IN RESPONSE to ASIC’s report ‘Holes in the safety net: A review of TPD insurance claims’, based on claims data and files dating back from 2016/17, the Financial Services Council (FSC) today offered more recent analysis, using 2018 data on total and permanent disability (TPD) claims in life insurance.

FSC CEO Sally Loane said the regulator has relied on 2016/17 data, and the report fails to highlight the significant positive reforms the industry has initiated since then, including the introduction of the Life Insurance Code of Practice and the world-class FSC/KPMG claims data initiative.

“The 2018 data tells a very different story and ASIC’s report serves to highlight the substantial progress the life insurance industry has made in the last couple of years. KPMG on behalf of the FSC collect TPD claims data every six months and we know this data collection initiative is unsurpassed anywhere else in the world, both for its granularity and timeliness,” Ms Loane said.

“Data to the end of 2018 shows 88 percent of TPD claims are paid in the first instance and higher at 91 percent for mental health TPD claims. This includes claims against all definitions, including activities of daily living (ADLs), an initiative from the international medical community.

“FSC data for 2018 assessed a total of 11,427 TPD claims, of which 11,008 were assessed against an occupational definition, and only 419 or 3.6 percent were assessed using either a non-occupational or ADL definition," Ms Loane said.

“What this shows is that non-occupational definitions such as ADLs are almost always used as part of a hierarchy of definitions in group insurance in super. ADLs then only apply in the tiny proportion of TPD claims where a definition higher up the hierarchy can’t be used. This can be because, for example, the person isn’t in paid employment so a more generous occupational definition has no relevance.

“TPD claims are significantly more complex to assess than other life insurance claims because they require a judgment as to whether or not the person is expected to work ever again. Given this, all life insurers are committed to ensuring at peak times of vulnerability, Australians feel safe and supported, without financial stress.

“APRA data for 2018 shows life insurers paid out more than $2.2 billion in TPD claims to 14,772 Australians who are not expected to be able to work ever again – providing an average lump sum of more than $148,000,” Ms Loane said.

Subsequent to ASIC’s review, the Life Insurance Code of Practice (the Code) now provides additional consumer protections at claim interviews and for surveillance to ensure claims are not withdrawn for inappropriate reasons.

Since the introduction of the Code, data from the Life Code Compliance Committee shows 92 percent of all lump sum claims in the year to June 30, 2018 were paid out promptly within the Code timeframes.

The Hayne Royal Commission noted that since its introduction, the Code has resulted in significantly improved outcomes for consumers in a number of areas, including how claims are managed. Work is currently underway to further improve the Code.

Ms Loane said, “The FSC with KPMG will continue to gather and analyse even more granular up-to-date data which will help inform better products and services for life insurers, and also policy development to ensure excellent customer outcomes.

“It is also important to note that group life insurance through superannuation offers better value for money than any other type of insurance offered anywhere else in the world. With more than 80 cents paid out in claims for every dollar paid in premiums,” Ms Loane said.

“Even though data is a good historical way of looking at claims outcomes, when it comes to assessing claims, each one is unique and must be assessed on the individual circumstances. If a person is dissatisfied with the outcome, they are encouraged to lodge an appeal with the Australian Financial Complaints Authority.”

 

About the Financial Services Council

The Financial Services Council (FSC) has more than 100 members representing Australia's retail and wholesale funds management businesses, superannuation funds, life insurers, financial advisory networks and licensed trustee companies. The industry is responsible for investing $3 trillion on behalf of more than 15.6 million Australians. The FSC promotes best practice for the financial services industry by setting mandatory Standards for its members and providing Guidance Notes to assist in operational efficiency. The FSC’s mission is to protect and enhance confidence in a strong, sustainable financial services sector that serves Australians with integrity.

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THE Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman, Kate Carnell said advisory boards were increasingly playing a key role in Australia’s small business success stories.

Speaking at the Global Thought Leadership Summit in Melbourne today, Ms Carnell said 74 percent of businesses that use advisory boards want assistance with their growth strategy.

“Advisory boards are a secret weapon in the growing small business’ arsenal,” Ms Carnell said.

“While the small business owner is often flat-out with the day-to-day running of the business, advisory boards are able to realise the SME’s potential by working on the business, not in it.

“They help set a clear plan forward and help the small business owner focus on growth rather than getting distracted while putting out spot fires.

