Investment performance: We’re the best super fund. No, we’re the best…

Note: Every few months or so, we update this article with the latest performance data on superannuation funds (and pension funds) issued by SuperRatings, SelectingSuper, ChantWest and the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA). This article contains the latest data for investment performance up to 30 June 2014, and includes data on the poorest performing super funds. For performance data relating to later months, refer to other SuperGuide articles.

A popular question from SuperGuide readers is: what is the best-performing super fund in Australia?

Using the term ‘best’ is dangerous in any field because it involves some level of personal judgement, and the answer can change frequently depending on what you’re measuring, and when you’re making the assessment, especially when we’re considering the current volatile markets. Usually, there are a bunch of top-performing super funds over time rather than one particular super fund.

The answer to this popular question also depends on what timeframe you’re looking at, what type of returns you’re comparing (after fees and taxes, or gross), and what type of investment option (or asset allocation) you have chosen for your super money.

A more relevant question is: what super fund is the most appropriate super fund (or investment option) for my retirement needs? The original question then needs to be divided into two parts:

  • how does the super world measure the best-performing (and the worst-performing) super funds?
  • how do you measure fund performance in relation to your own circumstances?

The first part of the question I answer in this article, and I also cover the investment returns for the worst-performing super funds at the end of this article. The second part of the question I answer in another SuperGuide article Super for beginners, part 11: Is my super fund good enough?

The award for the best super fund, according to…

The sections following within this article list selected performance rankings from 4 organisations:

  1. SuperRatings
  2. SelectingSuper
  3. Chant West
  4. Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA)

Every month, quarter or 12 months, you’re likely to read about the best-performing super funds, the best value super funds or the best super fund over the long term (‘long term’ meaning anything from 3, 5, 7 or 10 years) in the daily newspapers, and also on SuperGuide.

Around 80% of all Australians with superannuation accounts have their money invested in the default investment option of super funds. The default investment option is usually a ‘balanced’ or a ‘growth’ investment option (typically 60 to 80% invested in growth assets such as shares and property). The performance lists that you see in the newspapers usually rank the ‘balanced’ or ‘growth’ investment options of super funds because that is where most Australians have their super money. Most of the lists in this article rank the ‘balanced’ or ‘growth’ options.

Note: According to SuperRatings, the median annual return for the default investment option for the seven previous financial years were:

  • 2013/2014 financial year: 12.7% (gain)
  • 2012/2013 financial year: 14.7% (gain)
  • 2011/2012 financial year: 0.4% (gain)
  • 2010/2011 financial year: 8.7% (gain)
  • 2009/2010 financial year: 9.8% (gain)
  • 2008/2009 financial year: negative 12.7% (investment loss)
  • 2007/2008 financial year: negative 6.4% (investment loss) 

1. SuperRatings performance tables

When assessing the investment returns of super funds, the process is more effective if you have a benchmark available to compare how well the top super funds have performed against the average, and to compare the average and the top-performing funds, against your own super fund’s returns.

SuperRatings regularly provides median returns for the different asset allocations – High Growth, Growth, Balanced, Conservative Balanced, Capital Stable, Secure, Australian Shares, International Shares, Property, Diversified Fixed Interest, Cash and MySuper. MySuper asset allocation is generally the same as the SuperRatings Balanced asset allocation.

The investment returns are based on the median returns of the largest 50 (SR50 Index) or largest 25 (SR25 Index) super fund investment options under review by SuperRatings. A median is simply choosing the return for the fund in the middle of the list. According to SuperRatings, the SR50 Index and the SR25 Index are a “good guide to the actual return of the ‘average’ fund over the same time frames”.

SuperRatings – median returns for balanced investment option
Latest Returns to 30 June 2014
Index Name 1 Year (% p.a) 3 Year (% p.a) 5 Year (% p.a) 7 Year (% p.a) 10 Year (% p.a) 22 year (% p.a.)
SR50 Balanced (60-76) Index 12.7 9.1 9.2 3.7 6.8 7.2

Past performance is not a reliable indicator of future performance.

Source: SuperRatings, plus adapted by Trish Power to include 22-year average annual return. Visit the SuperRatings website for more information on the different indices.

