The coronavirus has upended the lives of most Australians.

We asked our clients and the community what’s concerning you the most. You told us the financial and economic implications of this pandemic are creating greater unease than health and wellbeing, or access to goods and services.

With deep experience investing through market cycles, MLC is here to help and guide you through this extraordinary time.

This dedicated space will be updated regularly to help you, whether you’re new to investing and haven’t experienced a market downturn, interested in Government packages for financial hardship, or want to stay up to date with the latest views of our professional investors.

In all market conditions, including times like now, we encourage you to speak to your financial adviser.


Read a message from Geoff Lloyd CEO, MLC Wealth

 


Read a message from Jonathan Armitage Chief Investment Officer, MLC Asset Management

 

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Helping you navigate your finances during COVID-19

If you're feeling uncertain about your retirement plans in the face of COVID-19, MLC's How to plan your finances in a changing world workbook will help you review and reset your goals, and get a better understanding of some financial strategies that may help you now and for the future.

Find out more

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Differences between current environment and 2008/09 Global Financial Crisis

Current market volatility is distinctly different to the GFC. For one, banks will be part of the solution this time, not the problem. Portfolio Manager, Myooran Mahalingam discusses.

Watch video >

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Wealth Warning: Things to consider about the Government's $10K early release of super measure

The Federal Gov't has announced people facing significant financial hardship as a result of the Coronavirus may be able to access a portion of their super early. We look at some of the key points to consider.

Read article >

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Coronavirus investment opportunities – what to look for in share markets

If you’re looking for investment opportunities amid Coronavirus, to achieve long-term returns, these five principles may help.

Read article >

Share market valuations a reason for caution

The investment environment is complicated. That’s why continue to emphasise intensive risk-management along with careful additions to portfolios. Jonathan Armitage, Chief Investment Officer at MLC Asset Management, discusses.

 


 

As we did through the most intensive period of the crisis – we’re continuing to balance caution with selective additions of risk assets.

FAQs

Coronavirus & early access to super

  • Once you have applied, here are the next steps for successful applications:

    1. The ATO assesses and approves the request
    2. The ATO provides MLC/Plum with a determination, optimally the next business day
    3. MLC receives the information from the ATO and processes it
    4. MLC makes the payment into your nominated bank account, targeting within five business days
    5. If we have your mobile number, we’ll let you know via SMS once we’ve completed your payment
  • We can only process transaction requests when we receive all required information.
    If accepted, generally transaction requests received by us before 3:00 pm (Sydney time) on any Business Day will receive that day’s unit price. Requests received after 3:00 pm will generally receive the next Business Day’s unit price.

    Generally, withdrawal requests will be actioned by us promptly to enable us to make payments within 10 Business Days. Actioning of withdrawal requests and payments may be delayed, for example, if underlying assets need to be sold. In certain circumstances, such as when there are adverse market conditions, we may suspend withdrawals. We may also process requests in instalments over a period of time and may also suspend processing of requests we have already accepted. In certain circumstances we may refuse a withdrawal request. Where withdrawals are delayed, suspended or being paid in instalments, the unit prices used for a withdrawal will be those available on the day the withdrawal takes effect, rather than the day of the withdrawal request.

Coronavirus & the impact to your super & investments

  • There is no such things as a ‘one-size fits all’ answer on what the best thing to do is.

    As a generalisation, people close to retirement or in retirement often have many years ahead of them. In those situations, having some exposure to ‘growth assets,’ like shares, is important as their higher return potential (for higher risk), can help to maintain people’s spending power.

    The low interest rates payable on term deposits over the past decade have certainly made it harder for people nearing retirement or in retirement to rely on term deposits to keep pace with the cost of living.

    Equally, being told to simply maintain a long-term view and wait for a market recovery can be grating, particularly if you’re already drawing a pension from your superannuation.

    You need to keep in mind if you change your investment strategy immediately after a correction, you’re taking losses, which reduces your chance of making your money back when markets eventually recover.

    In saying that, it’s understandable if people close to retirement or in retirement want to have more protection through ‘defensive assets’ in portfolios. Being a little more risk averse than someone that’s still earning an income from paid employment or a business, is understandable. That’s why Plum offers a range of portfolios with varying risk and return characteristics to suit different client needs.

    Good financial advice is invaluable. We recommend you discuss your situation with your financial adviser. If you do not have a financial adviser, please call us.

