Got lost Super? Be careful who you trust

Annabelle Dickson from The Inside Adviser gets the counterpoint on whether (or not) it’s always a good idea to consolidate lost Super funds.

Superannuation members should be on high alert if using third parties to consolidate or locate their super to ensure the safety of their retirement savings.

The Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC), in conjunction with the Australian Tax Office (ATO), has identified a number of advisers, trustees and fund promoters that are marketing consolidation services as free when that is not the case, and as a result, giving misleading advice.

Consolidating active super fund accounts is often a benefit to a member as it saves unnecessary administration and insurance fees from separate accounts. It can be achieved easily through MyGov and at no charge.

Jane Eccleston, ASIC’s Superannuation Senior Executive Leader Ecclestone says: “But if not done appropriately, it can also lead to a loss of valuable insurance and payment of higher fees. And consolidation into an expensive, underperforming fund is not a good outcome.”

The third parties typically erode a member’s superannuation balance by $500 to $1000 in advice fees, which are deducted directly from their account. In some cases, ASIC has seen advisers charge a fee of up to four per cent of the consolidation amount.

If using these services, the regulator says members need to be looking for the aspects that are relevant to their retirement outcomes such as fees, performance, insurance.

The ATO’s SuperMatch2 enables superannuation trustees and other entities authorised by the trustee to obtain a list of active super fund accounts, including lost member accounts and ATO-held monies, that belong to their members or clients.

ASIC warns that some third parties are inappropriately using member data from SuperMatch2.

“Some advertisements have used lost super searches as a ‘hook’ to gain new business, and for the consumers responding to these ads, their needs have often been poorly served,” says Eccleston.

Some of the misconduct that members can look out for, and should be aware of, includes advisers opening a transitional ‘staging super account’ to consolidate recovered funds before the money is moved to the client’s fund of choice (which may never happen), with advice fees being deducted from the staging account.

Some “lost super” search providers set up fake adviser profiles with a trustee in order to gain access to the trustee’s SuperMatch2 service.

In addition, ASIC believes that some providers use high-pressure sales tactics or forged signatures, leading to members being unable to give informed and legitimate consent to the consolidation

There are also issues with fees-for-no-service when advice providers offer an upfront consolidation service, then charge an ongoing asset-based fee with no further service.

ASIC is also concerned that some advisers and third parties are taking advantage of the COVID-19 uncertainty with some providers rebranding as “COVID-19 access providers.”

Ecclestone warns that there have been cases of advisers inappropriately encouraging members to apply for early release of superannuation and targeting funds that appear to be more lenient with the releasing the funds.

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