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When it comes to comparing and selecting super funds, investment performance and low fees are necessary but not sufficient. You can find many articles on SuperGuide about the top performing or cheapest super funds (see the list at the end of this article), but your search shouldn’t end there.
The major super research houses (Chant West, Rainmaker and SuperRatings) have long recognised this, so they use their annual awards to draw attention to the super and pension funds that deliver not only on performance and fees, but also go further in some of the other services they deliver.
This may be due to the education services the super fund provides, or some new or innovative investment options. It could be cost-effective insurance or simply top-notch customer support. What’s certain is it won’t be one thing, but a combination of factors that make one super fund stand out from the pack.
Even then, the overall winner of fund of the year may not be the one for you. For example, if you are looking for a pension fund then that sub-category will be of most interest. If the pension fund of the year is also the overall winner, or if more than one research house gives a particular fund a gong for best in category, then you could be on to a winner.
Despite the bad press that super funds sometimes get, ultimately they are legally obliged to act in the best interests of their members, and the best super funds use that principle to continually improve their service.
In this article we report the Funds of the Year as chosen by Chant West, Money Magazine (published by Rainmaker) and SuperRatings going back to 2013. For the latest year we’ll also list all the winners from other categories.
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Funds of the Year: Current winners
This year the top awards have gone to three different funds, although each of the winners pop up as category winners or finalists elsewhere.
|Money magazine (2021)||Aware Super|
|Chant West (2020)||Sunsuper|
Sunsuper won Money magazine’s Best Value Insurance in Super award and Q Super won both its Best Value MySuper Product and Best Value Super Fund for Young People awards, but its overall winner was Aware Super.
Money magazine announced its superannuation Best of the Best Awards 2021 on December 3, 2020 based on research by Rainmaker. Writing in the December 2020/January 2021 issue of Money Magazine, Rainmaker executive director of research, Alex Dunnin said 2020 was a year that tested investment strategies like no other. “Smart super funds with shrewd leadership teams know that when the stakes are high, their best strategy is to calm down, simplify and focus only on what they can control. They got their technology working, became more efficient, reduced costs, lowered overheads and made sure they were investing only in what they understood.”
In accepting the top award for the first time, Aware Super chief executive Deanne Stewart said the mergers of First State Super, VicSuper and WA Super had grown Aware Super’s membership to more than 1.06 million. Most are healthcare workers, teachers, police, firefighters and all those on the frontline of bushfires and COVID-19. “It’s been very motivating for the team. 2020 reminds us all how important essential workers and public servants are.
“We’ve taken a leadership role in affordable housing and we’ve now invested $250 million in affordable housing and that benefits thousands of Australians and is also a good investment for the fund. The other one we’ve taken a leadership position on is climate change – not just with a 2050 target, but what we’re doing now and over the next three years or decade to make the portfolio more sustainable.”
SuperRatings announced its 2021 Fund of the Year award winners on October 29, 2020. QSuper was the big winner, taking out Fund of the Year, Pension Fund of the year and Smooth Ride, which is awarded to the fund that has best weathered the ups and downs of the market while also delivering strong outcomes.
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Executive Director Kirby Rappell said: “It’s important to recognise the significant work that all funds have done to support their members through a very challenging year. In a highly competitive field, we decided that QSuper was the fund that performed most strongly across key criteria of investment performance, fees, member services, financial advice and insurance, and fund governance.”
Industry funds won all the other awards except for the Infinity Award (the fund most committed to addressing its environmental and ethical responsibilities), which was won for a record seventh time by Local Government Super, originally a public sector fund but now open to all.
In accepting the top award, Jason Murray from QSuper said: “It’s especially humbling to be named Fund of the Year this year, a year like no other. Many of our members are frontline workers. They do incredibly important jobs, but this year they were called upon to do the absolute extraordinary, for all of us. It inspires our relentless commitment to creating a better future for them through the good times and through tough ones.”
In many ways, QSuper’s unique investment strategy, which has been 10 years in the making, proved its mettle in the 2020. Although super funds may have similar looking investment options, there is a wide variation in how the invest members’ money. While there is no single best approach to investing, as the saying goes, the hour maketh the man, or the super fund in this instance.
In the wake of the GFC, QSuper adopted an approach to risk that would soften the blow of big sharemarket falls. It has a much lower allocation to listed equities than other funds, with the difference made up of long duration bonds. The aim is to provide a smoother ride for members.
