A superannuation fund lobbying group has described industry funds as a "great Australian success story", ahead of an expected focus on super board composition under a Coalition government.
David Whiteley, chief executive of the Industry Super Network, said industry funds - with equal board representation for employers and employees - were a "fine example of the consensus upon which this nation is built".
They had "outperformed their retail fund rivals, largely the major banks, by between 1 and 2 per cent per year on average over the past 10 years", Mr Whiteley told a Sydney audience on Thursday. "This is attributed to their non-commissions, low fees, all profits to members' model, and also asset allocation, principally investment in unlisted property and infrastructure."
Australia's total superannuation assets are estimated to have grown by 13.5 per cent over the year to March 31 to $1.58 trillion. Industry super funds account for 19.8 per cent of total assets, "retail funds" run by banks had 26.3 per cent, and the largest group was self-managed funds, with 31.5 per cent.
ISN said industry super funds could invest $15 billion over the next five years into infrastructure, providing state governments with much-needed money and matching super's long-term focus with the country's growing infrastructure needs.
But despite super's growth, Brad Cooper, the head of Westpac's wealth arm BT Financial Group, said in Melbourne this month that just 20 per cent of retirees would be fully self-sufficient in 2035 - about the same ratio as now. "In fact, what grows is the proportion of people who will be partially self-funded but still relying on the pension."
Mr Whiteley also stepped up the rhetoric against further changes to super, fresh from the Coalition's announcement that if it wins the election, it would defer the rise in the compulsory super guarantee to 12 per cent by two years.
"In the not-too-distant future people will pay as much attention to superannuation policy changes as they might to announcements on interest rates ... There are very real concerns policymakers will realise too late that iterative change could create permanent damage to confidence in the system," he said.