CLMR Working Paper Series: Independence in Practice: Superannuation Fund Governance through the Eyes of Fund Directors (16-3)

Dr Scott Donald and Dr Suzanne Le Mire


For many years independence has been the catch-cry of policy-makers, regulators and legislators concerned with the corporate governance of listed companies. In Australia, drawing on this model, there has been an increased focus on independence in the context of superannuation fund governance arrangements. As the sector anticipates reform, this paper reports on a series of interviews with current superannuation fund directors. The interviews examine the extent to which existing governance arrangements in the sector incorporate independence as well as how that independence is operationalised in the superannuation context. The potential for the proposed reforms to change current practices and arrangements is considered. Issues raised include the remuneration, nomination, board appraisal and board tenure arrangements. The role and potential for independence to address conflict of interest, skills and diversity issues is also discussed. The paper concludes that independence reforms such as those envisaged in the Superannuation Legislation Amendment (Trustee Governance) Bill 2015 Bill have the potential to deal with some of the governance shortfalls present in the various sectors of the superannuation system, but only if carefully drafted and appropriately buttressed with ancillary regulation addressing issues related to director nomination, selection, tenure and remuneration.

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