As a result of the ongoing Coronavirus crisis, it's a good idea to keep an eye on this page, which we’ll be updating regularly with information about investments, our services, government announcements and your super or pension.
Latest updates posted 29 July 2020 - check 'Investments' below.
It's important to keep in mind that all information on this page is for general information only and does not take into account your individual objectives, financial situation or needs. You should consider the information and its appropriateness, having regard to your own objectives, financial situation and needs. You should obtain and consider the Product Disclosure Statement (PDS) and Reference Guides relating to Accumulate Plus or Retirement Access before making any decision about whether to acquire or continue to hold the product. You should also consider seeking professional financial advice before finalising any decisions that may affect your financial future.
Disruption to the global economy resulting from COVID-19 has affected almost all parts of financial markets. Share markets have occupied most headlines but the disruption has affected other investments, including cash investments. The return from cash investment has reduced and the outlook for cash returns is likely to be low.
This article provides some context on what has happened in cash markets recently, and offers some insights into what this might mean for cash investments within superannuation in the near future.
Recent activity affecting cash returns
Returns on cash investments have dropped significantly in recent years. One of the main causes has been measures taken by our central bank, the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA).
When a country’s economy is facing reduced growth and/or employment prospects, its central bank may reduce cash rates (and therefore lending rates) to help encourage growth, and achieve higher employment and economic prosperity.
In Australia’s case, the RBA has lowered the annual cash rate target from 4.75% in 2011 to 1.5% in June 2019. More recently, faced with significant disruption to growth and employment caused by COVID-19, the RBA has sought to support further our economy by lowering the cash rate to a record low of 0.25%.
Australian Cash Rate since 2000
While the RBA is not alone in reducing rates, some other central banks across the world have near zero or even negative cash rates. In addition to the RBA’s rate cuts, other factors such as high levels of liquidity in the banking system have led to the actual overnight cash rate reducing even further to 0.13% p.a. as at 24 July 2020.
How this affects cash option returns in super funds
Cash options offered by superannuation funds generally invest in a range of short-term money market instruments such as bank deposits and treasury bills. Ultra-low cash rates have significantly reduced the returns payable on these money market instruments. The flow on affect is that the outlook for cash options returns has also dropped significantly.
Group Super’s Cash option performance
The reduction in the cash rate and market returns is evident in the past returns for our Cash investment option.
The table below shows return for the Cash option as at 30 June 2020, calculated after the deduction of applicable fees and taxes. Please remember that past performance is not a reliable indicator of future performance.
|Return to 30 June 2020||Accumulate Plus||Retirement Access (Transition to Retirement)||Retirement Access (Account-Based Pension)|
|5 years||1.58% p.a.||n/a||1.87% p.a.|
Insights for members
Our Cash option is designed to provide the lowest level of volatility compared to the other investment options offered by the fund. While we can’t forecast future returns, we feel it is important for members to understand that low returns for cash investments is likely to persist for some time. There is also some likelihood of negative returns.
We also offer a range of other investment options for our members - details are included in our Reference Guide: Investments.
Scott Durbin, our CEO, provides insights to the nature of this volatility, talks about the investment approach taken by the fund and the value of having a long-term view when making decisions to manage superannuation.
Play the video to hear Scott’s message.
COVID-19 has continued to spread across the globe, with the pace of spread varying from country to country. Although the volatility has persisted in investment markets, there has been some resurgence within sharemarkets in the last two weeks. The Australian sharemarket, measured by the S&P/ASX 200 index, rose approximately 11% from the 23 March to 31 March.
Supporting this brief resurgence across global sharemarkets are the early evidence of ‘curve flattening’ and tentative returns to normality in a small number of countries, and historic levels of fiscal and monetary intervention from governments and central banks leading to slightly improved investor sentiment.
Looking forward, some form of global recovery is expected, however the expected time and path it may take for economies to recover remains highly uncertain. This uncertainty of economic outlook means we expect to see continued volatility in markets in the short term.
We construct our diversified investment options to achieve our long-term investment objectives while limiting our members’ exposure to sharp downfalls and volatility in the sharemarket. This resilience to volatility is demonstrated when comparing the performance of our Balanced (MySuper) option to major sharemarkets over the three-month period from 1 January to 31 March 2020. The Australian sharemarket, measured by the S&P/ASX 200 index, experienced a fall of approximately -24% in the period, whereas our Balanced (MySuper) option return was approximately -8% for the same period.
We encourage our members to focus on long-term returns, so in the table below we have provided our Accumulate Plus options performance over 3-month, 1-year and 10-year periods. We also remind members that past performance is not a reliable indicator of future performance.