SuperRatings –Top 10 ‘balanced’ super funds over 5 years

According to SuperRatings, the top 10 super funds based on the ‘balanced’ option (investment options with between 60% and 76% in growth-style assets) over the 5-year period ending 30 June 2014 are:

Top 10 Balanced (60-76) – annual returns for 5 years as at 30 June 2014
Fund Investment Option Option Type Return Period Return (% p.a.) Rank
Telstra Super – Balanced Balanced (60-76) 5 year 10.7% 1
REST – Core Strategy Balanced (60-76) 5 year 10.6% 2
GESB Super – Balanced Growth Plan Balanced (60-76) 5 year 10.2% 3
Russell Super Solutions – Russell Balanced Portfolio Balanced (60-76) 5 year 10.1% 4
Commonwealth Bank Group Super – Mix 70 Balanced (60-76) 5 year 10.1% 4
Australian Super – Balanced Balanced (60-76) 5 year 10.0% 6
Plum – Pre-mixed Moderate Balanced (60-76) 5 year 10.0% 6
CareSuper – Balanced Balanced (60-76) 5 year 9.9% 8
UniSuper – Balanced Balanced (60-76) 5 year 9.9% 8
HESTA – Core Pool Balanced (60-76) 5 year 9.8% 10

Table note: All results are net of fees and tax and are for the 5 years ended 30 June 2014. Past performance is not a reliable indicator

Note: If you have actively chosen an investment option, then your super money may not be in a balanced investment option. You will need to do a little more research to uncover the performance data for super funds that have invested in a similar asset allocation to yourself.

SuperRatings provide some performance data (free of charge) on super funds and pension funds. The latest reports cover performance over 1, 3, 5, 7 and 10 years as at 30 June 2014, and SuperRatings updates these performance tables monthly. You can access the SuperRatings Super Performance List and the Pension Performance List by visiting the SuperRatings website.

2. SelectingSuper performance tables

SelectingSuper also produces benchmark indices that you can use to compare how well the top super funds have performed against the average, and to compare the average and the top-performing funds, against your own super fund’s returns.

SelectingSuper reports returns for the different asset allocations – 5 investment options (including the MySuper/Default investment option), and 6 asset classes, and also reports returns for SelectingSuper’s top 50 MySuper and default investment options (usually balanced or growth).

SelectingSuper provides the top 50 super funds for other investment options as well. SelectingSuper provides benchmark returns for both superannuation funds and retirement funds (click here to access the latest returns reported by SelectingSuper).

3. Chant West performance tables

Rating company, Chant West, produces slightly different benchmark indices compared with SelectingSuper and SuperRatings. Chant West provides benchmark median returns for five investment options – All Growth, High Growth, Growth, Balanced, Conservative.

Chant West – Median performance by fund category to 30 June 2014 (%)
Fund category 1 mth (%) 3 mths (%) 1 yr (%) 3 yrs (pa) (%) 5 yrs (pa) (%) 7 yrs (pa) (%) 10 yrs (pa) (%)
All Growth (100% growth assets) -0.1 2.2 16.8 11.1 10.9 2.5 6.7
High Growth (81–100% growth assets) 0.1 2.1 14.9 10.6 10.5 3.2 6.9
Growth (61–80% growth assets) 0.2 2.1 12.8 9.6 9.6 3.7 6.9
Balanced (41–60% growth assets) 0.3 1.9 9.9 8.3 8.7 4.1 6.3
Conservative (21 –40% growth assets) 0.4 1.7 7.7 6.8 7.3 4.6 5.9

Note: Table compares the median performance for each category in Chant West’s multi-manager performance survey, ranging from All Growth to Conservative. Performance is shown net of investment fees and tax. It does not include administration fees or adviser commissions. Negative returns appear as follows: -0.1% means a loss of 0.1%

Source: Chant West (www.chantwest.com.au)

4. APRA takes whole-of-fund approach

The performance tables issued by the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA) have had mixed reviews, with particular criticism coming from the retail fund sector. I believe the APRA tables are still an excellent resource for consumers (for background on the APRA tables and how you can best use the tables, refer to article Ten handy uses for the APRA200 Performance list).

The latest APRA tables (released in January 2014) summarise the performance of Australia’s 200 largest super funds for the 12 months ending 30 June 2013, for the 5-year period ending 30 June 2013, and for the 10-year period ending 30 June 2013, and for each of the previous 10 years. The APRA tables also include super funds paying pensions.

Note: You can also access the APRA performance data via our search facility, the SuperGuide Super Funds Guide.

The next edition of the Superannuation Fund-level Rates of Return publication, covering returns to June 2014, will be released in early 2015.

