Zuper Super launches with impact, education investment mission

Zuper Super has launched for business, offering a superannuation product focus on disruption, impactful investment, and education for its target member audience.

Jess Ellerm, Zuper Super CEO and co-founder

Zuper Super co-founder and CEO Jess Ellerm says that the genesis for establishing the fund was the need to disrupt the industry to engage more with younger superannuation members.

“We started with a big question – why don’t Australians care about their biggest asset – their superannuation fund,” Jess says. “They should care. Their balances are getting eroded by insurance and other fees, their money could be invested in things they don’t care about, and they have a  big pool of money they should care about. Superannuation is becoming more important. The wealth creation story is important, and as lifestyles shift,  that wealth playbook is fundamentally different for our generation, yet the offering is the same one that got given to our parents.”

Zuper Super offers members two “bases”, which constitute  at least 80% of member’s investments – Zuper Impact, which screens out tobacco and nuclear weapons, and Zuper Impact Plus, which also screens out gambling, pornography, alcohol and fossil fuels. On top of that “base”, members can allocate towards three three themed portfolio choices – Zuper Green, Zuper Health, and Zuper Tech – which allows members to invest in the theme that aligns with their values. Members can allocate up to 20% of their contributions to one or all of the themes. The fund’s investments are based on a combination of index and ETF strategies.

“When we got started, we asked the question as to why people don’t care.” Jess says. “We talked to thousands of people, and what we discovered is that people want more of a say in what they’re invested in.  Sixty five percent of Australians want a say in what their money is invested in, so we went on this journey of asking people, what do you want to invest in?  They came back with three themes – technology, renewable energy and healthcare. That’s the genesis of what we now call that crowed-powered superannuation. We’ve been building these portfolios, in the lowest cost way you can.

Zuper’s trustee is Diversa, and many of their ETF and index funds are managed by BlackRock, Jess says. Zuper charges administration and management fees of 0.99% of account balances per year, plus insurance offerings through Hannover Re.

In addition to the three themes that are currently on offer, Zuper is polling its members as to future themes, Jess says.

“If you want that flavor to your super option, you can self-direct into one of the thematics or split over two or three,” she says. “Members can tailor super to their values, but know they’re invested in big future trend.  That marries the values story with that wealth creation story. What’s good for the world can be good for your wallet.”

The three options that are currently being voted on by enrolled members are tilts towards companies that score well on gender and other markers of diversity, emerging markets, and Australia-first – a portfolio of Australian companies. Currently, gender and diversity is leading in the polls, Jess says.

Finally, Zuper Super is investing in an education program –  the Learn More, Earn More platform.

“The third leg of our narrative was to change the way we think about contributing to super,” Jess says. “The traditional narrative tells us to save more and top up the super. But in an economy with wage stagnation and rising costs, it’s not that simple. One of the things we’re really interested in is getting people to save more, by getting them to earn more. That’s our Learn More, Earn More platform.  Members can claim discounts from General Assembly, Academy of Science and other partners to upskill and increase their take-home pay, all of which increases super.”

Currently, Zuper Super is targeting people who are in their mid-20s to late 30s, people who “know they should be doing something about super,” and who have an average rollover balance of about $40,000. Zuper Super doesn’t have any figures to share about their membership demographic as yet, but Jess says current enrolments are in line with those presumptions.