  • When news first broke late last year of COVID-19, investment markets initially adopted a ‘wait and see’ attitude. However, that changed when markets came to realise that a global pandemic would have severe health, social and economic ramifications.

    Stay-at-home directives from governments around the world to try and bring down the rate of coronavirus (COVID-19) infections have effectively shut down many industries, and dragged down economic activity.

    Nation-wide social and economic shut-downs in Australia and many other countries are also contributing to great uncertainty over the earnings outlook for many companies, and this continues to impact share markets.

    Industries like hospitality, entertainment, education, and travel and tourism, for example, have been hit especially hard.

    There is also uncertainty as to when the worst point of the pandemic will pass, when improved treatments to better manage COVID-19 will emerge, and when a vaccine will be available for widespread use.

    Until the worst of the pandemic passes, markets are likely to remain volatile, with large swings both down and up. We expect uncertainty about economic activity and company earnings to keep investors on edge.

  • More market swings are likely as market participants react, and over-react, to new pieces of information.

    Over the past few weeks, there have been days when markets have gone up significantly, as well as down, all in the same day. This kind of see-saw pattern is what you’d expect in what’s known as a ‘bear market’, which is what we’re currently in.

    Big swings in emotions are a feature of bear markets, and big swings are understandable as people are constantly being hit by new pieces of information in a 24/7 world.

    Seeing the value of investments, including superannuation accounts, go down is distressing. People’s long-term goals and dreams are often tied up with their investments that in many cases have been built up over years.

    What we know from past severe market falls, is that they do eventually end, and recoveries follow. But it does take time.

    The 2008/09 Global Financial Crisis (GFC) is the most severe investment downturn in recent memory.

    The GFC did end and was followed by 10 years of strong share market returns as the following statistics show:

    • The Australian share market, as measured by the S&P/ASX 300 Accumulation Index, returned 111% for the 10 years to 31 December 2019.
    • The global share market, as measured by the MSCI ACWI Index (Net dividends invested, in Australian dollars), returned 197% for the 10 years to 31 December 2019.

    Every market event is different. This one is because of a dangerous global virus, and so we can’t say that it will follow the pattern of the GFC or other market downturns and recoveries.

    But history does provide some encouragement that bad investment periods end, and better times eventually arrive.

  • MLC is doing everything we sensibly can to preserve Plum clients’ portfolios from the worst effects of market falls.

    We’re also looking for opportunities to buy good assets that have been over-sold as people have ‘thrown the baby out with the bathwater’ over the past few weeks.

    On the defensive side of the equation — we’ve, amongst other things, been using ‘derivatives strategies’.

    Derivatives provide very cost and time efficient ways of acting on our investment views.

    Derivatives can be thought of as investment insurance. For a small premium — a bit like the premium most people pay for car insurance or house and contents insurance — we can buy protection for clients’ portfolios so that even when markets go down, the portfolios get a return for the derivatives they bought.

    Having a good amount of exposure to foreign currency has been another cushion. The Australian dollar usually weakens when global share markets sell-off, and this period is no different.

    At the same time, foreign currencies like the US dollar and Japanese yen, for example, generally strengthen when share markets fall. This too has happened, and that’s helped to take some of the edge off the negative impact of share market falls on clients’ portfolios.

    We’re starting to see better value in a number of assets that have been sold off and so we’re getting prepared to add some of those assets to clients’ portfolios.

  • If you’re a defined benefit member with an accumulation account, you can apply for a COVID-19 Early Release payment from the funds in your accumulation account. If there’s not enough in your accumulation account to cover the payment, or you’re a defined benefit member without an accumulation account, it will generally not be possible to make a payment from your defined benefits.

  • Everyone’s risk-tolerance, the time frame they have for judging investment performance, and investment goals is unique. There is no such thing as a ‘one-size fits all’ answer on how to manage a market downturn.

    Seeing the value of investments, including superannuation accounts, go down is distressing. People’s long-term goals and dreams are often tied up with their investments that in many cases have been built up over years.

    What we know from past severe market falls, is that they do eventually end, and recoveries follow. But it does take time.

    The 2008/09 Global Financial Crisis (GFC) is the most severe investment downturn in recent memory. It was upsetting for people to see the value of their investments go down. However, the GFC did end and was followed by 10 years of strong share market returns.

    That’s why people who change their investments immediately after a correction, are taking losses, which reduces their chance of making their money back when markets eventually recover.

