With the status of COVID-19 evolving rapidly, we wish to update you on recent developments and notify you that we have a page dedicated to COVID-19 and the impact for AvSuper members and the Fund itself.
Changes to superannuation
The Government has announced changes to superannuation, including:
- Access to up to $10,000 of your superannuation this financial year and the same amount for next financial year for members experiencing financial hardship. The full details of this have not yet been released by the Government, so we will update members via our website as soon as the information is available, and
- The ability to reduce minimum annual pension payment amounts for our income stream members. Again, we will let affected members know, and provide a website update, as soon as the Government legislates and releases the details of this arrangement.
Business & Office Management
We recognise that there are several scenarios that may eventuate in the event of an AvSuper employee having exposure to or contracting COVID-19. AvSuper is continuing to follow the guidance from international and local health authorities and we are responding according to our pandemic plan. As at 23 March 2020, we can confirm that AvSuper has not had any confirmed cases of COVID-19 in any of our locations.
The ongoing health and safety of our people while also continuing our service commitments to our members remains our priority. We are conducting regular meetings and assessments so we can properly react and respond to developments. This includes reviewing our systems, protocols and operations management on a daily basis.
We want to assure you that we are working to minimise disruption to our various member services. We have currently closed our office to face-to-face meetings and stopped interstate visits, however, we will remain open for members to contact us. We acknowledge that the normal channels for contact may change as we expect to move more of our team to remote work from home arrangements in the coming days. If you cannot reach us via 1300 128 751, we encourage you to:
- Leave a voice message for us to return your call as soon as possible. Our team will be able to return your call from remote locations, so while there may be short delays in call backs (depending on call volumes), we will be able to return your call
- Use the Call Me back function on our website and again someone from our team will be able to contact you, generally at the time that suits you (if you provide your preferences!)
- Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org Our member services staff will remain able to reply to your emails during business hours
- Use our AvChat function on our website for an online chat with one of our team members during business hours.
We will of course remain focussed on our members during this challenging time but acknowledge that some members may experience delays at times while we bed down remote working arrangements. We will continue to provide updates to members via email, via website updates and on our social media sites.
As always, if you have any questions about your account or the impact of COVID-19, please call 1300 128 751, catch us on AvChat or email us.
Chief Executive Officer
As most members would be aware, a new strain of Coronavirus (COVID-19), has spread around the world, including to Australia, since being discovered in China in December 2019.
COVID-19 is already impacting the world in several ways, including financially and thus investment markets. On top of that, governments are reacting differently to COVID-19 and that is also affecting investment markets.
The key message, however, is that market downturns are expected and are transitory. The long-term nature of superannuation means that most members should not need to do anything in response to the market changes we are currently seeing.
Our investment advisors have prepared a detailed video commentary on the impact on investment markets of COVID-19 which you can view at the following link https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jh2pBTp8yME
AvSuper’s pandemic preparations
The Trustee has a detailed pandemic response in place, as part of our Business Continuity Plan (BCP) arrangements to reduce the risk of the Fund not being able to operate at full capacity, including in a worst case scenario, and to ensure we can maintain ongoing member services.
Some of the contingency measures we have in place that we can draw on include:
- Requiring staff to self-isolate if they travel to affected areas or are exposed to infected persons
- Remote working capability which will allow staff to work from home or from other locations if required
- Enhanced office and meeting room cleaning processes
- Promoting good hygiene and other preventative health measures
- Systems in place for communicating with staff about any changes to work practices
- Introducing segregated teams and shifts
- Reviewing key supplier’s continuity plans and progress regularly
- Use of videoconferencing and webinar tools to replace face to face meetings
- Reduction of non-essential travel is already in place and this can be extended as required
- Redeploying staff from non-critical tasks if significant numbers of staff were unable to work
We expect to be able to maintain services for members should the pandemic escalate, although we recognise that it is possible that transaction processing may slow down if a significant proportion of our population is infected. We will keep members informed along the way, should this transpire.
What do you need to do?
Overall, there’s not a lot you can do except remember super is a long-term investment. Stay informed – talk to us if you need some help – and take a look at your investment choices.
Historically, significant downturns in investment markets are followed by stronger growth for those who wait it out. Moving out of shares when markets drop effectively locks in the losses so waiting for the markets to swing back up is often the best strategy, despite generating fear in us all.
If you have 10 or more years to retirement…
The reality is that this is just one major market fluctuation out of a number you will likely experience before retirement – investment markets do go up and down. It’s important to understand what is happening and assess your investments against your financial goals, but it also needs to be kept in perspective so stay calm.
Your savings may take a hit in the current market, but there is time for them to recover before you will withdraw your money. And we will be keeping an eye on markets to possibly grab some assets and opportunities while prices are low.
If you have reached or nearly reached retirement…
It may look rather scary to see your savings decrease by factors outside your control, especially as no one knows how big the impact will be or for how long. But it is worth remembering that unless you are invested entirely in cash assets, your income stream investments will catch any improvements in the markets and that even in retirement, you may have anything from 15-20 years for your super savings to recover from this downturn.
At the same time, you may be able to adjust your investment choices a little to reduce the risk and make you feel more secure. Look carefully at your options and consider them in line with your risk appetite, current and projected needs, and time frames before making any major changes – and don’t forget that our Member Advice Consultants can help you work through your choices.
More questions and concerns?
We know there is a lot of uncertainty at the moment, and watching people panic doesn’t help us feel more secure. So if you are concerned about your super and wondering what you should be doing, we encourage you to call us or make an appointment with one of our Member Advice Consultants to work through your situation.
Advice appointments with AvSuper can be done by phone (as well as face to face) so we will continue this service even if quarantine rules tighten considerably in Australia.
AvSuper uses external service providers to assist the Trustee with many Fund functions, such as administration services which include processing contributions to your account, making benefit payments and issuing member statements.
We are pleased to advise members that following a comprehensive administration review and tender process, we have nominated Mercer Administration Services as our preferred administrator. A comprehensive transition program will be devised and members notified once arrangements are finalised.
The Trustee is confident that Mercer has the flexibility, capability and capacity to deliver a bespoke solution based on our unique needs, now and in the future. We are excited by the increased technology options that we expect to streamline processes for our members and that this change is predicted to significantly benefit our members.
Chief Executive Officer
Happy new year and welcome to 2020!
AvSuper offices are now open and we welcome our members to get in touch with us.
We apologise for any inconvenience experienced last week when our offices were closed for the health and safety of our team during the bushfire crisis, and appreciate your patience during this time. Hopefully, conditions remain steady or improve and we can continue to run the office as usual.
We also want to take this opportunity to wish all our members well and hope that you and your loved ones are safe.
On behalf of AvSuper, and our members, we want to share our gratitude to all the fire fighters and their support teams who have been doing an amazing, exhausting job for so long.
Chief Executive Officer
* Image courtesy of Rob Russell