in FUM.

Other super fund mergers underway include NGS Super and Catholic Super, Media Super and Cbus and the completed merger of WA Super with NSW-based First State Super to become Aware Super.

KPMG estimates that this decade will see a 60% fall in the number of funds and estimates that in five years’ time, the current 217 APRA-regulated funds will have shrunk to 138, a faster pace than M&As in the retail industry.[1]

Industry people specialists the SR Network and transformation specialists Whitewater Transformations see the biggest challenge of these mergers in bringing not members and funds together, but in how they merge their people.

Cathy Doyle, Chair of SR Network (including SuperRecruiters, SR Consult and SR Research), said it was not a matter of one fund group subsuming another, nor merging two groups of people into one entity, but rather “creating a new entity and determining who were the best people for it in terms of capability AND culture”.

“For example, mergers result in two potential CEOs, CFOs, other C-suites and range of management and teams,” said Ms Doyle. “How does the new entity decide whom is the best?

“It is no longer appropriate to simply offer redundancies and see who takes it and who remains,” she said “The people merging process has to become much smarter, much more transformative.”

Adam Salzer, Partner at Whitewater Transformations, said: “Funds spend a great deal of time, years, considering and then working on the pros and cons of their M&A; but not enough on how they will actually bring two workforce’s, two systems, two cultures together.”

Mr Salzer suggested: “Rather than favour one of the existing fund structures over the other, the best way forward is to create a third structure, one that would create and take the merged entity well into the future and best meet members’ needs.”

Ms Doyle said: “This requires independent assessment, no favouritism, of whom would take the new structure forward best at all levels in terms of technical capability as well as cultural appropriateness.”

She added that as funds keep coming into the new entity, there is not as much pressure for significant change and transformation as there are in the M&As of other industries. “Good leadership recognises this and the need to improve and build a business that is future fit.”

“Leaders have to have independently assessed which employees will best add value to the new entity, rather than just trying to keep every role,” said Ms Doyle.

Mr Salzer estimated that, at present, “some 40% of financial services organisations are doing well, 30% are holding on and some 30% will not survive long term”.

He said he believed there would be two types of organisations going forward in financial services:

  • Inward-focused organisations and leaders that seek to repair the damage caused by COVID, cut-costs and make operational tweaks to get back to where they were before the pandemic, and those that are
  • Outward-focused organisations and people whom embrace the opportunity to rebuild for the future, become more innovative for the changed world.

These two types will retain and attract very different types of employees and human resource departments responses, said Ms Doyle.

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[1] Superannuation fund merger insights

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