YOU’RE NOT ALLOWED TO ASK QUESTIONS.

It is not uncommon in larger organisations that when it comes time to replace a senior manager in a given role that the incoming incumbent proceeds to initially review the situation and then seeks to make changes to commonly achieve two things, firstly (theoretically) to make perceived improvements, and secondly to place their personal stamp on the organisation.  Regrettably, the latter can often, in reality, be change for change sake.

On a funny aside, I remember when I was given my Regimental command my Operations Officer came to me shortly after my appointment and asked; “Sir, will we be designing a new PT shirt?”, my response was simply “Whilst there will be change, I have no intent to change the PT shirt, the existing one is more than adequate.” The dive to change branding, colours, strategic wording, etc. is almost automatic, prescribed even.  It is often relatively cheap, but definitely quick and visible.  The message “I have arrived” has been delivered.

Another common area of change is also that the senior management around the new leader are also replaced, certainly there are sometimes a need for such replacements, but alas often it can be the selection of people who are known supporters of the new incumbent who thus will not rock the boat.  In fact, one of the accounting bodies has recently developed an excellent case study on this exact point!

Thus it has been really interesting to see the revelations that have been emerging from the Royal Commission in relation to operation and management within the Superannuation Industry at the major corporate level.  In reading the now published and oft commented revelations, I have opined over the time, when I was more actively involved in the leadership of Public Practice arena, when the battle raged over the Public Accountants ability to speak on matters superannuation in detail was lost.

At that time there were two significant parties that were vying for the supreme control of the superannuation sector, the major investment houses, backed by the banking and insurance fraternity, and on the other side the industry funds, backed by the union movement.  There was much that these two groups did not agree upon, but alas I can assure you I am not qualified to comment on that!  However, the one thing that both sides were able to agree on and in fact set in immovable concrete was the fact that, given an accountants tendency to recommend self-managed super funds, those same accountants ability to advise, comment upon, review or, dare I say it, question what’s going on in the superannuation industry must be eradicated, or in the least severely curtailed.  This they did achieve, convincingly.

Having now investigated businesses for a number of decades it still proves fascinating, even entertaining, that the best information is most often found under the rock that is marked “entrance denied”, “you do not have the appropriate level of authority”, “you do not need this information to give your advice”, and I could go on with numerous similar phrases, but I can assure you, the story has never changed.

Thus it will be truly interesting to continue to watch the superannuation story unfold.  One thing that is increasingly becoming evident though is that the future limitation of the ability for professionals to comment in relevant circumstances could well be disastrous for regulators and politicians alike.  Had accountants (or other professionals) made noise years ago then this problem would most likely have never escalated to the level of the absurdities that we watch unfold before us now.