    That said, every severe market episode is different, and the time it takes for markets to recover can vary.

    There is more uncertainty this time because this market downturn was set off by a dangerous global virus. Progress in combatting COVID-19 is key to shifting investor moods.

    Investors will likely remain edgy until the worst point of the pandemic is passed, and until improved treatments to better manage COVID-19 emerge. The appearance of a vaccine available for widespread use would be especially welcome by everyone, including investors.

    Above everything else, we recommend you discuss your circumstances and investments, including super, with your financial adviser. If you do not have an adviser, please call us.

  • Yes, the buy-sell spreads of some managed investments are fluctuating daily due to current market conditions. If there are any other changes to fees and costs, we’ll update this on our secure website – you can log in at plum.com.au

  • The buy-sell spread is a type of transaction cost incurred when buying and selling the underlying assets of the investment option. The buy-sell spread ensures that only those transacting investors incur the costs associated with buying and selling the assets. The investment options’ fund manager and MLC don’t profit from these spreads and buy-sell spreads are adjusted over time in line with changes in transactions costs experienced by the fund manager.

    The current market conditions are extremely volatile. This has been the case particularly in fixed income markets, where trading costs have risen significantly. This means the buy-sell spread on any investment option may vary day-to-day and could fluctuate significantly.

  • An increase in the buy-sell spread will increase the cost associated with selling or switching an investment and may also be reflected in a lower valuation of the investment.

  • Buy-sell spreads are located within the investment menu of the product’s PDS (Product Disclosure Statement). However, given that buy/sell spreads are changing on a frequent basis we’re putting this information online to provide you with the most up-to-date information available.

    For the latest available information on investment option buy-sell spreads, log in to your account at plum.com.au

  • If you’re invested in a Plum product, then you’re likely to be invested in either MySuper or one of Plum’s many diversified investment options. If you’re in MySuper or a diversified investment option, you may have some exposure to unlisted assets. Private equity, real estate and infrastructure are the unlisted assets Plum investment options may hold.

    Rather than paying any price to own such assets, our investment experts at MLC Asset Management, have been patient and disciplined on members’ behalf. They’ve only bought assets when confident that the prices they’re prepared to pay can be justified by the prospect of superior long-term risk-adjusted returns.

    Unlisted assets make up a relatively small component of Plum diversified investment options, with the rest invested in assets that are listed on a public market like the share market or bond market.

    Listed asset classes are valued on a market and their values incorporated into unit prices each day. That’s one of the reasons your account value changes from day-to-day. Unlisted assets are valued a lot less frequently because they’re invested in private companies and externally managed unlisted funds with adjustments to their values flowing through from the managers of those funds over time.

  • All asset classes have been affected by the coronavirus, including unlisted assets such as private equity.

    MLC Asset Management, who are responsible for managing Plum investment options, recently conducted an out-of-cycle revaluation of private equity assets which resulted in a reduction to private equity values. This has had a flow-on effect to certain diversified Plum investment options with decreases in investment option unit prices reflected in account balances.

    For our MySuper portfolios, the impact on the unit price is shown below:

    MySuper portfolio 

    % change in the unit price due to private equity revaluation

    % of the Portfolio invested in private equity (post revaluation)

    MySuper Growth Portfolio

    -0.6%

    5.9%

    MySuper Conservative Growth Portfolio

    -0.6%

    5.3%


    The lower the allocation to private equity, the less the impact on the unit price.

    The private equity revaluation ensures that asset values are fairly reflected in unit prices for any members choosing to switch, add to, or redeem monies in affected funds, and thereby protects the interests of members.

    We will continue to monitor investment markets closely to ensure the pricing of unlisted assets remains appropriate for the circumstances as they evolve and to ensure all fund values reflect fair value across all member account balances.

Other information

  • As part of our commitment to supporting our members at this extraordinary time, we’ve extended access to MyCoach to Plum members until September. Through MyCoach, members can access three independent, professional counselling sessions to help manage challenging issues and enhance emotional wellbeing. Please call 1300 574 759 to speak with a Benestar Clinican.

  • Over the past weeks, the Federal Government has announced three economic packages to cushion the economic impact of the Coronavirus. A total of $213.7 billion in support measures aim to help keep Australians in work and support those in need. This includes $17.6 billion from the Government’s first economic package; $66.1 billion in the second economic support package announced on the 22 March; and finally, on 30 March, the Government announced the $130 billion JobKeeper Payment package. 

