SMSF Awards 2016: Australian shares winner

When it comes to adviser needs in the Australian shares space, CommSec Adviser Services general manager Eric Blewitt reveals the key demand and challenge this year has been efficiency.

“Many of our advisers tell us they are very interested in the growing SMSF segment, but find it hard to effectively support SMSF clients without building additional process and cost into their practice,” Blewitt says.

“We’ve responded to the need for efficiency by ensuring working with us is as quick and easy as possible. One key enhancement was the recent overhaul of our online application to enable faster application completion and processing.”

He cites access to research as another driver of practice efficiency for SMSF advisers.

“Our advisers told us they wanted access to reliable, comprehensive research to help them make faster, better investment decisions for their clients,” he reveals.

“As a result, we recently entered into a joint agreement with Goldman Sachs to provide institutional-grade research to our advisers, as well as improved access to deal flow. What we now have is wider and deeper research for both Australian and international shares.”

In addition, CommSec has delivered enhancements to its online charting and data, allowing users to see market depth in a much simpler format.

Ensuring adviser needs are met is no easy feat, however, CommSec is focused on delivering an attractive proposition for its users.

“It’s about meeting the advisers’ needs and driving efficiency in their practices,” Blewitt says.

“Typically, they’re fee-for-service and time is important to them. Making our processes efficient, creating access to meaningful, insightful information and delivering service through our online offering have therefore all been key parts of our focus in the past year.

“At the same time, our relationship managers dealing with advisers provide support and service that is highly valued.”

To ensure the business continues to develop its offering and appeal to advisers who have made the transition to a fee-for-service model, CommSec is making more improvements that will change the way advisers manage their client SMSFs.

“We hope to launch these enhancements shortly, so stay tuned,” Blewitt says.

“Directly and indirectly, we have more than 250 people within the CommSec Adviser Services business looking after the needs of the advised market – that stretches from back office, clearing, settlement, trading, all the way to product marketing and teams driving efficiency and value for advisers.”

Revealing some of the key macro trends this year, he says the CommSec team has seen an increase in trading volume year-on-year, primarily driven by volatility in the market.

However, a greater proportion of this growth is being driven from non-SMSF accounts, with SMSF volumes remaining consistent year-on-year.
“This may indicate advised SMSFs sticking to a longer-term strategic approach in times of volatility compared to non-advised, non-SMSFs,” he explains.

“Although advised SMSFs do not trade the same volumes, they do appear to see opportunity in the current market, on average buying 50 per cent more than they are selling. This is distinct from non-SMSFs who tend to sit closer towards the net-seller end of the spectrum.”

Advised SMSFs don’t just buy more than they sell, they tend to do so in smaller trades, he continues.

“This may be the result of regular SMSF contributions through salary, which trustees or their advisers then use to build their SMSF portfolio,” he says.

“It may also be that SMSFs are more optimistic about the market than non-SMSFs, but attempt to mitigate risk with smaller trades. There was a flight to quality in the ASX top 50, but there was also an increase in ETF (exchange-traded fund) volumes as well.”

Commenting on the award, he says: “It means a great deal to us given the award is judged by a panel of industry experts and voted for by users.

“It tells us that those advisers using our products recognise and appreciate the improvements we’ve made. It drives us to work even harder to continue to enhance our SMSF services to ensure we continue to meet the needs of our advisers.”

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