Wealthtrac's managing director and chief executive Matthew Johnson shares his thoughts on the growth in the SMSF sector and where the superannuation industry as a whole is headed in the coming decade.
How long have you been in the SMSF space?
We did a soft launch in April last year, so not overly long. But having said that, we took some time to research before we got into the market, and we got in by default really. The advisers using our wrap service were looking for an administration service to enable them to access SMSF clients.
Are you finding the SMSF market to be crowded, especially compared to years gone by?
It does seem that everyone is in it. We got in it because we had an actual demand for it.
Does the level of growth in the SMSF sector concern you?
I’m still a massive believer in advice. So I still think people should be seeking advice, even though they’re the trustee in SMSFs, I still think they should be obtaining advice in terms of structure, in terms of what they can do and what they can’t do as a trustee and also, just as importantly, investment advice.
Also, I don’t believe everybody needs an SMSF. I think it’s been sold traditionally on [the idea that] the only way that you can manage your superannuation is through an SMSF.
Being involved in IPOs, direct shares, cash management accounts, term deposits, managed funds - you can do that all through a wrap. The bridge between self-managed super funds and traditional superannuation funds has been closed. And so therefore if that bridge has been closed, does everybody still need a self-managed super fund?
We’re happy to cover the market in terms of both sides of the fence, we’re not pro self-managed fund, we’re not pro wrap - we’re pro advice and we’re pro quality administration.
The barriers to entry have also come down significantly. In the old days, 10 years ago, SMSFs were a rich man’s club. The average balance is still over a million dollars. But I think the change is a good thing. There’s young professionals out there now, there’s the Y generation that have got a good super balance and are making regular contributions… why wouldn’t they be looking at an SMSF?
I still get back to my point about quality advice. They need to be seeking advice, especially on the structure and the investment part.
Do you think SMSFs are over-recommended?
That’s a broad question. It depends who is doing the recommendation; I don’t think advisers are over-recommending it. It could be maybe accountants that are. But look, I think there’s an appetite in the marketplace and that’s wanting to be fed.
People talk about insurance being sold, not bought. Well, I actually think SMSFs are bought. The consumer has a clear mandate. They’ve got this insatiable appetite for control, and they think the only way they can get that is an SMSF product or a service or an account.
And also, property. Australia has an insatiable appetite for property. Although they may not be able to afford it on their own… they’re looking maybe to superannuation to fill that void. But I don’t think it’s a problem in a property market, the property market is running on its own steam. It’s not really being overly assisted by SMSFs, I still think that’s a bit of a furphy.
Any predictions for the next decade given the growth the sector has seen?
I think superannuation in general will become more front and centre of people’s minds. We’re at $1.7 trillion, knocking on the door of $1.8 trillion. With the Y generation that are young executives and young professionals, it could actually end up being their largest asset rather than their second-largest asset. If something is your largest asset, you’re going to give it the due attention it deserves.
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