    There is also a $90 billion facility by the Reserve Bank of Australia to support business lending. The Federal Government also has pledged $20 billion to deliver easier access to finance for small to medium businesses

    Altogether, these budget and financing measures amount to circa 15% of Australia’s national income as measured by GDP. This is a welcome combination of measures for an extraordinary challenge. 

    The Government’s economic support package includes:

    • Support for households including casuals, sole-traders, retirees and those on income support
    • Assistance for businesses to keep people in a job
    • Regulatory protection and financial support for businesses to stay in business

    Under the JobKeeper payment, businesses that meet certain criteria and are significantly impacted by the Coronavirus outbreak will be able to access a subsidy from the Government to help continue paying their employees. This assistance will help businesses to keep people in their jobs and re-start when the crisis is over. For employees, this means they can keep their job and earn an income—even if their hours have been cut. The JobKeeper payment is a temporary scheme open to businesses impacted by the Coronavirus. The JobKeeper payment will also be available to the self-employed.  The Government will provide $1,500 each fortnight per eligible employee for up to 6 months.  

    Additionally, temporary measures for people facing significant financial hardship as a result of the coronavirus include early release of up to $10,000 of their superannuation balance in 2019-20 and a further $10,000 in 2020-21. This measure is estimated to cost $1.2 billion over the forward estimates period.

    For retirees, there will be a temporary reduction in the minimum annual amount required to withdraw from a super income stream. This will apply for this financial year and for the 2020/21 financial year.

    Find out more about temporary changes to superannuation for people facing significant financial hardship as a result of the Coronavirus.

    You can click here to access the Government’s Coronavirus support packages for individuals and households, or by typing treasury.gov.au/coronavirus/households in to your browser.

  • Plum is aware of COVID-19 themed emails and text messages circulating which contain malicious software, lead to phishing sites or asking you to donate money to a bank account.

    The emails and text messages may purport to be from legitimate organisations, including government agencies, and request you to click on links, open attachments or donate money to a bank account. Please see two examples below.

    If you have clicked on links or attachments in a suspicious email or SMS, or sent funds based on a request received from a suspicious email please call Plum on 132 652.

    If you receive a suspicious message, do not click on any links or attachments. Please forward it to phish@nab.com.au and then delete it.

    You can also read our article for more information on investment and super scams, or visit the Federal Government's Australian Cyber Security Centre website for more information about COVID-19 related scams.

    This information is current as at April 2020.

  • Plum is aware of current scam phone calls targeting Australians. The caller may claim to be from an organisation that can assist you to get early access to your superannuation. The caller may ask for your personal and superannuation details.

    If you ever have any concerns as to the legitimacy of a call, hang up and call the company back on a publicly listed number.

    If you have received this type of call and have provided information about your superannuation, please contact Plum immediately on 1300 55 7586.

    If you receive a text message saying your superannuation fund is going to release your super, and you did not request this, contact us.

    If you have provided personal or banking details, please also contact your financial institution.

    You can also read our article for more information on investment and super scams, or visit the Scamwatch website for more information about this scam.

    This information is current as at May 2020.

1References to client and community attitudes are drawn from research commissioned by MLC: “MLC community and client research. Coronavirus pandemic March 2020. Detailed report.”

IMPORTANT INFORMATION
This information is accurate as at 16/04/2020. This communication has been prepared by NULIS Nominees Australia Limited (‘NULIS’) ABN 80 008 515 633 AFSL 236465, in its capacity as trustee of the MLC Super Fund. NULIS is a member of the National Australia Bank group of companies (‘NAB Group’). An investment with NULIS does not represent a deposit with or liability of, and is not guaranteed by NAB. This information may constitute general advice. The information contained in this communication is general in nature and does not take into account personal objectives, financial situation or needs and because of that you should, before acting on the advice, consider the appropriateness of the advice having regard to your personal objectives, financial situation and needs, plus consider the relevant Product Disclosure Statement. Opinions constitute our judgement at the time of issue and are subject to change. Neither NULIS nor any member of the NAB Group, nor their employees or directors give any warranty of accuracy or reliability, nor accept any responsibility for errors or omissions in this communication. Past performance is not a reliable indicator of future performance. The value of an investment may rise or fall with the changes in the market.