300 people attended the annual Sydney Retirement Outlook event on Tuesday afternoon (up 50% on last year) to hear Kathryn Greiner’s report from her NSW Government inquiry into the retirement village sector.
She disappointed on the one hand and over-delivered on the other.
She could not talk about her inquiry. The NSW Minister for Innovation and Better Regulation, Matt Kean, has not announced his recommendations despite receiving the report mid-December.
But she could give advice, and she did.
She reflected back on her time when she was an external director and then Chair of the Financial Planners Association (2003-05) when ‘investment advisers’ were under intense threat of regulation by ASIC and the FPA resorted to a national advertising campaign to improve their image.
She said “You are in the same area as investment advisers. You are on the cusp of being legislated out of existence and it is up to you to decide [your future].”
She said it is “time for a rethink” – particularly with “what is coming down the pike”.
She highlighted the role of the village manager who she termed as a ‘Jill of all trades’, and “the key to all things”. Where is the training and rigour?
She pointed to the disruption of ageing in place aided by technology. “Baby boomers are already downsizing to a suburb that is family-centric”, thanks to apartments.
(On the panel was David Lane, Group Director Senior Living at ThomsonAdsett Architects, who pointed out they are designing and building condominiums in Hong Kong for the seniors’ market with far better clubhouses than anything Australia has to offer, “so what is the point of difference”?)
Ms Greiner then made a major point of reputational risk and how the sector is presented.
“It’s a property play dressed up as care. Don’t talk about care because it’s not”.
In the panel session that followed, RetireAustralia CEO and President of the Retirement Living Council, Alison Quinn, opened her comments about government regulation with:
“The industry is very much at a crossroad. Either we do it ourselves or run the risk of becoming yesterday’s industry”.
Ms Quinn pointed to the Code of Conduct which is being refined with the opportunity that each state government could pick up the code and legislate it.
She also pointed to the 8-Point Plan released by the Retirement Living Council in August which is being further refined.
“As an industry we need to be seen as working at delivering a better standard of care … We need to be seen to be doing stuff”.
The question is: will the sector rise to these challenges effectively and secure its future, or as Ms Greiner warns from her experience with the Financial Planners Association where their entire business model – based on commissions – be steamrollered out of existence?
In our point of view, the amazing outcome of the Tuesday event was the fact that not one attendee took up either Ms Greiner or Ms Quinn on their blunt statements. Their comments passed like ships in the night in the session and afterwards over drinks.