Accumulate Plus returns to 31 March 2020 (calculated after the deduction of tax, investment fees and asset-based administration fees)
|3-month returns||1-year returns||10-year average returns|
|Balanced (MySuper)||-7.7%||-1.0%||6.4% p.a.|
|Single asset class options|
|Fixed Interest||0.6%||3.1%||4.4% p.a.|
|Australian Shares||-22.1%||-11.7%||5.1% p.a.|
|International Shares||-13.2%||-2.1%||9.5% p.a.|
As we continue to navigate through these volatile times our investment team and trustee board, along with our advisers and investment managers, will continue to monitor the situation closely to understand and assess any longer-term potential impacts, and inform future positioning within our portfolios.
Again we would like to express our thoughts and concerns for those who are personally affected by COVID-19. The emerging impact the virus is having on human life globally is confronting for all of us and should always be the first and foremost concern. These are undoubtedly some of the most extreme, challenging conditions this generation has faced, both socially and economically.
As guardians of our members’ retirement savings, we fully appreciate your concerns about the effect of COVID-19 on your benefits. To help manage these concerns, we continue to keep you updated on your super through these challenging times.
Most of us are aware of the continued impact COVID-19 is having on the domestic and global economies. The threat of the virus has caused disruption to society and drastic (but necessary) measures implemented to curb its spread. We will see considerable reductions to economic growth and business activity in the short to medium term. A growing acceptance of this reality and continued uncertainty has manifested itself within investment markets in recent weeks.
Sharemarkets continue to exhibit strong volatility and sharp downturns with no discerning differences between individual company circumstances and impacts. Even assets usually considered to be safer havens than others, such as bonds, have experienced extreme levels of volatility.
Over the last week, historic levels (and forms) of economic intervention from Governments and Central Banks have restored some levels of stability in the short-term. We hope to see the influence of these measures continue to provide more economic stability as time goes on.
It is worth remembering that markets are forward looking and assets at this time may have priced in much of the expected impact. However, the gross uncertainty that surrounds many aspects of COVID-19 means it is highly difficult if not impossible to judge whether assets are indeed priced to reflect this.
As the virus continues its rapid spread globally and nationally in an unprecedented fashion, it is still extremely unclear how and when disruption to economies will start to slow down and some level of ‘normality’ is restored.
While we still encourage members to focus on longer-term returns, and remind you that past performance should not be seen as a reliable indicator of future performance, we appreciate you may be keen to understand our fund’s performance during these challenging times.
You will have no doubt heard reporting about the significant drops in share markets throughout February and March. The Australian share market has dropped in value by about -30% since the start of the calendar year. The impact this sharp drop has had on our diversified (pre-mixed) options has been cushioned, thanks to the well-diversified nature of those options. For example, our Balanced (MySuper) option experienced a drop in returns of less than half this amount over the same period. Our diversified options are constructed in a manner to reduce exposure and increase resilience to volatility, like that being experienced in recent times.
Please consider how your investment option(s) have performed over periods longer than just the recent downturn. In the period 30 June 2019 to 20 March 2020, our Balanced (MySuper) option has returned about -7.5%, and -4.1% over the one-year period up to 20 March 2020.*
* Returns stated here are based on actual unit prices at 20 March 2020 for the Balanced (MySuper) option in Accumulate Plus, calculated after the deduction of investment fees, asset-based administration fees and any applicable taxes. Past investment performance is not a reliable indicator of future performance.
While negative returns are not what we want for our members, the returns quoted (relative to the alarming drops in the share market) demonstrate the value of diversification and how short-term volatility can be smoothed out over longer periods.
When considering your super investments, we would encourage you to bear in mind some key investment principles:
Before considering the potential impacts of COVID-19 from an investments perspective, we're aware this may be a difficult and upsetting time for anyone directly affected by the virus itself. While the effect it has on investments and our members’ benefits is important to us, the direct impact of the virus on human life is always forefront in our thoughts.
While COVID-19 infection rates have declined significantly in China, the number of infections outside China has continued to increase. This has contributed to continued volatility and reductions in equity markets. Throughout these last few weeks, other asset classes such as fixed income have performed well, reducing some of the impact of the downturn on our pre-mixed options and demonstrating the value of a well-diversified portfolio.
It's worth noting we maintain our belief in the value of active management and that highly skilled managers can identify investment opportunities in certain market environments. During a sustained market downturn such as this, some of our active managers may tentatively look to identify and capitalise on some specific opportunities where they believe high quality assets can be obtained for our members at attractive prices.
In terms of outlook, it has become increasingly likely that domestic and global GDP levels will be impacted in the short term, and as long as uncertainty around COVID-19 persists, volatility in equity markets is likely to continue. Having said this we, and our advisers, maintain conviction in our long term outlook and the strategic positioning of the portfolio. We don't anticipate structurally changing the composition of our portfolios at the present time in direct reaction to the virus outbreak. As long-term investors, we expect to experience intermittent market volatility throughout the cycle. We believe our diversified investment options are well-balanced and diversified to weather most financial storms reasonably well without threatening members’ long-term investment objectives. Considering the uncertainty of the situation, we believe it'is difficult and potentially counter-productive to make any specific predictions or knee-jerk shifts to our investment strategy at this time.
