If there is one area I have failed to improve in all the time I have been writing about sustainability and ethical business, it is the area of finance.
I openly admit my sins: my personal finances do not reflect by personal values.
I really don’t have a good reason for this except that over the years I’ve just sort of viewed the banks and financial institutions as evil as each other. What kind of lunatics are we to allow them to charge such significant rates of interest? I often wonder.
The creation of “interest” is really just money legally created out of thin air. It’s no surprise our richest institutions are our banks and finance companies. Legalised usury is what it is.
Anyway, let’s not get into that. The system is what it is and I can’t change it… or can I? ** maniacal laugh **
Now a disclaimer which might be embarrassing for some but not myself because personally speaking, I’m not easily embarrassed: I was once career-driven, studying a Bachelor of Finance (I dropped out, being stuck churning numbers is not my idea of a great life) and worked at a multinational – GE Capital Finance – where for five years I sanctimoniously climbed its corporate ladder from debt collections, to fraud to motor finance, being groomed as one of its promising young female leaders.
Yes very cliche; I’m yawning as I write this.
Anyway, if it weren’t for my ambitious nature and corporate background, I probably wouldn’t have the skills and self-confidence to run a content marketing agency. After seeing another sponsored Facebook post from Australian Ethical Super a couple of weeks ago, I decided that the least I could do was move my super over to them. After all, Australian Ethical Super is my business’ superannuation fund of choice. It’s the super fund I nominate to all employees if they need one.
Why I chose Australian Ethical Super
I knew from my research in employer sponsored super funds that they did not invest in industries such as tobacco, exploitation of people, old growth forest logging, or uranium and coal mining. Their funds also covered emerging companies that invested in new low-carbon economy, fund medical breakthroughs, technology breakthroughs and efficient transport.
They invested the money in the way I expect my money to be invested – ethically.
So a couple of weeks ago, I jumped on the website and started completing the online form to transfer my super to Australian Ethical Super.
And then I got stuck with this insurance question:
Rather than winging it, I abandoned the 5 minute questionnaire. I decided to complete it again when I had more information on hand.
Several hours later, I received this email:
Thanks for the reminder Big Brother!
Later that arvo, armed with the insurance info I needed, I resumed completion of the form.
It took me a total of six minutes, double the time suggested it would take to complete. I’m not a slow reader, but I am extremely careful when completing online forms, afraid my haste would make a liar out of me. I’m not one of those click happy types.
Once submitted, I didn’t hear back right away.
While I waited to hear back from the fund, I thought it would be a good idea to get more info from Australian Ethical Super about its processes. I found the contact details of Belinda White the PR account manager on the website, and she put me in touch with Meagan Brayne, Executive Officer, in the Superannuation team at Australian Ethical.
Q&A with Meagan Brayne, Executive Officer at Australian Ethical Super
Here’s how the interview went down:
Jen: What’s the best default strategy for someone like me who wants to see high returns and willing to take more risk?
Meagan: The best strategy, if you’re unsure is to talk to a financial adviser. It might seem like a drag but it’s worth it. There are so many factors that go into making the right decision – your age, future plans, risk level (and understanding what your risk level actually is). At the end of the day we’re talking about your retirement savings so it’s important to get the right information and make the best decision you can. Generally speaking, a person with a long time to retirement may be happy to take on higher risk now in order to achieve higher returns later. Our Smaller Companies, Advocacy and International Shares options are all invested in equities and carry a higher level of risk.
I didn’t have to enter my previous superannuation information like I thought I’d need to. Why is this?
We work with the ATO to find your superannuation and can request a transfer of it to your new account with us. So essentially, we do this for you rather than having you do it.
I submitted the form yesterday at about 3:30pm. When can I expect a call from someone in the team?
We don’t tend to call clients when they’ve joined. We’ll send you an email straight away and get in touch again (via email) once you’re account has been set up and we have a member number for you.
I started to complete the form and then got stuck on the question about insurance. An hour or so later I received an email from a David Lowery from your office notifying me that I hadn’t completed it. I think this is a marvellous function to have and I can see that your business is finding ways not only to go above and beyond, but the email is likely to increase conversions. Can you comment on this feature and what your business is doing to improve customer experience?
We know that insurance is a difficult thing to understand. It’s highly regulated and hard for the average person to know what they need or how to answer the questions on our form. We’re working on improving this but as you can imagine, it’s a bit of an obstacle course. Sometimes, it’s easier for people to talk it through with someone, hence the email from David.
I get a $25 Karma Currency for each family and friend who signs up using my link which sounds really lovely. Does that mean that Australian Ethical will put an extra $25 in my superannuation fund each time? How does it actually work?
Karma Currency is a platform that allows people to donate to over 1,000 different charities. If you recommend a friend or family member to Australian Ethical Super and they join with your unique link, we’ll email you a voucher. You can use the voucher on karmacurrency.com.au and donate to a charity of your choice.
Anyway, twelve days later I finally received an email from David Lowery (the same one who prompted me to finish the first time, remember!) telling me that my superannuation money had finally been rolled over.
So now my retirement fund is aligned to my beliefs. Yay!
Someone asked me on Facebook if I had bothered to check the annual returns for the fund. Honestly, I did not. Am I reckless? Perhaps. But mostly I don’t really give a damn all that much. I wasn’t really focussed on my superannuation returns up until this point, so it wasn’t like I was going to change and worry about it now.
In my mind, losing money in an ethical fund is much more noble than making money in a fund that invests in businesses that have questionable values. Call me an idealist but that’s just the way I am.
Besides, I’m a risk taker. Anyone who leaves a cushy job in the city to start an organic farm in the middle of nowhere is!
So I decided to invest in the growth fund. With my background in finance, I was pretty confident this carried a medium-high risk, but the return would be reasonable. When I checked, I was right, it has returned 7.5% since the growth fund’s inception.
Anyway, if you’re interested in learning more about Australian Ethical Super or would like to switch to a super fund that is aligned to your ethical beliefs, head to the website here.