With Chairman Anne Ward and John Sipek stepping down after 15 years of dedicated service, Qantas Super has officially welcomed two new Directors to the Board.

John Atkin

When it comes to appointing a Chair for your Board of Directors, they don’t come more qualified than John Atkin.

The new Chair of the Qantas Super Board, John is also Chair of the Australian Institute of Company Directors (AICD) and Chair of Outward Bound Australia. He also serves as a non-executive director of the Commonwealth Bank’s corporate super fund, and of ASX-listed companies IPH Ltd and Integral Diagnostics Ltd.

So, with no shortage of things to do already, what attracted him to the role at Qantas Super? According to John, it was Qantas Super’s outgoing Chair, Anne Ward, who first approached him to gauge his interest.

“I hadn’t met Anne, but I knew of her and of her reputation, which is outstanding. I feel a little bit daunted, but equally privileged, to be following in her footsteps,” John said.

Given he serves on the board of the Commonwealth Bank’s corporate super fund, John said he was also interested to learn more about the work Qantas Super does as a corporate fund.

“Corporate funds came from the employer’s commitment and interest in supporting their employees provide for their retirement. Seeing super as an element of the employment relationship was something that always appealed to me, because that’s what superannuation is about,” John said.

“As a company-specific fund you can also tailor your offering and your language to your employees…compared to the big industry funds, which have millions of members, you can provide a service that’s personalised to the context of employment within the group. I think Qantas Super has done that really, really well.”

John is also keen to apply what he has learned through his time on the board of the Commonwealth Bank fund to Qantas Super.

“There’s a value in being able to compare and contrast. It doesn’t mean you copy everything from one to the other, not at all, but there’s a lot of general knowhow to be applied and developed in the comparing and contrasting of the two,” he explained.

John is settling into his new role as Chair of the Qantas Super Board at an interesting time.

Almost a year on from the Royal Commission, he has a focus on organisations being able to learn from each other – and here, in fact, John believes we can learn from the aviation industry’s approach to air safety.

“If one of the airlines has a failing, everyone gets to learn from it, and there’s an industry-wide collective sense of responding to it and everyone improving their systems as a result,” he said.

“[Directors also] need to adopt that same ethos of continual improvement and learning from mistakes. The practice of safety and the improvement of operating procedures within airlines is a standout example of what we should be doing. If there’s a failing in any super funds, we should all be learning from it.”

As he dives into his new role, John said he is looking forward to working with the Board and the wider Qantas Super team to ensure members are taken care of throughout their super journey.

Lorraine Berends

Having started her career as an actuary working with corporate super funds in the 1970s, joining Qantas Super’s Board of Directors feels like “coming full circle” for Lorraine Berends.

While she has had a long career in super, serving in roles including being a Director of industry body Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia (ASFA) and as a specialist member of the Investment Committee at QSuper, Lorraine said the idea of being part of a corporate fund again was appealing.

As an actuary, she said, the fact Qantas Super features a number of defined benefit divisions is exciting.

Beyond the numbers, Lorraine said she’s eager to see how the powerful link between a corporate fund and its members can be leveraged to educate members and help them feel more confident in their financial future.

This, Lorraine said, marks a significant shift from the way funds used to think about and approach their members.

“Earlier in my career, when super was strictly an employee benefit and for only some employees, and companies paid all sorts of contribution rates depending on how generous they wanted to be, the benefit was very much in the generosity of the fund. Fast forward to 2019, when we have the Superannuation Guarantee and most funds offer the same type of benefit for new members, super is now a bit of a commodity,” Lorraine explained.

“Where the real value comes now is in helping members understand what super can do for them in retirement, and helping them understand what retirement might be like for them, based on the super they have accumulated, their future contributions, and the choices they have to put themselves in a better position.”

With this in mind, Lorraine believes Qantas Super’s biggest opportunity is that it serves Qantas staff past and present.

“We know who our members are and can have direct contact with them; that’s number one,” she said.

As Lorraine settles into her role on the Board, she said the enthusiasm from the Qantas Super team is clear.

“I’m just absolutely thrilled to be involved. It’s truly a delight for me.”

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