Fund CEO laments members using lawyers

A senior industry superannuation fund chief executive has urged members to talk to their fund first about Total and Permanent Disability (TPD) claims before retaining lawyers.

Energy Super chief executive, Robyn Petrou lamented the fact that workers were hiring lawyers to help them complete and expedite insurance claims.

"Australian workers often do not realise they may have TPD and income protection insurance with a third party through their super fund, and that super fund trustees legally have to act in the best interests in relation to the payment of insurance claims," Petrou said.

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"It can be a simpler and more cost-effective process to seek advice from their super fund rather than approaching a lawyer.

Insurance is seen as a key focus for Energy Super Fund, given the majority of its members work in the high-risk energy and resources industry.

By contacting a super fund in the first instance, Petrou members can speak to a customer service representative to gain fee help regarding the customer's insurance policy or cover. The customer will be given all the appropriate forms to lodge a claim and the representative will provide all documents and information to the insurer on the customer's behalf.

In December 2011, Energy Super was one of the first funds to launch a transactional mobile website, providing members with access to their account information as well as the ability to view their investment performance online.

"By collaborating with Spark Green and Financial Synergy, utilising their Acurity software, we were able to deliver this pioneering technology to our members," Petrou said.

With a growing customer base of over 49,000 members across Australia, it remains to be seen whether Energy Super will adopt a multichannel approach to ensure that their claims processing is streamlined and more intuitive in how they respond to customer enquiries.

Super Review is hosting a breakfast to discuss the future of TPD and the role of lawyers.

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Mr Petrou's comments ignore the fact that superannuation trustees have an inherent conflict when it comes to assisting member's who are pursuing insurance claims through their funds. The trustees also have an obligation to preserve the fund and act in the interests of all members. Trustees are simply not in a position to give individualised legal advice to a member in that member's best interests. If superannuation trustees are giving legal advice to their members then they are stepping outside the bounds of their area of expertise. If members are engaging lawyers to assist them then trustees have a duty to cooperate with those lawyers as part of their obligation under the SIS Act to assist members with their claim. Encouraging people not to seek independent legal advice tailored to their own individual situation is not assisting that member with their claim and in fact is doing the opposite.

My Paperny comments don't reflect the inconsolable behaviour of the claim department. Get your lawyer involved from the first step , a good share of the industry funds insurance is worse than your symptoms for making the claim

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