Interview with Chantal Walker, Chief Member Experience & Growth Officer at Active Super

By Our Reporter
Pic supplied

Can you tell me more about Active Super and what they do?

Active Super is a profit-to-member super fund that manages around $13.5 billion in assets for about 80,000 members. We used to be known as Local Government Super and many of our members came from the local government sector, but we have been open to the public since 2009.

Last year we underwent a significant rebranding exercise to further broaden our appeal beyond our traditional membership base. The rebrand was part of a broader member-focused strategy where we remain nimble, fast and flexible, while continuing to deliver quality service and returns for our members.

In June 2022, we announced our intention to explore a potential merger with Vision Super, a similar-sized fund with a common history that shares our same core values. We work hard to deliver strong investment returns and services to our members and believe this potential merger opportunity should help us achieve this.

How did Active Super become the company it is today?

Let’s talk firstly about our responsible investment ethos which is at the core of everything we do. Over 20 years ago, we were the first super fund in Australia to stop investing directly in tobacco. In 2009, we were one of the first investors to focus on climate change risk. Today, we’re recognised as one of Australia’s leading super funds for responsible investment.

We are an active investor that delivers strong, long-term returns for our members, and we are a leader in responsible investment. By that, I mean we only invest in companies that have a positive social impact. We do not engage with organisations that have treated their workers unfairly, nor do we invest funds in companies that specialise in products that harm the well-being of others. Our investment philosophy is 100 percent based on ESG principles—environmental, social and corporate governance.

The companies we invest in are assessed for their ability to deliver strong financial performance, as well as their ESG impact on the world. As we are driven by an ESG philosophy, we can assure our members that their money is contributing to the betterment of the world.

Why is responsible investment important and how does it work?

We have been investing responsibly for over a decade and first became a signatory to the UN Principles for Responsible Investment in 2007.

As our name Active Super suggests, we actively pursue investments that deliver strong long-term returns for members and that also have a positive impact on the world. We not only assess investments for their ability to deliver a strong financial performance, but also for their ESG impact on the world.

The key areas of focus for Active Super include climate change, diversity, good governance and social considerations. These driving factors are in our DNA and highlight the different ways we assess risk, measure success and continue to prove our commitment to investing for the greater good.

For some time, Active Super has considered the globally recognised Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) when seeking investments that make a positive impact on the world. SDGs are a set of aspirational goals developed by the United Nations to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure all people enjoy peace and prosperity. Our top 3 SDG goals are Affordable and Clean Energy, Sustainable Cities and Communities, and Climate Action.

Active Super is certified carbon neutral by Climate Active and is one of only six Australian super funds to actively hold this certification. Active Super is one of a select group of Australian super funds to have all products certified by the Responsible Investment Association Australasia (RIAA).

Plus we have won the SuperRatings Infinity Award for leading the industry in responsible investment seven times.

Chantal Walker, Chief Member Experience & Growth Officer at Active Super // Pic supplied

Active Super has been ranked among the top-performing super funds over the last seven years by the ATO. What do you think are the main factors behind Active Super delivering such solid outcomes for Australians?

This all comes down to our Chief Investment Officer Craig Turnbull and his investment team. As a leader in responsible investment, it is encouraging to see great returns are not sacrificed when investing for the good of society.

We have investments across Australian and international shares, property, infrastructure, private equity, fixed interest and absolute return asset classes.

In 2020/21, we delivered some of our best annual returns on record, showing that responsibly invested super can deliver strong financial returns while still looking out for the greater good of your super balance as well as the world around us. That same financial year was one of the strongest-ever for investment performance. For example, our Balanced Option delivered returns of more than 18 percent, despite economic uncertainty of the global pandemic. We also reported record returns for High Growth members of over 23 percent.

The fund passed APRA’s inaugural performance test while being ranked among the best-performing funds over seven years by the new ATO Comparison Tool, with returns of 9.46 percent. (Assumes a 30-year-old with a $50,000 balance.) We are also ranked as one of the nation’s top-performing funds by Canstar. It should be noted that past performance is not a reliable indicator of future performance.

Australia is a very multicultural country. Active Super is not a very well-known brand with many of the multicultural audiences. As an executive overseeing marketing campaigns, how are you helping to grow Active Super and raise awareness of your services among multicultural audiences?

One of the key things we are doing is partnering with MultiConnexions Group, a multicultural marketing and advertising agency. This will help broaden our appeal increase engagement with Australians from different backgrounds.

There is a tremendous opportunity to reach Australians who otherwise would not be engaged with their superannuation.  I come from a strong background in consumer marketing and understand that a one-size-fits-all marketing and communications strategy is not the best way to communicate with the Australian population given its strong multicultural composition.

Research shows that 25 percent of the Australian population speaks a language other than English, and 50 percent of the population is born overseas and has at least one parent born overseas. Regrettably, many marketers ignore these segments, but through our partnership with MultiConnexions, Active Super is taking action to address this gap in the market.

We are also driving greater engagement with our members by communicating with them regularly. They receive monthly newsletters with information about industry reforms and how it may impact their super, we host regular webinars with our specialists on topics that are relevant to members, we post informative articles about super on our website and we have a Sydney-based customer services centre that can answer specific member queries.

What are the main benefits of joining Active Super over other super funds out there?

Active Super is not only focussed on delivering solid returns for members, but we also have a real commitment and dedication to delivering quality customer service.

We believe that we can use our size to our advantage to be more agile in the way we approach matters to ensure our members get the best experience possible. This is demonstrated by having a local Sydney-based member services centre as well as a strong regional presence across NSW with customer relationship managers and financial planners in the field.

By being a smaller fund, we can also ensure that we truly understand all our members needs and tailor our products and service accordingly.

I read somewhere that Active Super is a super with a soul. Could you elaborate on that?

When we were looking at what our new name should be, I thought it was very important that we chose a name that truly reflected who we were from the inside out rather than outside in. One of the many reasons we chose the name ‘Active’ is because we are passionate about getting our members actively engaged with their super and understanding what they need to do to ensure they maximise the opportunity to “live their best lives”.

Part of our core DNA is delivering quality, one-on-one service to members—both in the city and regional areas—and that allows members to enjoy their lives and to get on with it. In addition, there are many benefits to being an Active Super member: strong, long-term returns, competitive fees, and member-only deals and discounts. We’ve also been recognised for outstanding products and services, as well as setting the benchmark for responsible investment strategies.

Our successful name change to Active Super in May 2021 has broadened our appeal and we are now growing our membership. We are investing in technology to make it easier to engage with us and have upgraded our website, mobile app and digital offering.

Plus, we are very excited about our latest initiative for members called Super Booster. It is an innovative reward program to boost members’ super balances when shopping instore and online at more than 250 retail partners across 2,000 locations around Australia. What makes Super Booster simple is that it is a ‘set and forget’ program, meaning our members can use it on the go, in-store or online, and get rewarded.

We are also making a concerted effort to ensure Active Super remains competitive and that our members stay with us for their entire life—while in the workforce and in retirement.

Active Super turns 25 this year, and we look forward to supporting our members and other key stakeholders for another 25 years.

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