For CEO Deanne Stewart, Aware Super helps build retirement futures for the extraordinary Australians who work hard every day to support our communities. It’s the school teachers, nurses and police officers, as well as paramedics, firefighters and public servants, whose valuable contributions keep our society moving forward.
This group forms the foundation of the fund’s membership and it’s these people who deserve the best they can possibly receive for their retirement. Formerly called First State Super, the organisation finalises its transition to new name Aware Super in September – a change that better reflects its member base and their values, as well as the purpose of the organisation.
With its new branding, it will continue to offer a wide range of top-performing investment options and services to positively impact its members’ lives. For Deanne, it’s personal.
Growing up in Bathurst, New South Wales, with her parents both teachers, she saw firsthand from a young age the role that super played in setting them up for a positive and secure retirement.
“Aware Super has always been a values-led, communityminded organisation and very member-first,” she reflects. “My extended family includes teachers, nurses and public servants, so working with First State Super, now Aware Super, gives me the privilege of serving them and ensuring they have the best retirement.”
Combined with the fund’s potential for growth and its willingness to take bold steps to achieve it, Deanne knows she’s in the right place. “It’s my dream job,” she smiles.
Following the successful merger with fellow topperforming fund VicSuper in July 2020, Aware Super is now one of Australia’s largest industry super funds, with the largest member-owned financial advice network.
The organisation has more than A$125 billion in funds under management for its 1.1 million members nationwide. Over the past decade, it has achieved a slew of awards, including the highest platinum performance rating from SuperRatings.
In 2019, First State Super was also awarded the highest rating (five ‘apples’) and Best Fund: Integrity by independent rating agency Chant West. “Our role is to provide the best returns. We’re a top 10 performer with one of the lowest fees in the sector. But we also consider what has a positive impact on the community and the members we serve,” Deanne says.
“We’ve made significant investments in renewables, affordable housing, public infrastructure and initiatives that make a difference to our members, their communities and the economy. We take responsible investing seriously. We believe that being a collective force for good does lead to better outcomes.”
For Aware Super, size and scale matter. “Economies of scale drive down the cost to serve members and therefore the fees charged,” Deanne explains.
“It offers access to more diverse investment opportunities, which ultimately deliver stronger long-term returns. And it allows us to expand our national footprint while still serving members locally.”
When it comes to organisational strategy, there are three key areas where the fund differentiates itself and shines.
“First, as Australia’s largest member-owned, financial advice business, we provide high-quality guidance and advice for our members. Second, we see ourselves as a go-to for retirement – not only for the right performance, fees and advice but also, more importantly, the right values. “Last, responsible ownership is a priority, particularly in critical areas like jobs growth, climate change and housing affordability. We see our role as investing responsibly in core areas that have a positive impact on the community.”
Being a “force for good” is a purpose created through a series of team workshops in response to the question, ‘Why do you come to work each day?’ It resonates deeply with the organisation.
“The team feel privileged to help build the very best future for our members,” reflects Deanne. “This is particularly significant given the core roles our members play in the community.
“It’s so motivating to know you’re having a positive impact on society and being that force for good. Our people live and breathe our values, and I think they make a lot of the difference. I’m incredibly proud of the team at Aware Super.”
The organisational values of the fund centre around being member-first. “Our team cares deeply about our members, each other and the community,” Deanne explains.
“Delivering honourably, being accountable and having integrity is vital in everything we do. And we lead bravely,” she adds – a nod to recent merger activity with VicSuper and WA Super.
The COVID-19 crisis and ensuing market volatility tested the operational capability of the fund. “It was critical to provide a continued service for our members and offer comfort and confidence in their investments,” Deanne notes.
“At the same time, we needed to ensure our major projects and mergers were all in line. We were able to adapt within a short time frame and didn’t skip a beat. The team wanted our members to know we were there for them.”
When asked what inspires her, she answers easily. “Being the daughter of two teachers, I get a real buzz from seeing our people develop and grow. Equally, serving communityminded members and knowing Aware Super can make a difference to their future and their retirement is a huge driver for me.”