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Profile - Andrea Slattery

DIY super fund members have her to thank for lobbying on their behalf.

DIY super fund members have her to thank for lobbying on their behalf.

In 2003, when Andrea Slattery set up an association for self-managed superannuation funds, people's eyes would glaze over at dinner parties when they asked her what she did. Now, they are riveted.

"By 2006, 2007, everyone would be saying, 'Give me some advice, what should I do?,"' says Slattery, 52, the chief executive of the Self-Managed Super Fund Professionals' Association of Australia (SPAA).

It's easy to see why. Eight years ago, self-managed super funds accounted for little more than $50 billion, or 15 per cent of the then $350 billion pool of super assets. Now, the SMSF sector has more than $430 billion in assets, or 32 per cent of the total $1.3 trillion pool, in more than 457,000 funds, with an average balance of $916,000.

Slattery and her husband, Paul, an Adelaide lawyer, have had their own SMSF since 2001, although Slattery is coy about the details. "It's returning as we've wanted it to," she says, adding that the most recent figures available from the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority show the SMSF sector outperformed industry and retail funds for eight of the 10 years to 2008.

Although Slattery, who grew up on a farm about three hours' drive west of Adelaide, has the accounting, financial planning and tax background one would expect of an SMSF adviser, her career path has had plenty of diversions.

She deferred her University of South Australia arts degree, majoring in accounting, after just one year to get married, then had four sons in five years from the age of 21.

At home with toddlers, she set up her own business designing menswear, then returned to university part time in 1988 to finish her degree. Often, she would have all four sons sitting with her in the front row at lectures, the youngest under three, and says this might by why all have gone on to do one, two or three tertiary degrees each.

After Slattery topped a subject called computer integrated business studies and the lecturer died, the university asked her to help out for a while.

"I went from the front row to the lecturer's podium," she says.

In the next decade, she filled in for lecturers and tutors and did research a couple of days a week while raising her sporty sons. (One, Henry, now plays in the AFL for Essendon two play state-level football and the fourth plays first-division district cricket.)

In 2000, Slattery switched to advising high-net-worth clients, first at a tier-two accounting firm, then through her own consultancy. When she started SPAA, in 2003, she quickly realised she would have to relinquish consulting because SPAA would be a full-time job - her first for her whole career.

Slattery now works 70-90 hours a week - the reverse of some friends her age who worked full time through their 20s and 30s but have cut back to focus on teenage children (in contrast, Slattery's youngest, Henry, is 25). Mostly, it's SPAA-related work, including sitting on superannuation advisory committees for the federal government, the opposition and the Australian Taxation Office. However, she also finds time for numerous other committees and is the South Australian Cricket Association's first female director.

I've always been involved in committees," says Slattery, who was also the first boarder at her Adelaide school to become head prefect. "I like helping."


Biggest break

Being invited by Nick Sherry [then the Minister for Superannuation] to have the self-managed superannuation fund sector represented at the government table [on the federal government's Superannuation Advisory Committee]. That changed our representation and our voice.

Biggest achievement

I'm very much a family person 31 years of marriage to Paul, four gorgeous sons, three daughters-in-law and three grandsons.

Biggest regret

I have no regrets, I see a silver lining in everything. No matter what happens, some opportunity will come from it.

Best investment

The first house we ever bought, an old deserted home on a double block in Adelaide. We sold it after 27 years for more than 30 times what we'd paid but its value was not just financial. We had a grass spare block where our kids and all the neighbours played cricket and footy.

Worst investment

In the early '90s, we invested in a rose farm but we soon realised there was a lack of value. It taught me a great lesson about getting the right advice and understanding what you're going into.

Attitude to money

I am not all that conservative but I am for everyone else. I don't mind a bit of risk but I do a fair bit of investigating beforehand.

Personal philosophy

Never say never. And treat everybody with respect and integrity.

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