For Jon Standen, General Manager, Member Engagement at HESTA, providing advice to superannuation (super) fund members has always been about communication, building trust and “keeping it simple”.
Telling it how it is
Since starting his first adviser role at not-for-profit super fund Vic Super, he’s aimed to be an educator who can engage with members to transform their initial feelings of tension, confusion and uncertainty into clarity, empowerment and engagement with their super fund and their financial future.
“When I talk about insurance and super, I like to illustrate key concepts visually and tell stories to help members connect,” he explains. “I stay away from jargon where I can, and just tell people what they need to know without overcomplicating it.”
Standen adds that a common mistake advisors make is trying to show people how clever they are and much they know. “Often this just confuses people and can cause disengagement,” he says.
Born in Gippsland, in regional Victoria, Standen was heavily influenced by the relationships he observed his father, a financial adviser, developed with clients, and he could really see the positive impact that good advice could have.
Straight after school, Standen started a career in the sector while working towards his financial planning qualifications. His first role was with AMP, followed by Vic Super, where he learned the ropes of delivering the best possible advice to members.
He much prefers the industry fund sector, which allows "some freedom from the pressures of self-employment".
“Advice at a profit-for-members industry super funds can be open to everyone, which is important,” Standen says.
“Everyone should be able to access advice, especially as it relates to insurance. Often younger members or those starting a family aren’t sure where to turn. Super funds can provide an accessible advice option that brings a lot of security and comfort.”
Responsible for managing the bulk of eastern Victoria, Standen and his Vic Super team of advisers spent a significant portion of their time visiting worksites to conduct seminars to support members in their journey learning about retirement, super and insurance.
Standen later took a similar role in Geelong, west of Melbourne, before landing his current position as General Manager, Member Engagement at HESTA.
His team of sixteen across Victoria and Tasmania are dedicated to providing personal advice directly to members and engaging with employers to provide general advice.
“My remit also includes online tools like the calculator on our website that helps members understand complex issues and provide projections on their retirement benefits,” he says.
Standen’s leadership philosophy is similar to his approach to educating super fund members.
“I keep our goals very structured and clear, and make sure team members are not overloaded with too many metrics,” he explains.
“My role as a leader is to make sure the team can do their role effectively by both setting a direction and getting rid of roadblocks. I'm big on communication, I share as much as I can and use affirmations to create a sense of unity, like, ‘We win together. We fail together.’”
"I also make sure to look for opportunities to foster career development for team members whenever possible."
Streamlining the model
Standen says in 2022, HESTA transitioned away from providing comprehensive advice through an external licensee to an intra-fund advice model. It was a big piece of work the team is immensely proud of.
“We recognised that what our members need is specific advice around super and retirement planning," he says. "We refocused our business to provide a simple offer that meets the needs of the majority of our members.
“As part of this, a new Retirement Hub was built to provide a service that members can call if they want to chat with a retirement expert. It also facilitates access to our referral partners, such as lawyers, estate planning specialists and aged care providers.”
Quality of Advice Review
At the 2023 Group Life Seminar, Standen will discuss the implications of the Australian government’s response to the Quality of Advice Review, which is currently a hot item on the retirement planning sector's agenda. “My session will look at how the review will impact our advice models,” he says.
For super funds, the challenge will be to efficiently provide and implement advice at scale.
"Being able to access our services improves members’ financial outcomes, and thereby their confidence," Standen says. "It alleviates their anxiety surrounding superannuation and retirement.
“With over 1 million members to help, that's going to increase the pressure and incentive to ensure the advice we’re pumping out is being actioned in a cost-efficient, member-driven way."
Opportunity for deeper partnership
He adds that group life insurers and product providers will need to build relationships that allow member facing teams to access tools and materials that assist them to add value and avoid backlogs.
“This is a tremendous opportunity for group life insurers to work closely with super funds to make sure that member facing staff can access analysis tools, quoting systems and an effective implementation process to ensure the process is as frictionless a process as possible.”
Hope despite rising premiums
Standen predicts cost pressures on group life premiums will continue, particularly given the increasing prevalence of mental health claims in the sector.
“What we might find is that super funds might have to manage costs by rethinking the types of cover they offer and prevent the erosion of retirement balances.
“As a result, finding the right product and provider for our members will be even more critical. I think it’ll be a very competitive landscape over the next few years.”
Standen believes the Quality of Advice Review will therefore help to improve member outcomes.
“We welcome the review," he says. "We've needed to simplify and make things easier for customers for some time.
“It's important that we maintain consumer protections as we continue to upgrade the advice process.”