Australia Day Honours: Lorraine Berends of Qantas Super

While women have battled to rise to the top of many sectors in the finance industry, Lorraine Berends believes there is no glass ceiling in the $3 trillion superannuation sector.

Ms Berends, a director of Qantas Super and a former national chair of the Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia (ASFA), who has just been awarded AM in the Australia Day honours, says the rapid growth of the superannuation sector has provided plenty of opportunities for women to move into senior ranks.

She said the growth of the superannuation sector, which she joined straight from university, where she studied to be an actuary, in the late seventies, came at a time when there was an increasing number of Australian women coming into the workforce looking for professional careers.

Ms Lorraine Berends. Director Qantas Super Fund, Pinnacle Investment Management Received an AM in the 2024 Australia Day Honours.

“In many industries people talk about a glass ceiling, but I don’t think that there has ever been a glass ceiling in superannuation,” she said in an interview with The Australian.

“Others may disagree, but I think the opportunities in superannuation have been equally there for women and for men.”

“The investment industry and other sectors of the finance industry are still very male dominated, but even on the investment side there are a number of senior women managing large super funds which is fabulous to see.”

“There are still many glass ceilings in the law and investment banking is predominantly male, but in super there have never been the same sort of barriers.”

She said the easier growth path for women in superannuation may have also been one of timing.

“Not only was superannuation a growth industry, but it came at a time when more women were in the workforce.

“Not all were university educated but many were.”

Ms Berends never planned to go into superannuation but when she joined National Mutual as an actuary, she was put in the superannuation sector, where she worked from 1979 to 1996.

It was the start of a long career in the industry which included a move towards more specialisation on the investment management side of the business.

Her interest in super saw her become involved in the Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia, joining the board in 1997 where she served for 13 years, becoming national chair for three years from 2002 to 2005.

She was also chair of the Certified Investment Management Analysts Society for five years from 2007 to 2012.

Ms Berends has been a board member of the $8.5bn Qantas Super since 2019 and is also an independent director of Pinnacle Investment Management Group, Spheria Emerging Companies Limited and Plato Income Maximiser Limited.

Her pro bono roles include being a director of Hearts and Minds Investments Limited and an independent member of the Australian Commonwealth Games Foundation Investment Committee.

She was awarded her honour “for significant service to the financial and business sectors and to the community.”

“When I joined National Mutual, they could have put me into life insurance, but they put me in superannuation,” she said reflecting on her career in superannuation.

“Who knew that it was going to be such an enormous growth industry.”

“It was a lucky break.”

Ms Berends said the superannuation industry had gone from a product which was largely provided by employers for their staff to becoming a major industry allowing many Australians to retire with savings they would never have had, had it not been for the compulsory savings system.

“In the early days, superannuation was either corporate super or the public sector and most of the corporate funds were defined benefit.”

“Then award super came along in the 1980s and there was the superannuation guarantee and suddenly superannuation became universal.”

“Super has gone from something which employers used to provide to a big business which is changing the lives of Australians as they save for their retirement,” she said.

“It is also becoming more sophisticated in investing in a broader range of things from the initial days, when a lot of investments were in shares, fixed interest and government bonds.”

Ms Berends said there was pressure for mergers in the superannuation sector given the need for funds to hold down fees while coping with increasing cost of regulation and demands for higher level of services to members as more moved into retirement.

The number of corporate superannuation funds has now declined considerably as companies seek to exit the business given demands on the sector have increased.

Qantas Super has announced plans to seek a merger partner.

Ms Berends said smaller super funds, in particular, were finding it harder to keep their costs down given the high fixed cost of administration and investment management.

“There are enormous governance costs where the dollar amount can be the same regardless of whether you are a $8.5bn fund or a $200bn fund,” she said.

Ms Berends’ not for profit roles included becoming involved with the development of the Women in Super’s Mother’s Day Classic Fun Run which has raised a significant amount of money for breast cancer research.

She was a committee member of the fun run for 25 years.

She was asked to become a director of the Hearts and Minds Investments Fund by Chris Cuffe when it was founded in 2018.

The fund manages money invested in stocks which have been tipped by fund managers at the annual Sohn Hearts & Minds Conference, which has been going in Australia since 2016 to raise money for medical research.

The fund was set up two years later with the investment fees which would have otherwise been paid, also going to the medical research groups such as the Victor Chang Research Institute.

The annual conference and the fund have since given more than $65m to a range of medical research groups.

This article was originally posted by The Australian here.

Licensed by Copyright Agency. You must not copy this work without permission.

Disclaimer: This material has been prepared by The Australian, published on 25 January 2024. HM1 is not responsible for the content of linked websites or content prepared by third party. The inclusion of these links and third-party content does not in any way imply any form of endorsement by HM1 of the products or services provided by persons or organisations who are responsible for the linked websites and third-party content. This information is for general information only and does not consider the objectives, financial situation or needs of any person. Before making an investment decision, you should read the relevant disclosure document (if appropriate) and seek professional advice to determine whether the investment and information is suitable for you.

Recent Posts

Read the latest insights
A curated list of HM1 investor updates, portfolio news and other interesting articles.
Read More