SMSF members have a strong desire for their voice to be heard.
This could be as SMSF shareholders at an annual general meeting or through writing letters to editors of financial publications or simply turning up to an industry conference to directly question politicians from both sides of the fence. With the majority of SMSFs consisting of a couple with on average $1 million of their life savings in this unique vehicle, it is unsurprising SMSF members are vocal, particularly when changes to the taxation of their super is canvassed by the government.
The Australian SMSF Members Association (ASMA) was established by a 20-member steering committee that consisted of SMSF trustees, members of the Self-Managed Super Fund Professionals’ Association of Australia, Institute of Chartered Accountants in Australia, CPA Australia, Association of Independently Owned Financial Planners, Australian Securities Exchange, Property Council of Australia and Financial Planning Association. It is a not-for-profit organisation run with a small secretariat and has an initial board. With more than 2500 registered members through its website and educational events, ASMA is progressing well for its first 18 months as an organisation.
Important to all members of ASMA is its uniqueness in the SMSF industry. It is unique in a number of ways:
- EIt is a representative body of SMSF trustees and members rather than the professionals that attend to the trustees.
- It is a not-for-profit and low-cost organisation allowing members to access services and education at cost price. The ASMA December 2012 Strategy Day was held in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne at quality venues. For a nominal registration fee delegates were treated to a wide range of technical speakers, panel discussions, and sessions with opposition financial services and superannuation spokesman Mathias Cormann and Australian Taxation Office superannuation assistant commissioner Stuart Forsyth.
- It is truly the voice of SMSF trustees and members. When the directors or secretariat are asked for their views by journalists, the regulators or other industry associations, rather than promote a head-office view, ASMA takes the questions direct to its membership by way of survey. A good example was in late 2012 when Treasury suggested the government consider the abolition of tax-exempt pension status for members of a superannuation fund. The editor of this magazine sought comment from ASMA and we built a survey for our members to express their voice. The survey went out to our 1900 members at that time and within three hours we received more than 300 responses. The responses were not ‘like’ or ‘dislike’ multiple choice answers, but open ended, allowing our members to have a real say. As you can imagine, many of the respondents were very angry. Some comments were virtually unpublishable. However, these were sent to the journalist and provided wonderful live member commentary on an issue directly affecting their current or future retirement.
- Investors get a holistic view of investments under their holder identification number.
- As a membership organisation it enables those companies with value-added services to directly reach a demographic of valuable savers, investors and consumers who share a passion for independence and control.
The board and a wide range of volunteer SMSF trustees have worked hard to get ASMA to where it is today and to ensure it is in a position to grow its membership, education and services base cost effectively and efficiently. In the first part of 2013, ASMA will have a formal launch where the key foundations of the organisation will be announced, including:
The delivery of quality, low-cost education to our membership and education on SMSFs and explaining what it means to be a member of an SMSF to non-SMSF members;
- Lobbying of government and opposition members to ensure current superannuation benefits are protected and not raided for the purpose of budget revenue, as well as to fix or reinstate a number of important measures, such as the size of the concessional contribution caps;
- The continuing liaison with the SMSF regulators to ensure any guidelines, rulings, determinations or matters impacting on our membership are brought to their attention in a timely manner and in an easy-to-understand format;
- Liaison with industry bodies that attend to SMSF trustees and members to determine how relationships can be forged to work together on submissions and matters of concern and interest to ASMA members;
- Launch of phase II of our website, www.smsfmembers.com
Right now foundation sponsors are enabling the membership fee to be waived for SMSF trustees who register online. This has enabled a number of professional SMSF service providers to register their SMSF trustee clients as a value-added offering to their existing offering.