“Advisory boards have seen considerable growth in Australia in the past couple of years, but many SMEs continue to consider themselves too small or not successful enough to engage an advisory board.

“The benefits of advisory boards have been measured in other parts of the world.

“The Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC) surveyed over 4,000 businesses across the country and found sales grew by 66 percent on average in the first three years after setting up an advisory board.

“The BDC survey found annual sales for businesses with an advisory board were 24 percent higher than those without one," Ms Carnell said.

“Advisory boards can also be particularly useful in succession planning, which we know is a significant issue for Australian family businesses.

“Importantly advisory boards don’t need to be a huge cost or time consuming for the small business owner. You can arrange to pay a meeting attendance fee and meet every two-to-three months.”

More information about advisory boards can be found here.

www.asbfeo.gov.au

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BUSINESSES and tech startups can rise to the next level with the City of Sydney seeking expressions of interest for an operator to lease an affordable innovation space in Sydney’s soon-to-be tallest commercial skyscraper.

The 53-storey tower at 180 George Street is under construction and will be Sydney’s tallest office building when it is completed mid-2022.

Located within Lendlease’s broader precinct between George and Pitt Streets, the new precinct is a joint venture between Lendlease, China’s Ping An Real Estate and Japan’s Mitsubishi Estate Asia.

The City and Lendlease are working together to create new community infrastructure in the 180 George Street precinct including the business innovation space, a public plaza, retail laneways, bicycle hub, public art and a new hospitality venue on the site of the former Jacksons on George.

Applications are being sought from organisations to act as operator of a new City of Sydney business innovation space that will operate over three floors of the tower. The lease of the affordable space will run for five years, with a possibility of a further five-year extension. 

Lord Mayor Clover Moore said the availability of affordable office space in the city is critical to the ability of startups to grow.

“Technology entrepreneurs tell us that the lack of affordable office space in the city is one of the biggest challenges they face,” Cr Moore said.

“It is essential that Sydney maintains its status as Australia’s leading knowledge based economy and global city, and we can only do that by fostering and supporting a culture of innovation.

“We’re delighted to be able to offer our startup ecosystem a place in the heart of the city with our new affordable workspace, which will ultimately create more jobs, boost Sydney’s economy, strengthen global connections and make the city a more desirable place to live, work and visit.”

Applications must include a proposed operating model, program and outcomes. These will be assessed under strict guidelines to ensure they meet the City’s objectives.

Applications should detail:

  • support for startups to launch into global markets with a focus on Asia;
  • a core theme and focus industries (if relevant) for the space;
  • measurable community benefits in line with the rental subsidy requested;
  • the average rental subsidy to be provided to startups;
  • details of proposed programming and activities that build connection, community, partnerships, skills, knowledge and capability within a start-up ecosystem;
  • activation of the event space and engagement and contribution to the local startup community;
  • sustainability focused practices such as waste, water and energy use;
  • a commitment to social inclusion practices, including policy or programing, and measurable indicators.

Applicants can review the expressions of interest document and attachments and apply through the City’s online grants management system SmartyGrants. The EOI closes on November 14, 2019.

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NEW figures released today show 5000 small business owners have received help from Service NSW’s one-stop shop Business Concierge service.

Service NSW for Business executive director Bridget Barrett said the service is all about helping people start, grow or run their small business, potentially saving them time and money.

“Service NSW has become more than just a one-stop shop for individual customers, it is also a one-stop shop for small business customers,” Ms Barrett said.

“We make government easier to navigate by reducing paperwork and eliminating duplication so customers can focus on what they do best - running their business.”

The service includes personalised support from Service NSW’s Business Concierge and a digital platform which outlines the regulations and licences needed to start a small business across a range of sectors.

The figures released today also show owners of cafes, restaurants and small bars have saved up to 86 hours of effort. Service NSW has also helped slashed the time it takes to open a small bar by almost six months.

“We’re getting great feedback from business owners who are really satisfied with the help they’ve received and they’re telling others about the service,” Ms Barrett said.

“The Business Concierge had helped 1000 business owners by November 2018. Since then we’ve seen customer numbers sky rocket and we expect that to continue.”

The Business Concierge can help with everything from getting a council development application right the first time, to applying for outdoor dining and liquor licencing.

The initiative is delivered by Service NSW in partnership with the NSW Small Business Commission and Better Regulation Division. More information is available on the website.

