Vanguard set on bigger slice of Aussie pensions

Vanguard plans to offer a retirement investment product in the country by mid-year at the earliest, said Australian head Daniel Shrimski. — Reuters

NEW YORK: Vanguard Group Inc is accelerating its push into Australia’s A$3.3 trillion (US$2.3 trillion or RM9.87 trillion) pensions market just months after launching its debut fund in the fiercely competitive sector.

The US behemoth plans to offer a retirement investment product in the country by mid-year at the earliest, Australian head Daniel Shrimski said in an interview.

Vanguard unveiled its debut Australian pension fund in November following years of preparation, and the new offering will be aimed at retirees drawing down those savings.

The project is moving ahead even as the firm’s head of superannuation unexpectedly departs.

Michael Lovett, who spearheaded the Australian pension fund’s launch, will leave at the end of February and plans for his succession are “well advanced,” according to a separate statement from the firm.

Vanguard is the latest offshore asset manager to target Australia’s ageing savers beyond the workforce, as more of them exit the labour market.

The industry is under increasing pressure to ensure retirees can manage their savings and live comfortably, with new rules last year forcing pension funds to devise strategies to help achieve that.

Shrimski said a retirement product would help retain Vanguard’s pensions customers long-term and adds to its similar US offerings.

“This will work for members that are in that decumulation phase, earning an income off the back of their superannuation,” he said.

Australia’s pension system is the world’s fourth-largest retirement savings pool, and is expected to almost triple by 2040.

Employers must pay workers an extra 10.5% of their salaries, gradually rising to 12% by 2025.

Vanguard didn’t reveal how many customers had signed up for its recently launched pension fund, but said that demand was strong.

Since the inception of Australia’s superannuation system in 1992, funds have mainly focused on growing a retiree’s nest egg rather than on how to spend it, Australian Financial Services Minister Stephen Jones said, adding that work had picked up in the area.

“There’s been next to no focus about how you convert that retirement savings account into something which distributes a sufficient income over the duration of the retirement,” Jones said in an interview last month.

Vanguard plans to leverage its network of financial advisers to push its retirement offering.

It will be the industry’s third new retirement product within a year, according to KPMG Actuarial and Financial Risk and Super Advisory Partner Melinda Howes.

Allianz SE recently announced three new senior appointments to its Australian retirement product Allianz Retire+.

“What we haven’t had really before now is this regulatory push with the requirement to have a post-retirement strategy that is outlined to members by every super fund,” said Howes.

“I expect to see more new products released over the next 12 months,” with a number of large insurers currently eyeing the market, she added. — Bloomberg

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