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Good morning Everyone. Welcome to AIST’s Superannuation Investment (ASI) Week.
In the spirit of reconciliation, I’d like to acknowledge the traditional owners and custodians of the land on which we engage in this session – no matter where we might be in Australia. I pay my respects to Elders past, present and emerging.
While everyone at AIST is very disappointed that we are unable to bring this conference to you in its traditional face-to-face format, we are very proud of the comprehensive program that we have put together, and we are confident that our new five day, digital format will deliver you a rewarding and stimulating experience.
ASI has always been a conference where robust debate between speakers and delegates is encouraged. Our online format is no barrier to this. Indeed, what we have actually found this year - with all the AIST events moving online – is that digital audiences are very adept and confident at engaging online. So over the next five days, I hope we will see plenty of engagement from everyone who is tuning in.
It’s an understatement to say that this year’s conference is occurring at a time of great upheaval. Here in Australia, our 29-year dream run of economic growth has officially come to an end, with a recession that many are predicting will cause a lot pain amid broken livelihoods for many years ahead.
The pandemic has disrupted supply chains and sent global consumer demand into cold shock. Many global and domestic industries will struggle for years.
The upheaval has even extended to the way profit-to-member funds invest members’ money.
Despite the incredible job our sector has done to meet all the challenges of the COVID early release scheme, it’s clear that we still have our detractors in Canberra – Our sector continues to be under heightened scrutiny and the pillars that make our system a success – preservation and compulsion, are under attack. And because of the early release scheme, the way our sector invests is again firmly entrenched in the political debate about super.
Fuelled by the commentary from various members of the Government that the coronavirus crisis had exposed structural weaknesses in the industry fund model, our sector has weathered widespread criticism on fund liquidity, unlisted asset valuations, the make-up of fund membership, and high fees. This is despite there being no evidence to support these concerns. Some media outlets now routinely refers to some of our funds as ‘embattled’.
So this conference is a timely opportunity to discuss these issues and put to rest some of these ridiculous claims.
On a more positive note, there are plenty of investment opportunities that have emerged from the COVID crisis. Our sector has a major role to play in helping drive Australia’s economic recovery and a number of our conference sessions will provide you with an update on some of the recovery projects that our funds are now discussing with various state governments. With the right investment model and policy settings, there is enormous potential for super funds to scale up their investment in assets previously thought to be too hard or niche.
But kicking off today, our focus is very much on global happenings. Back by popular demand, our keynote speaker, Professor Mark Blyth will lead a wide-ranging discussion on how investors can navigate the globe in this uncertain world.
ESG and impact investing remain a prominent feature of ASI, with sessions on climate risk management, modern slavery, affordable housing and sustainable development goals.
Once again, I encourage you to ask questions throughout the sessions via the online conferencing platform, and I highly recommend attending our discussion groups that are less about a fixed presentation and more about delegates having the chance to interact and building knowledge together.
I would also like to remind you that every session will be available later, on demand. So if there are concurrent sessions, or you are unable to make a session, these will be available to view on demand the following day.
Our ASI News Partner, The New Daily, will be providing session highlights throughout the conference so look out for today’s articles in tomorrow morning’s ASI email, and each day following for the rest of the week.
And finally, I’m pleased to report that this year’s ASI program features almost 50% female speakers. Profit-to-member superannuation has some incredible female leaders. AIST is proud to continue championing female voices in our investment space.
Usually I would finish by saying that I look forward to catching up with you during the conference, however being virtual, things are different this year.
But if there is anything I or the AIST event team can assist with during the online event this week, please don’t hesitate to reach out.
Before we kick off the first session of the day, it is my pleasure to be introducing one of my favourite things about this conference. Every year at ASI we acknowledge a rising star in our industry, and this year is no different. It is now my pleasure to introduce Ian Manton-Hall from Federated Hermes International to announce the 2020 Investment Rising Star Award winner.
Thank you and enjoy the conference.
14 September 2020