Biggest winners in 2013 - women in financial services

2013 was another eventful year for the financial services industry. In its annual top 5 feature, Money Management looks at some of the most memorable moments of the last 12 months.

Women in financial services surge

The formal recognition of women in the financial services sector reached new heights this year with the launch of a number of dedicated award schemes and programs.

The Association of Financial Advisers (AFA) launched the Inspire awards to draw attention to some of the industry’s overlooked movers-and-shakers, while Money Management and Super Review launched their inaugural Women in Financial Services awards to an overwhelming reception.  

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Meanwhile, BT Financial Group launched the Stella Network to link up women in the financial services sector and help lift their representation in senior roles. Women are still heavily under-represented in financial services – but finally efforts are being made to correct the imbalance. 

AMP eyes SMSF space

AMP propelled itself into the self-managed superannuation fund (SMSF) market with gusto this year, making several acquisitions and key hires to support the growing business unit. 

After signalling its first SMSF play mid-last year with the acquisition of administration business Cavendish Group, it ramped up its efforts this year, partnering with AMP Capital to move towards infrastructure, property, emerging markets and high yield fund investment.

Recently its subsidiary Super IQ picked up faltering administration firm Tranzact, while AMP SMSF recently acquired Supercorp’s YourSMSF. 

The group also moved Paul Sainsbury to the position of chief customer officer and appointed dedicated managing director Natasha Fenech to oversee the SMSF business.

Sainsbury told Money Management the market could expect “big things” from its SMSF business in 2014. 

FPA and AFA lift planner profiles

In the shadow of a federal election, financial services’ professional organisations proved their ongoing relevance by boosting membership and bringing the fight for professionalism back to the fore. 

Both the Association of Financial Advisers (AFA) and Financial Planning Association (FPA) continued to promote professionalism with education and awards programs. They also opposed perceived harmful aspects of the Future of Financial Advice (FOFA) reforms such as opt-in and complicated fee disclosure arrangements. 

The AFA continued to maintain a loyal member base under the leadership of new CEO Brad Fox.  

The FPA, meanwhile, bought its budget back to black after its 2011 restructure.

Ultra-profitable Big Four thwart rivals  

Australia’s Big Four banks have consistently fought off the threat of foreign competition this year, at the same time posting monster profits. 

Collectively, ANZ, Commonwealth Bank, NAB and Westpac brought in more than $27 billion in profits – more than their pre-global financial crisis (GFC) highs. Their multi-billion dollar profits also made the Australian banking sector one of the most lucrative in the world. 

Research group Morningstar said the big four had “structural advantages that are strong and durable”, which gives them a unique oligopoly in an increasingly competitive sector. 

Heaps of fun for fund managers

After years of post-GFC uncertainty, the cash wall finally began to fall in 2013 and fund managers reaped most of the benefits.

Persistent low interest rates, coupled with improving confidence, saw many cautious investors keen to capitalise on the promise of increased returns.

Meanwhile, the change of Government and removal of the carbon and mining taxes served to create a much more optimistic environment for fund managers, according to a Russell Investments survey. 

The positive sentiment is expected to continue into the new year.

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