This approach also saw QSuper grab Chant West’s awards for Pension Fund of the Year and Best Fund Investments, but their top gong went to another outstanding fund, Sunsuper.
Chant West held their awards on May 14, 2020. Chant West’s Head of Research Ian Fryer said that this year Chant West has recognised funds that have long-term sustainability embedded in all they do. This is shown in how they run their fund, how they invest for members and how they help members engage with their long-term needs.
“The main game is not just what we do for our members this year but rather what we do for our members over the next 30+ years.” Mr Fryer said. “Super funds need to invest in their people and their systems to ensure they can continue to deliver for members over the long-term. And on performance, it’s not about the one-year numbers but about the value funds add to members’ retirement income through strong performance over the long term. The best funds are those that keep their eye on the long game.”
Funds of the Year: 2013 to 2021
In the table below you can find the Funds of the Year for the last eight years. As noted earlier, SuperRatings 2021 Fund of the Year was announced in late 2020, while Chant West and Rainmaker will announce their 2021 winners in that year.
Sunsuper are again the big winners with six awards in total over the years. UniSuper is close behind having won five times, Hostplus have won four times, AustralianSuper and QSuper have won three times, while REST has won twice.
It’s notable that all funds are Industry funds, except for Telstra Super which is a Corporate fund and QSuper which is a Public Sector fund (although now available to the general public).
|Year||Chant West||Money Magazine (Rainmaker)*||SuperRatings|
|2021||Not announced yet||Aware Super||QSuper|
*Note: Prior to 2020 Rainmaker’s awards were known as the Selecting Super awards. There was no winner for 2020.
Sources: Chant West, Rainmaker and SuperRatings
Other award winners for 2020 and 2021
Besides the Fund of the Year, each research house also awards funds for excelling in more specialist areas, such as pensions, investments and innovation.
Money magazine (2021)
|Best MySuper Product||AustralianSuper|
|Best MySuper Lifecycle Product||Tasplan|
|Best Value MySuper Product||QSuper|
|Best Value Balanced Super Product||Rest Super|
|Best Value Super Fund for Young People||QSuper|
|Best Value Super Platform||Vision Super|
|Best Value Insurance in Super||Sunsuper|
|Best Value Death Insurance in Super||Vision Super / Virgin Money Super|
|Best Value Income Protection Insurance in Super||Colonial First State / AMG Super|
|Highest Super Performer||Colonial First State (Global tech option)|
|Best Growth Super Product||Unisuper|
|Best Balanced Super Product||HESTA|
|Best Moderate Super Product||Cbus|
|Best Australian Shares Super Product||IOOF|
|Best International Shares Super Product||WA Super|
|Best Property Super Product||Prime Super|
|Best Fixed Interest Super Product||Hostplus|
|Best Cash Super Product||AMG Super|
|Best Innovation ESG Investment Leadership||HESTA|
|Best ESG Super Product||HESTA|
|Best Innovation – ESG Trailblazer||Australian Ethical|
|Best Innovation – Community Partnerships||LUCRF|
|Best Pension Fund||Cbus|
|Best Value Retirement Product||Bendigo SmartStart Pension|
|Best Balanced Pension Product||HESTA|
|Best Moderate Pension Product||Cbus|
|Best Growth Pension Product||Cbus|
Source: Money Magazine / Rainmaker
|Pension of the Year||QSuper|
|MyChoice Super of the Year||Sunsuper|
|MySuper of the Year||UniSuper|
|Career Fund of the Year||Cbus Super|
|Net Benefit||AustralianSuper and HESTA|
|Infinity||Local Government Super|
Chant West (2020)
|Pension Fund of the Year||QSuper|
|Advised Product of the Year||Netwealth Accelerator|
|Corporate Solutions Fund of the Year||Sunsuper|
|Specialist Fund of the Year||Cbus|
|Best Fund: Investments||QSuper|
|Best Fund: Member Services||Sunsuper|
|Best Fund: Insurance||NGS Super|
|Best Fund: Advice Services||UniSuper|
|Best Fund: Innovation||Russell iQ Super – Employer|
|Best Fund: Integrity||VicSuper|
|Best Fund: Longevity Product||Colonial First State FirstChoice Wholesale|
Source: Chant West