In considering any investment switching, we would encourage our members to maintain a similar perspective and remember that superannuation is a long-term investment. Timing the market based on short-term predictions is highly difficult, even for the professionals - switching investments during a time of lower returns means you may lock in the value of any losses and may miss the opportunity to recover in the (high) likelihood that markets recover. Although COVID-19 and other significant macro-economic events will affect returns in the short term, we expect investments to recover through the cycle and over the long term.
Along with our advisers and investment managers, we continue to monitor the situation closely and to assess any longer-term potential impacts, and inform future positioning within our portfolios.
As the Coronavirus (covid-19) has continued to evolve, global equity markets have experienced significant falls over recent days.
Although there are various opinions on how coronavirus will develop, it remains uncertain how long it will last and how far it may spread. It has however become clear that the progression of the spread and attempts to contain it have affected, and may continue to affect, economic activity, particularly in China over the short term.
Given this uncertainty, there is a risk of continued volatility in markets in the short term, until such time there is greater clarity over the threat and trajectory of the virus.
The impact that any such short-term market volatility has on our members’ account balances will vary, depending on the investment option(s) that apply to your account. We would however encourage members to remember that short-term volatility is expected to occur intermittently over the investment cycle and that you should maintain a longer-term outlook when considering investment objectives.
It is important to note that our diversified investment options in Accumulate Plus and Retirement Access - Conservative, Moderate, Balanced (MySuper) and Growth - are constructed to reduce members’ exposure to sharp downfalls in any particular scenario or market. We achieve this in part by ensuring our options are well diversified across asset classes and investment strategies, with an aim of meeting investment objectives for our members over the long term.
When assessing the short-term coronavirus volatility, we remain confident in our long-term outlook and comfortable with the current strategic positioning of our portfolios, and therefore do not expect to make any material short-term portfolio changes in response.
Having said this, our investment team and trustee board, along with our advisers and investment managers, will continue to closely monitor the situation to understand and assess any longer-term potential impacts, and inform future positioning within our portfolios.
From mid-April 2020, members will be able to apply to the ATO online through www.my.gov.au to access up to $10,000 of their super before 1 July 2020 and a further $10,000 from 1 July 2020 until 31 December 2020. Members will not need to pay tax on amounts released.
Members can only apply for one determination per financial year up to the limit of $10,000. Members cannot make a subsequent application if they do not request or receive the full amount approved in their first application for that financial year.
This program is only open to Australian and New Zealand citizens and permanent residents. To apply for early release, you must satisfy one or more of the following requirements:
If you are a defined benefit member, this early release payment may not be available from your Group Super defined benefit account. You can call our defined benefit helpline on 1800 135 970 to find out more.
Members can apply through their myGov account. Members do not apply through their super fund. The ATO assess eligibility and makes a determination. Members can lodge an application by one of the two ways:
The application requires the member to certify that they are eligible; to provide bank account details for payment purposes; and to authorise the ATO to provide these bank details to the super fund.
The ATO will issue members with a determination and, if successful, direct their super fund to release the payment. The fund will make the payment to the bank account provided to the ATO. It will take approximately 1 to 2 business days for the fund to receive the ATO’s notification.
For more information, refer to the government’s early access to superannuation fact sheet.
When this early release payment is made from a Group Super Accumulate Plus account that is invested in more than one investment option, we will withdraw the payment proportionally from all the investment options held in the account. If you have auto-rebalancing on your account, it may be turned off when an early release payment is made.
Withdrawing your superannuation may affect your insurance cover. If the early release payment results in the closure of your Accumulate Plus account any insurance cover you hold in that account ceases on the next monthly premium due date.
Consider whether you need to seek financial advice before finalising your application to access some of your super ahead of your retirement. To assist you with your decision making process, visit the ASIC MoneySmart website, www.moneysmart.gov.au.
On 23 March 2020, the government temporarily reduced minimum drawdown requirements for account-based pensions, transition to retirement income streams (TRIS) and similar products by 50 per cent for 2019-20 and 2020-21 income years.
This measure is designed to help retirees manage the impact of financial market volatility on their retirement savings.
We will contact members with a Retirement Access account in the near future with information about how to access the reduced minimums for 2019-20, and how the drawdown rates will be applied in 2020-21. You can find the revised rates in our Member Guide (PDS) for Retirement Access.
For more information, refer to the government’s 'providing support for retirees' fact sheet.
Changes to your salary and employment status may affect your amount of cover (if any) and/or the way the cover is calculated in your Accumulate Plus account. For detailed information about, and terms and conditions of, the insurance cover provided in Accumulate Plus, please read our Reference Guides: Insurance cover.
