A fresh focus
AMP SMSF has a renewed strategic direction, and managing director Natasha Fenech tells Katarina Taurian how the business plans to drive future growth.
It’s been just over six months in the role for you at AMP SMSF. What do you think your key achievements have been so far?
Over the last six months, the great thing from my perspective has been that we’ve actually looked at the overall business, refreshed our strategy and we’ve got new strategic direction that we’re focusing on. It’s starting to get a lot of traction within our business.
We’ve seen growth in the business improve dramatically focusing on organic growth as well. Craig [Meller] was very clear about the fact that there will be a focus on organic growth, and we’re seeing that take-up, which is a great accolade to the team.
The last six months have been a very busy six months, but I’m really happy with the progress we’ve made so far.
You mentioned there has been a change in AMP SMSF’s strategy. What has that been since you’ve been on board?
What we want to do is really make a difference in this industry. We felt that for us to do that, we needed to focus on five core elements.
The first is we’re actually re-looking at our go-to-market strategy. This is really about taking our offers to the next level, so we’re doing a lot of work on that front.
We’re working quite a bit in the education and learning space. We launched the Centre of Excellence with The University of Adelaide, which is a fantastic partnership that we feel will bring great insights to the industry.
We’re also going to be doing quite a bit of work around our operating processes. So right now we run multiple technology stacks and multiple processes based on the different brands that we’ve acquired over the years. We’re actually looking to consolidate that and form [what we’re calling] one operating model, but it’s really around aligning our technology platforms and aligning our processes in our business, so that we can give much better service at the end of the day to customers.
We’ve always said that administration is about two elements: one is about bringing economies of scale into play, and secondly it’s about technological advancements, and we’re looking to drive that even further.
The fourth element is around our people. We want to put a really big investment in our people, because that’s a really big part of administration. We’re investing quite heavily in training our staff, and we’ve invested in new roles to support that training capability as well.
Finally we want to give much more proactive and aligned experiences to customers through the use of big data, so that’s again aligning with the AMP strategy and the customer value proposition.
You mentioned there that you’re going into an organic growth phase, are you still eyeing any acquisitions?
Absolutely, we’re always looking for opportunities, but we also feel that we need to start making our offers stand up, and have that proposition for both organic growth and acquisitional growth.
There was modest growth in the last quarter for AMP SMSF, what are your thoughts for the next quarter and the longer term?
It will be better. From our perspective we’re confident we’re going to see quite a significant uplift in our organic growth, certainly over the next six months.
We’ve had some really great traction working with accountants; they see us as partners to their business and so that’s something we’ll continue to focus on, as well as all our other channels through our aligned and adviser networks, the IFAs, stockbrokers, and even direct. We do have an operation that sells direct to customers as well.
To what extent do you deal with accountants?
Quite a sizeable proportion of our book is actually through the accountant network.
We’ve been [looking at what we call] the ‘A3 effect’ - we believe there are three parties that come together to create a much more holistic proposition to the trustee.
It starts with the adviser, who provides all the investment advice and asset class selection. You have the accountant who is trying to deliver effective tax planning, estate planning, [etc]. Then you have us as an administrator taking away all that compliance work, but through our economies of scale we can actually make the equation a lot more effective at the end of the day for the trustee.
Do you see any gaps in education on the adviser or the trustee side?
Our view is that trustees need to partner with the right advisers to make sure that they’re well informed. We are looking to create education models for trustees as well because we believe trustees do need to have that knowledge base to understand the ins and outs of running their SMSF. It comes down to making sure there is the education available to trustees so they’re making informed choices.
That’s our view: let’s help trustees educate themselves. Most trustees are well educated and financially literate anyway, and most of them tend to use partnerships to provide them with the advice as well.
From research, we’re aware that 86 per cent of trustees use some sort of adviser, be it a financial planner, an accountant, a stock broker, a private banker, a combination or all of those or an administrator to help them out. Most of them are actually leveraging the knowledge and the skillset in the industry already.
On the adviser side, in relation to SMSFs specifically, do you see any education gaps there?
For us, it’s more about making sure that we continue to lift the standards of education in the industry generally, not just in the SMSF sector.
In the SMSF space it’s about making sure that they’re fully aware of all the technical requirements, and that’s why we believe in and are willing to invest more in our educational capabilities, and providing those capabilities in a much more open environment.
Is there anything else on the agenda for AMP SMSF in the next 12 months?
The focus will be on enhancing the value proposition that we are providing our clients being our business partners and their trustees by executing on our renewed strategy, as well as ensuring we continue to play an active part in the industry through avenues such as the Centre of Excellence with Adelaide University.