Working paper


Superannuation fees have come under public scrutiny in recent years with the belief that many are set too high. This report focuses on a sample of Australian superannuation funds to gain a better understanding of the factors that influences the fees that they charge. We examine how fund size, asset allocation, risk category and fund type influence investment, administration and total fees. Previous research has not precisely linked the investment fee to the asset allocation of each superannuation fund in Australia. The results reveal that exposure to certain asset classes helps to explain fund fees. Our results show that this difference provides an intuitive reason as to why investment fees differ between funds. After taking into account the asset allocation for each fund, we find convincing evidence that there are differences in the fees charged by corporate funds, industry funds, master trusts and public funds. These fee differences exist across investment, administration and total fees. We find that industry funds charge an investment fee that is over 12 basis points cheaper than a master trust, after controlling for asset allocation. This is a significant amount, given that the average investment fee is around 60 basis points in our sample. We undertake a benchmarking exercise to reveal that investment fees do not seem excessive, but we again observe differences across funds types. When examining the average difference between the actual investment fee charged and the expected fee, we observe that retail funds have the highest differential.

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