If you are employed on a permanent basis* death and total and permanent disability (TPD) cover is generally calculated as a multiple of your notional salary. This cover is calculated monthly based on information we receive from the Group.
Changes to multiple-based cover automatically occur if your salary or permanent-basis employment with the Group change. If your notional salary increases or decreases, your amount of cover (and premiums) change accordingly. If you employment status changes so that you are no longer employed on a permanent basis*, existing multiple-based cover is fixed at the dollar amount.
*Meaning of permanent basis: As defined in our insurance policy, being employed on a permanent basis or fixed term arrangement means: you’re employed under a contract of employment that (i)is of indefinite duration or is for a fixed term; (ii) requires you to perform identifiable duties; (iii) requires you to work a regular number of hours each week; and (iv) provides for paid annual leave and sick leave.
If the Group does not employ you on a permanent basis (defined above), cover is applied as a fixed dollar amount. Fixed cover does not change based on salary or employment status changes.
In the event of a TPD claim, if you’re not employed, your claim may be assessed against a different definition of TPD - read our Reference Guide: Insurance cover (Death & TPD) for more information.
Salary Continuance is designed to replace a portion of your income if you have to stop work due to illness or injury. To be eligible for a benefit in the event of a claim, it's important that you have an income to insure. When the insurer calculates the benefit payable for a claim, regardless of your amount of accepted cover, the insurer must take into account your actual income at the time of your disablement. This income is known as your pre-disability income.
If 75% of your pre-disability income is less than your amount of cover and you are eligible for a benefit, the payment is based on the lower amount. If you’re not employed or not earning a regular income, a benefit is not payable as your pre-disability income is zero. In either situation, excess premiums are not refunded.
We do not monitor income and employment changes for Salary Continuance. It’s important that you review your cover and notify us if your income changes.
If you are not receiving employer contributions and are unable to contribute yourself, please keep in mind there are laws requiring super funds to cancel all insurance cover for inactive accounts. An ‘inactive’ account for this purpose means the account hasn’t received any contributions or rollovers for 16 consecutive months. We will notify you in advance if this situation applies to you so that you can decide if you wish to maintain your cover or not at that time.
Due to significant enquiries our contact centre is currently receiving, both in calls and via email, you're likely to experience extended wait times. We apologise this inconvenience and remain committed to helping members.
In the meantime, our website provides information, resources and self-service options for members. We encourage you to use our web search facility before calling.
Our secure online portals have access to all your important account details. Log into your account via oursuperfund.com.au/login to check your account balance, view past transactions and statements, or update some of your personal details.
For Accumulate Plus and Retirement Access members, you need your Online Identity Number (OIN) – if you don’t know your OIN, you can retrieve it from the login screen by providing a few details about your account and entering a security code that is sent to your linked mobile phone number. Alternatively, your OIN is shown at the top of a recent benefit statement.
You can switch investment options for your super or pension account in the following ways:
Any switch transaction received online or by form before our transaction cut-off time of 3pm (AEST/AEDT) on a NSW bank business day is processed using the unit price determined for that day.
Important! If you’re considering switching your investment option(s) or withdrawing super in cash, think about your long-term goals and objectives, risk profile and your timeframes beforehand. Even if you’re heading into retirement, consider if you’ll be keeping your account invested for the longer term, say 10+ years, where your account may have the opportunity to ride out shorter-term volatility. Switching to a more conservative option when markets have already fallen may mean you lock in investment losses and may miss potential market rebounds. The following resources are available to assist you:
Our insurance policies for Accumulate Plus include a clause related to pandemic or epidemic illness. If our insurer advises us that they are invoking this clause with regard to Coronavirus (COVID-19), the exclusion only applies where your death or terminal illness is related directly or indirectly to the illness, and occurs within 30 days of your cover commencing or increasing. The pandemic or epidemic illness exclusion doesn’t apply to Total and Permanent Disablement or Salary Continuance cover in Accumulate Plus.
Unfortunately, hardship can bring out the worst in some. Phishing emails, SMS messages and phone calls supposedly from governments or other trusted organisations are on the rise. People are lured into clicking on malicious links or providing confidential details.
The government recently changed the rules to allow Australians early access to their super to help them manage financially. Scammers are already trying to exploit this situation in order to steal this super.
Scammers may ask if you’ve been contacted by your super fund and if you haven’t, ask you for a few details so they can allegedly help you out. By deceptively obtaining personal details they attempt to access members’ accounts and send the early release money to themselves.
Please take extra precautions to keep your details safe and secure. Visit the Australian Securities and Investments Commission’s MoneySmart website for tips to look after finances particularly through the COVID-19 pandemic.
And visit the Australian Cyber Security Centre's website for tips to avoid the latest COVID-19-themed phishing scams.