Heading in a new direction

Accurium’s chief executive Tracy Williams talks to Katarina Taurian about why the company rebranded from Bendzulla Actuarial and what this means for the direction of the business.

What’s the reasoning behind this rebranding?

The reasoning is, from our point of view, a small but pretty symbolic measure to reflect our core capabilities in financial modelling and our expansion into related SMSF retirement services.

So, we will still be doing actuarial certificates and that remains the focus of the business, but it’s about expanding into that SMSF retirement specialist field. It’s the same consistent services and capabilities, but with a distinct focus of SMSF retirement.

Was this rebranding a Challenger initiative?

No, not at all. We’ve said very early on that we were going to remain independently branded and strategically aligned. Challenger as a stakeholder obviously were involved in the decision-making process, but the review of the Bendzulla brand and the development of the Accurium brand was undertaken by the team at Bendzulla, and externally appointed consultants.

What has Challenger’s role been in this new direction and rebranding – you would imagine having Challenger as a backer has helped?

Yes absolutely and I think that Challenger has had a very good and positive impact on our business. Being a small business, having access to larger scale operations with additional resources has helped tremendously.

We’ve been really fortunate to have access to resources including IT, marketing, legal, compliance and HR, which means that we can concentrate on continuing to grow the Accurium business and know that all of those other very important, but more operational type matters, are being adequately dealt with within the broader group.

In addition, with the resources that Challenger has been able to provide, in relation to the rebrand, it has been very positive.

What direction are you heading in now and will it be specifically focused on the SMSF sector?

It will be specifically focused on the SMSF retirement market. We are also taking the opportunity to repackage some of the other consulting services that Bendzulla has always offered, and strategically refocusing that on our accountant clients.

So, that will be specifically in relation to long service leave, valuation calculations, share options valuations, economic loss calculations, anything that our accountant clients require in terms of actuarial consulting.

You’re talking about being SMSF retirement specialists – is there a gap in the market for that service?

Absolutely. [With] the baby boomer generation retiring, there is a large unmet need for what we call risk advice services in retirement finance.

With the collective mathematical and actuarial expertise Accurium has in its business, we feel as if we’re perfectly poised to help provide those type of services to SMSF practitioners.

I’ve said before, retirement is different. There are different risks, and retirement is different to accumulation. It’s spending for life rather than contributing and saving for the future, which is essentially what the [accumulation phase] is, so absolutely we know that there’s an unmet need. Surveys, such as recent Investment Trends surveys, that have come out recently do show that there is an unmet need in that retirement education space.

How long has the rebranding and this new direction been in the works, and was it motivated by this ‘gap’ in the market you’ve seen?

That’s a good question. To some degree [it] has been motivated by the gap, and we’re very keen to take full advantage of that gap.

It’s definitely not a decision that’s been made quickly, and there has been quite a lot of work that’s gone into it. There is a number of months’ worth of work involved. So it has been a pretty intense process, but we are really excited to be launching the new brand.

Touching on an earlier point – you’ve obviously got a large market share with your actuarial certificate offering, will anything be happening with that?

The offering will remain. As market leaders we will still continue to provide the same efficient, timely and accurate actuarial certificate services. As mentioned this is still the focus of the business. It is more about increasing our offering into that retirement market to our SMSF practitioner clients.

As part of the new offering, we have launched a research paper that we’re calling SMSF Retirement Insights. This is a really interesting piece of research, that is based on our statistically significant database of 60,000 SMSFs. So what we’ve done is we’ve used the anonymous data from those SMSFs to really drill down and see whether SMSF trustees are ready to be able to sustain themselves in retirement .

That research is actually really interesting. A large number of SMSF trustee couples will be able to, according to our research, sustain their retirement, for life on ASFA comfortable [standards], which is around about $58,000 per year.

However if they want to be spending more than $58,000, our data is showing that less than half of SMSF trustees who are 65 will be able to afford $70,000 per annum with only 25 per cent being able to afford $100,00 per annum.

So part of the rebrand is that we’re showcasing some of our additional capabilities which is essentially what the SMSF Retirement Insights research paper is about. That will be hopefully quite an interesting piece of research for the broader SMSF market.

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