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Half-yearly 2023/24 investment market update 

Join Aware Super Chief Investment Officer, Damian Graham, as he chats to Chief of Staff Katrina McPhee about markets in the first half of the 2023/24 financial year – and how it affects your super. Damien and Kat also cover what you should look for in a super fund, and the steps you can take to get retirement ready.

Read our more in-depth market review and outlook

Hi, I'm Kat. So the first six months of the financial year has just been incredibly busy, and I know members are wondering what's going on with investment markets and their investment options. So let's go straight to the source. I'm here with Damian Graham, our Chief Investment Officer, thanks for joining us.

Thanks, Kat. It's great to be here.

So we're going to jump straight into it. This last six months has been full of lots of talk around recession and inflation and rising cost of living and geopolitical impacts. Can you just help us by cutting through some of that noise and talking about what's going on, in investment markets and the impacts of those things?

I will talk about the last 12 months, really, because it's been such an important time for markets to think about what's happening globally. And what really has been happening globally is inflation. It's been such a dominant theme. So central banks started 2023 with high inflation around the world. And that really has played out through the last 12 months with still elevated inflation, but it has been falling. What that's meant for interest rates is really critical though. So central banks have had to increase interest rates over the last 12 months. And that has meant that investors have been nervous and there has been periods of heightened volatility based on that risk aversion by investors. Pleasingly, though, we sort of saw the end of 2023 where inflation was starting to fall, and most investors felt that central banks were in the position where they could lower interest rates within the next 6 or 12 months. And that has benefited share markets. At the same time, we've had geopolitical tensions in a number of different regions, and that has also led to some investor uncertainty. But that inflation theme has been the dominant source of uncertainty for investors.

So we're talking big investment terms here. I guess what's on a member's mind is 'what does it actually mean for me and my balance?'

Yeah. So the positive investment markets were able to deliver good outcomes to member options. So if I start with our biggest option which is our high growth accumulation option. So that's an option that has quite a lot invested in high growth assets such as shares and property and infrastructure, private equity. That returned over 12% for the calendar year. So really pleasing outcome. One of the best in that area for a high growth option. If we look at the option that most of our pension members invest in, which is our Conservative Balanced option, that returns over 8% for the calendar year as well. So a really pleasing outcome, they were both over and above the inflation plus objective for the options over that one year period. Importantly though, when we look at the long term and we look at the last ten years as being a key indicator of returns for our members, because our members tend to be with us for decades, in accumulation initially and then many years in retirement. So we look at those long term returns as being really critical as well. And pleasingly, over the last ten years, both the High Growth option and also the Conservative Balanced option, both delivered really strong absolute returns for our members.

That's super comforting. I guess I just want to pick up on one thing that you were talking about then, that there's a bit of a difference between the way someone in accumulation invests and maybe someone who's in retirement.

So it sounds like we do take a little bit of the thinking and the monitoring out of it, if that's what people would like to do. But obviously people always have choice.

Absolutely.

Here is the million dollar question. How do you know if you're with a good fund?

I think there's some really critical factors that you need to look at. So I mentioned the long term returns as being critically important. So what's going to make the most difference to a member is what the long term returns will be for the investment option that they're invested in. And I mentioned ten years before but it's even longer than that. But we use that long term return is a good indicator of are you with a fund that's very strongly performing compared to the other funds in the market? And pleasingly Aware Super is in that position. So our High Growth option, which is our main accumulation option as I mentioned, has been really strongly performing in its peer group. So that's a really critical part. We also make sure that we have lower costs for our members. So because at the end of the day, it's the net-of-fee returns that matter most, and that makes the most difference to what's in your balance at retirement. We do also think that being with a larger fund allows that fund to access a broader array of investments, and that the quality of those investments is really important to delivering those long term returns, again, with with less volatility typically. So we believe being with a larger fund is important as well. And then the last point I would highlight is what we just touched on, which is having a really good strategy to support members through their life cycle, through their journey, when they're building their balance, and also when they're in retirement. I think they're all key factors.

Yeah, and we hear so much from members as they're starting to, especially as they're sort of approaching retirement. There's so many burning questions like, do I have enough super? Or what is the dollar figure that I need to have at retirement? What are my options around contributions or investment options? It can be a lot. And I just want to give people comfort that at Aware Super, being super helpful is in our absolute DNA. And we have many people on hand to answer those questions with you. And we have people on the phones. We have advisors that you can check in with. But a really great first step is actually with a tool that we've just launched called the My Retirement Planner. And it's so much more than just a calculator. It's a tool where you can jump on and you can play with the different options and see that actually how it affects your retirement adequacy or how much you might have and how much you might be able to live on in retirement. And it's great. You can do it at your own pace and answer the questions you might have, but sometimes a really helpful follow on to that is to do what we call a Super Helpful Check-in, which is 45 minutes with one of our professionals who actually can outline some of the next steps you might like to consider.

Fantastic opportunities, because at the end of the day, what we're trying to do is make sure our members are confident about their retirement.

Absolutely. Well, Damian, thank you. That has been amazing and very helpful for our members, no doubt.

Thanks, Kat.

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