The Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia (ASFA) will see its chief executive, Pauline Vamos, depart on June 30, after which she will consider new roles, both in Australia and overseas.

She has spent more than eight years at the helm of the domestic pension industry’s main lobby group, and the ASFA board will shortly start recruiting for her replacement.

Vamos said she had not decided on her next move as she wanted to see out her term before committing to new ventures: “My focus is, and will be until June 30, on the key outcomes I need to achieve before I leave. There will be time to plan after that.”

She is an acknowledged leader in Australia’s super industry, which in turn is an influential model for retirement systems elsewhere in Asia Pacific. A qualified lawyer, she has also spent six years working at Australian Securities and Investments Commission and six years as head of legal and compliance at Friends Provident/Tower Life, among other roles.  

Vamos told AsianInvestor she was pleased to see the influence Australia has had on pension system developments across Asia, including Hong Kong.

“I think the Australian super system has influenced developments in Asia, giving many countries the ability to observe a growing pension system at close quarters," she noted. "This means they can learn from our mistakes, take what is best and apply it to their own circumstances. They also have easy access to advice if they need it."

Vamos thinks the next 10 years will bring radical change to the pensions landscape in Asia: “We all have the common challenge of an aging population that lives longer and with fewer younger people to look after them. We will see growth and innovation in the response to this trend. I see over the next five to 10 years the sharing of solutions, services and product to our aging citizens.”

In Australia, Vamos has led ASFA’s successful advocacy for several key issues in the pension schemes industry, notably the raising of the mandatory contribution rate to 12% and an end to the misuse of super tax privileges by wealthy investors.

She said she was proud of the association’s achievements “in influencing policy, lifting industry standards through our learning programmes, delivering our renowned world-class annual conference and engaging with other pension systems globally”.

Because it is such a major component of the average Australian’s personal finances, the A$2 trillion ($1.42 trillion) superannuation market has always been highly politicised. Recently super industry groups have been fighting among themselves over the government’s reform agenda.

The Liberal government led by Malcolm Turnbull is pushing for super funds to have independent directors. It has also proposed changes to the rules governing investment of employer contributions and a lifting of restrictions on employee choice of funds. Industry funds and the Australian Institute of Superannuation Trustees (AIST) are strongly opposed to these ideas, while the retail funds sector is fully behind them.

Vamos must try to engineer a satisfactory outcome from this for ASFA members. It is perhaps for this reason that she has not thought much about where she will go next.

Commenting on her departure, ASFA chairman Michael Easson said: “Pauline’s enormous contribution to public policy debate during her time at ASFA has been outstanding. The development of good public policy is one thing, but the ability to successfully advocate for the right retirement outcomes for Australians is quite another.

“Pauline has been a key advocate for broadening the superannuation discussion to include insurance, investment governance and advice and has been a strong proponent of industry self-regulation."