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THE Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman, Kate Carnell has congratulated the winners of the Outstanding Western Sydney Women Awards, many of whom are hard-working small and family business owners.

The Outstanding Western Sydney Women Awards, held in Parramatta last night, recognised the achievements of several exceptional women from Western Sydney.

“Congratulations to all of the winners and finalists, especially Tania MacLeod of The Stage Door Performing Arts, who was named the overall Outstanding Western Sydney Woman,” Ms Carnell said.

“Tania’s dance school has been in operation for more than 20 years and is well-established in the small business and local community.

“She’s taught more than 10,000 students and her work in providing scholarships to disadvantaged young people is commendable. Tania has also developed a dance program for children with disabilities.

“In fact all of the finalists this year have achieved great things as community leaders, entrepreneurs and tradies," Ms Carnell said.

“My office is a proud partner of these awards and supports the efforts of Western Sydney Women, which has been very effective in connecting women in the region and assisting them in achieving their business and career goals.

“Research tells us the most successful start-ups are created by those who have a network or mentors for support.

“That’s why organisations such as Western Sydney Women are so important in creating a critical mass of female entrepreneurial role models," she said.

“It was an honour to be part of this year’s Outstanding Western Sydney Women Awards and a wonderful opportunity to celebrate the achievements of these talented women.”

www.asbfeo.gov.au

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ON FRIDAY, October 18, 2019, the Trade and Investment Growth Committee is holding a public hearing in Canberra as part of its Inquiry into Supporting Australia’s Exports and Attracting Investment.

Representatives from the business, education, defence export, agricultural and film and entertainment sectors will meet with the Committee to discuss how to boost Australian exports and stimulate investment.

The committee is looking into Australian businesses' ambitions to grow via export and attracting investment; local regulatory barriers to businesses being able to realise their ambitions; and best practice regulation that evidence shows supports export and investment growth, whilst protecting the national interest.

Public hearing details

Date: Friday, 18 October 2019
Time: 9.15am to 1.30pm
Location: Committee Room 1R2, Parliament House, Canberra

The hearing will be broadcast live at aph.gov.au/live.

Further information about the Committee’s inquiry, including the public hearing program is available on the committee’s webpage.

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THE Joint Standing Committee on the National Capital and External Territories will hear from the National Capital Authority about its role and present issues relating to the national capital on Thursday, at the Committee’s biannual public briefing.

Thursday’s briefing is the first to be held in the 46th Parliament following the 2019 federal election. The last briefing was held in December 2018.

Committee chair Keith Pitt MP said,  “The National Capital Authority exercises broad functions in representing and maintaining the Commonwealth’s interests in the national capital. Thursday’s hearing provides Committee members with an opportunity to become more familiar with the Authority’s current work and consider other matters that are of interest in the nation’s capital."

Members of the public are welcome to attend and observe the proceedings. Audio of the hearing will also be webcast live on the Australian Parliament’s website.

Further information may be found on the committee’s website.

Public hearing details
Date: Thursday 17 October 2019
Time: 10.15am to 11am (approx.)
Location: Committee Room 2R2, Parliament House, Canberra

The hearing will be broadcast live at aph.gov.au/live.

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AUSTRALIANS with multiple super accounts should consider consolidating their accounts or risk losing potential earnings, ahead of new superannuation changes coming into effect at the end of October, Industry Super Australia has warned.

As part of the Federal Government’s Protecting Your Super changes that come into effect on October 31st, all inactive, low-balance super accounts (under $6,000) will be automatically rolled over to the Australian Tax Office (ATO). The ATO will then try to reconnect the savings from these accounts with people’s current accounts.

“These are good changes that will put more money back into the super nest eggs of thousands of workers – but it’s important Australians are aware they could miss out on extra earnings, if their old and forgotten accounts end up sitting with the ATO," Industry Super Australia CEO Bernie Dean said.

While the changes will result in people being reconnected with money in forgotten super accounts and stop the erosion of super balances by multiple fees and premiums, people should be aware that if the ATO is unable to match the old inactive accounts to a their current accounts, they risk losing out on investment returns.

This is because the money from those old forgotten super accounts will sit with the ATO and will earn interest at CPI – which is significantly less than what a person would receive if they had their super in an industry super fund. On average, industry funds return a balance which is 4.5 per higher than CPI.

With research showing that one in four Australians are unaware that they have multiple accounts, it’s critical that Australians check to see if they could be affected by these changes.

