Friday, November 12, 2010

Data standards for superannuation

The Super System Review Panel delivered its final report to the Government on 30 June 2010. It recommended "electronic transmission of linked financial and member data using standardised formats" (Super System Review Final Report, Chapter 9). This generated little interest in the media, but in a speech yesterday review chairman Jeremy Cooperis reported to have called for the government to enforce a standard as the superannuation industry has failed to implement one voluntarily.

The review recommendations, including data formats, are estimated to cost $1 billion to implement, but will then save $1 billion per year (The $20 billion prize: An industry blueprint to implement SuperStream, Joint Financial Services Council and Ernst & Young research, August 2010).

From Super System Review Final Report, Chapter 9:
5.2 Standardising data transmission

While some submissions argued that it is enough for the data to be provided, a clear majority favoured mandating a uniform standard format for delivery; that is, prescribing exactly the manner in which data is required to be provided. While this would promote confidence and clarity, the Panel is mindful of the cost involved in updating IT systems and existing member details to comply with any proposed changes.

Recommendation 9.4

APRA should convene a stakeholder group including at least the ATO, employers, payroll providers, super administrators and trustee representatives to devise online forms covering all the common processes between:

(a) the employer and the fund;
(b) the fund and the member; and
(c) different funds, such as occurs with ‘rollovers’.

The Panel considers that such forms should be adopted by all APRA-regulated funds, including for transactions involving rollovers to or from SMSFs, by January 2012.

There would also need to be standards applying to the wholesale (peer-to-peer) transactions that occur from fund to clearing house, clearing house to clearing house and clearing house to fund. ...

6.2 Achieving e-commerce as the norm in superannuation

The Panel is convinced that major cost savings are available in the superannuation industry through a shift from the fragmented and largely manual processing of member accounts, contributions and rollovers to a standardised electronic approach.

While attempts have been made to devise industry standards to facilitate this, they have been voluntary and to date have failed due to excessive complexity and low take up. The Panel notes the recent announcement by three major fund administrators of agreement on a set of principles to govern the electronic processing of rollovers between participating funds. These are to be further developed consistently with standards to be adopted by the Medicare Australia clearing house and using an open governance structure along the lines of that provided by the Australian Payments Clearing Association for banking.

Many administrators and clearing houses already engage with payroll providers to partially automate employer to fund transactions but, due to the lack of common standards across the industry, these
processes often require funds to provide specific software to large employers and/or the application of proprietary middleware solutions to convert the output from payroll providers into a format useable by the fund administrator.

The Panel believes that a key pre-condition to fully effective e-commerce in super is the availability of a data base containing accurate and secure details of all funds other than SMSFs. Details to be incorporated would include, as a minimum, fund name, SPIN and bank account details including name, BSB and account number. To avoid the extraction of monopoly profits, this data base needs to be governed and administered on a cost recovery basis, either by a collaborative industry enterprise or by a government agency. Given that most of the required data is already held by APRA, and that APRA already has mechanisms for secure electronic communication with funds and the SBR hub, the Panel considers that APRA is best placed to develop and administer the data base.

Recommendation 9.8

Treasury should convene a working group comprising representatives of relevant segments of the financial sector to devise the process for development of SBR-compatible standards that provide for linked personal and financial data transmission and facilitate related software development. The standards should address transactions between employer and fund, fund and member, and between funds.

Development work should be financed through an industry levy.

All administrators and clearing houses should be required to adopt these standards as a licence
condition. ...

From: Super System Review Final Report, Chapter 9, Super System Review Panel , 30 June 2010

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