The award for the worst super fund…

It is very difficult to access performance data on the worst-performing superannuation funds in Australia, which makes it challenging for Australians seeking to benchmark the performance of their current super fund.

I have made many requests for this information but I have received silence or a polite ‘no’ in response. Although I cannot provide the names of super funds with the worst returns, I can give you the investment returns delivered by the worst-performing super funds, which you can then compare against your super fund’s returns. I can also provide the investment returns delivered by the best-performing super funds, and you can decide if your super fund is keeping up with the top-performers.

The table below lists the median return for the different various investments, and also the highest return delivered for that investment option by an Australian super fund, and the lowest return delivered by an Australian super fund.

SuperRatings: Best and worst fund option performance for year ending 30 June 2014
Option type Highest Median Lowest
Balanced (60-76% growth) 15.8% 12.7% 8.4%
Growth (77-90% growth) 18.0% 14.0% 9.4%
Capital Stable (20-40% growth) 10.8% 7.3% 4.0%
Australian shares 18.9% 16.8% 13.4%
International shares 22.7% 17.6% 10.7%
Property 13.0% 9.1% 7.5%
Diversified Fixed Interest 7.0% 5.5% 2.4%
Cash 3.3% 2.4% 0.5%

Source: SuperRatings media release, 21 July 2014

© Copyright Trish Power 2009-2014

Copyright for this article belongs to Trish Power, and cannot be reproduced without express and specific consent.

IMPORTANT: SuperGuide does not provide financial advice. Comments provided by readers that may include information relating to tax, superannuation or other rules cannot be relied upon as advice. SuperGuide does not verify the information provided within comments from readers. Readers need to seek independent advice about their personal circumstances.

Comments

  1. (Comment moderated) I telephoned MLC with a simple question “Do you have a superannuation account in which I can buy and sell shares listed on the Dow and Nasdaq”? The first woman did not know what the Dow and Nasdaq was, so put me through to the second. After a lengthy wait, I spoke to the second woman who put me through to a man. The man made me listen to a recorded disclaimer message about his advice, then told me that he would explain all the fund options open to me first. I said that I just wanted an answer to my question. He said that he would send me out all the options available for funds by mail. I told him that if he would not answer my question, that I would hang up. He launched into a speech about how I needed to appreciate his situation. I hung up. I tried complaining via the MLC website, but the relevant links do not work. I am now looking for an alternative provider.

  2. F. Wilmot says:

    I have been working overseas for the past 30 years and have recently returned to Australia but I am still working at 70 and now need to join a super scheme. What is the best scheme for me?

  3. Hi, I cannot find any details on pension funds scheme performance…

  4. Hi everyone,

    i have just transferred over from q super to sun super have i made a bad decision.

    Thanks.
    Mark Campbell.

  5. I beg to differ. I suggest that if were aged 25 (years away from retirement) a high growth option is better. You are buying units at a low price and thus accumulating lots of ‘cheap’ units. You have time to ride out the next boom bust cycle.
    At the other end of the scale say aged 50 plus if in ‘balanced’ or whatever and thinking of retiring soon, a safer (less risky) option may be for you ie preserving what you have a got and a small increase in your balance for the remaining years.

    For the vast majority in the middle, the league tables must be a yawn.

    Other than people like Trish, the vast majority of fin. press have no idea how super really works and are only interested in a sensational (read bad) headline. The number of people who read the fatuous nonsense often ask me should I switch.
    My view is simple, buy low sell high (and yes I do know they don’t ring a bell at the bottom of the cycle) .

    Its not that hard, what ever happened to a common sense approach?

  6. Thank you Trish for taking time to put that together. You’re an absolute gem.

    To jump on the soapbox for a moment, I encourage everyone to take special care when simply ticking “balanced” or “growth” on their application/asset allocation election forms.

    In the lead up to November 2007 (the start of the GFC), we noticed that a number of large superannuation funds were boating that “our balanced fund is doing better than everyone else’s balanced fund”, but when you looked closer, their balanced fund was in fact a “growth” fund.

    Ultimately it meant that members were exposed to a level of risk they weren’t suited to and lost more money in the drop than they should have.

    In my opinion, a balanced fund has a “balance” (funny that) between growth assets (shares and property) and defensive assets (cash and bonds); yet even SuperRatings above makes it very clear that they view a balanced fund as having up to 75% in growth assets. That’s an imbalance…you’ve gotta laugh I guess.

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