Industry Super Australia is urging Australians to take action and consolidate their super funds themselves, ahead of the ATO’s automatic consolidation deadline, to make sure they don’t miss out on additional earnings.

“With less than a month to go before these super changes kick in, it’s really important that Australians do their housekeeping and check on their accounts before it’s too late," Mr Dean said. “Sorting it out is easy – if you have multiple accounts you can consolidate now and protect and maximise your savings, or if you’re a person who has been out of the workforce for a while you can make a contribution to keep your fund ticking over.

“If you’re not sure if you’re going to be affected by the changes, just give your super fund a call and they’ll be able to help you.”

Australians taking a break from the workforce, such as mums at home caring for kids, or those studying or overseas could also be affected if they haven’t made a contribution to their account in the past 16 months.

Under the changes, an inactive account is one that hasn’t received a contribution in the past 16 months. The best way to prevent an inactive super account being automatically transferred to the ATO is to contact your super fund, confirm the status of your account, and make a contribution to the fund you want to keep active.

For those Australians with multiple accounts, account consolidation has never been easier. People can easily consolidate their low-balance or inactive accounts through the ATO’s MyGov website or by calling their super fund to begin consolidating their accounts.

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BUILDERS HAVE welcomed the boost for first home buyers that will be delivered by the Government’s First Home Loan Deposit Scheme which has been passed by the Federal Parliament. 

“Aspiring to home ownership is fundamental to the Australian ethos. This measure will support thousands of first home buyers realise their ambition every year and boost residential building activity and economic growth,” Master Builders Australia CEO Denita Wawn said. 

“It will lift the confidence of residential builders who are enduring a contraction in house building activity and will support the burgeoning recovery in the housing. In particular it will add momentum to the gradual return of First Home Buyers to the market that we have witnessed in the past few months,” she said. 

“Master Builders are strong and vocal supporters of this initiative as a targeted and practical step to help aspiring home owners overcome the deposit gap. It will also complement other moves by the government to tackle housing affordability by supporting an increase in the housing supply to help keep home ownership within reach of all Australians.

“The reinvigoration in the roll out of city deals is welcome as are the government’s initial efforts to fast track the construction of urban, social and transport infrastructure, including outside Sydney and Melbourne, where capacity constraints are less and bang for your buck is more,” she said. 

“Master Builders will continue to be vocal in our call for governments to work together to advance infrastructure construction and to implement policies such as the First Home Loan Deposit Scheme because they will the economic growth that is essential for a stronger economy and our member’s business success,” Ms Wawn said.  

www.masterbuilders.com.au

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THE House of Representatives Standing Committee on the Environment and Energy is holding further public hearings in Canberra on the prerequisites for nuclear energy in Australia.

The Committee will hear from a number of witnesses during the course of these hearings. Full programs are available on the inquiry website at https://www.aph.gov.au/nuclearpower.

Public hearing details

Date: Wednesday, 16 October 2019
Time: 10:30am to 11:15am
Location: Committee Room 2R2, Parliament House, Canberra

Date: Friday, 18 October 2019
Time: 8:30am to 3:45pm
Location: Committee Room 1R1, Parliament House, Canberra

Date: Wednesday, 23 October 2019
Time: 10:30am
Location: Committee Room 1R4, Parliament House, Canberra

The hearings will be broadcast live at aph.gov.au/live.

The Committee will announce any further public hearings on the inquiry website:  https://www.aph.gov.au/nuclearpower.

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A HIGH-POWERED GROUP of women and men are mobilising in a push to make sure that the pressing needs of women are not left out of the forthcoming retirement income review.

The group, coordinated by Women in Super, are pushing for the review’s terms of reference to be updated to specifically include women.

Women in Super Chair Cate Wood said it was vital the report take a thorough look at how policy settings combined with the structural, economic, social and demographic drivers are leaving increasing numbers of women without economic security in retirement.

“There is a crisis in women’s retirement happening all around us,” Ms Wood said. “Single retired women are the fastest growing group of people becoming homeless in this country.

“The rate of poverty for retired women also continues to increase, which is unsurprising given women retire on average with just over half the superannuation savings of men.”

Ms Wood said that while the terms of reference are broad, an explicit focus on women’s retirement outcomes was needed to ensure that the review did not miss an important opportunity to address the gender retirement gap.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg announced the Review of the Retirement Income System in late September.

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