• University of New South Wales
  • Macquarie University
  • The University of Sydney
  • University of Technology Sydney
  • Australian National University
  • The University of Melbourne
  • Capital Markets
  • Sirca
  • Commonwealth Bank
  • KPMG
  • King & Wood Mallesons
  • Macquarie
  • Australian Government - Treasury
  • New South Wales Goverment

CIFR Research Project

Monitoring and Performance Attributes of Superannuation Funds in Australia - E104
Assessment Round: November 2012  Completion Date: 2015
Project Summary

The introduction of the compulsory Superannuation Guarantee Contribution and favourable tax incentives has facilitated a rapid increase in pension savings in Australia. Australia now has the world’s fourth biggest pension fund market, with total assets in excess of $1.83 trillion, which is the equivalent of Australia’s annual Gross Domestic Product.  SMSFs represent the largest and fastest growing sector of this market. The Government-commissioned Super System Review (2010), more commonly referred to as the Cooper Review, highlighted a lack of basic knowledge and understanding amongst trustees of SMSFs and raised concerns regarding the costs associated with running SMSFs.


Using data provided by the ATO, the project aimed to:
•    Document the size, asset allocations and expenses of  209,240 SMSFs; and
•    Examine audit pricing and independence issues within the superannuation industry.


The project found that:
•    Contrary to popular perceptions, this research suggests that SMSFs are not primarily used to hoard artworks and purchase properties.
•    On average, a SMSF is a comparatively cost-effective means of saving for retirement.
•    There is a need for more transparency in the disclosure of costs associated with other superannuation platforms before informed cost comparisons can be made.
•    On the supply side, the research identifies some evidence of scale economies in conducting audits of SMSFs.  
•    An auditor’s ability to detect and report breaches is enhanced if they also supply Non-Audit Services (NAS). This implies that the supply of NAS improves auditor independence, rather than compromising it.


This research has also been presented at:

AFAANZ Doctoral Consortium

Perth (July 2013)

Financial Risk Day 2014

Sydney (March 2014)

European Audit Research Network (EARNet) Symposium,

Trier, Germany (September 2013)

British Accounting & Finance Association (BAFA) Annual Conference

London, UK (April 2014)

Quantitative Accounting Research Symposium

 Auckland (October 2013)

European Accounting Association (EAA) Annual Congress

Tallinn, Estonia (May 2014)

ANCAAR Audit Research Forum

Canberra (December 2013)

AFAANZ Conference

Auckland, New Zealand (July 2014)

JCAE Joint Symposium

Kuala Lumpur (January 2014)

Annual Colloquium of Superannuation Researchers

Auckland, New Zealand (July 2014)



Team Leader:
Professor Andrew Ferguson | Accounting, UTS Business School, Accounting Discipline Group, University of Technology, Sydney
Dr Bruce Arnold | , Lewtan
Associate Professor Hazel Bateman | Associate Head of School, School of Risk and Actuarial, Business School, UNSW Australia
Mr Adrian Raftery | , UTS Business School, Accounting Discipline Group, Deakin University
Project Outputs:


The Centre for International Finance and Regulation (CIFR) represents a strategic link between academia, financial regulators, policy makers and industry, promoting financial sector vibrancy, resiliency and integrity, through leading research and education.

CIFR receives funding and support from the Commonwealth and NSW Governments, and its industry, university and research centre partners.



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