Skip to main content

Bernard Reilly

Chief Executive Officer, Australian Retirement Trust

Bernard Reilly, CFA is the Chief Executive Officer of Australian Retirement Trust, the super fund formed in February 2022 through the merger of Sunsuper, where he was formerly the CEO, and QSuper. He has more than 30 years’ experience in the international banking and finance sector.

Trust is at the heart of our name and brand essence - and to me this is about openness, transparency, availability and fallibility.

- Bernard Reilly, Chief Executive Officer, Australian Retirement Trust

For Bern, trust is openness, transparency, availability and fallibility

When it comes to trust, the superannuation industry is like no other. It begins with an onus of trust – given the contributions we all make are compulsory.

The scale of trust is also unique: superannuation is the second largest investment, beside someone’s house, that most Australians will ever have. But in the next decade, with less home ownership and the inevitable increase in compulsory super contributions, it will probably become the largest.

And the timeframes are life-long, too. Forget the online review, in-store transaction or week-long stay, super is a decades-long customer commitment, where the trust a person places in a super fund has a direct bearing on the quality of someone’s life in later years.

These are the factors that weigh heavily on Bern who takes the responsibility as his own lifelong commitment very seriously.

For our members trust is everything. We hope our members have a long-lasting relationship with us, yet trust can be tested – through service delivery or difficult investment markets – so it must be a constant focus to ensure we do what we say we will do.

Not all trust is the same. According to Bern, older and younger members’ opinions seem to differ. 

“My perspective for the older cohort, is that once trust is earned, they commit to trust with more loyalty and greater tolerance. For younger members you've got to continue to earn trust and do so more frequently.”

Regardless of age, member engagement can naturally ebb and flow over time. Bern sees the relationship with members as a combination of loyalty, trust and engagement. You may be loyal, but at a given moment you may not be engaged.

“We really aim to ensure that when you’re ready to re-engage due to a life event, like a new job or new stage in life, we are there ready to re-engage, ready to play a positive trusted role,” he says. 

A trusted name began with trust in the name

Australian Retirement Trust is the name of the recently merged entity of Sunsuper and QSuper – with 35 and 104 years of history respectively, now reformed into an eight-month old entity. A fresh start and clean slate in terms of branding.

We did a lot of work around what we were going to call the organisation … and so if you look at the name Australian Retirement Trust, the three words mean something. We're open to all Australians. It's about retirement, and while legally we’re a trust, it's a trust-based business so we wanted to have trust in the name.

Bern appreciates that the merged entity will take time to protect and build member trust. The impact of service delivery, prudent investment and consistent marketing communications takes time. But for the teams who merged earlier this year, trust needed to build at speed.

Initially there was an apprehension that something may be lost in in how the previous brands and respective teams had cultivated their relationships with members.

With QSuper, there was a long history, so not surprisingly loyalties were strong. Some of the older employees had a real sense of guardianship. In bringing the organisations together, my real concern was losing them, and that passion and commitment.

To mitigate the friction points and galvanise the teams as one, Bern applied a principle he refers to as a ‘merger of equals’.

Equal partners in trust

We wanted equal distribution of people and viewpoints. We also believed that to achieve this ‘merger of equals’ meant looking outside when we hired our Chief People Officer. Someone with a new set of eyes without the bias or prejudice of either former brand.

This collective wisdom approach was the backbone of forming the right business strategy. For Bern it was not about handing down a kind of strategic decree that all must follow. It was about allowing the organisation to create its own culture, its own plan on how to come together to deliver the best financial outcomes for members.

Regulations offer guardrails, but the path is decided by a strategy developed in consultation across the organisation, invigorating the teams on what’s possible, always anchored to the principles of respect, authenticity and honesty.

Trust is built on … trust!

Mutual trust and honesty also applies to feedback at all levels in an organisation.

Some organisations have a power dynamic that won’t allow for true reciprocal feedback. To me, it’s a two-way street. That’s the key to open, transparent relationships where individuals benefit, and consequently the organisation and its customers do too.

“Mutual trust is especially important in the relationship I have with our Chair, which is entirely built on mutual respect, transparency and the freedom to openly admitting – and without hesitation – when either one of us doesn’t know the answer. That takes trust, and I for one really value that special relationship.”

Bern believes that too often, executives believe that to build trust you need to have all the answers. Knowing when to say ‘I don’t know’ is a sign of authenticity in leaders. It leads to more informed decision making, and more trust between people across the organisation.

After spending time with Bern on how to build trusted relationships across multiple stakeholders – from the Chair to other colleagues and the broader community – he definitely knows the answer. 

This collective wisdom approach was the backbone of forming the right business strategy. For Bern it was not about handing down a kind of strategic decree that all must follow. It was about allowing the organisation to create its own culture, its own plan on how to come together to deliver the best financial outcomes for members.

“Regulations offer guardrails, but the path is decided by a strategy developed in consultation across the organisation, invigorating the teams on what’s possible, always anchored to the principles of respect, authenticity and honesty.”

Trust is built on … trust!

Mutual trust and honesty also applies to feedback at all levels in an organisation.

Some organisations have a power dynamic that won’t allow for true reciprocal feedback. To me, it’s a two-way street. That’s the key to open, transparent relationships where individuals benefit, and consequently the organisation and its customers do too.

Mutual trust is especially important in the relationship I have with our Chair, which is entirely built on mutual respect, transparency and the freedom to openly admitting – and without hesitation – when either one of us doesn’t know the answer. That takes trust, and I for one really value that special relationship.

Bern believes that too often, executives believe that to build trust you need to have all the answers. Knowing when to say ‘I don’t know’ is a sign of authenticity in leaders. It leads to more informed decision making, and more trust between people across the organisation.

After spending time with Bern on how to build trusted relationships across multiple stakeholders – from the Chair to other colleagues and the broader community – he definitely knows the answer. 

Did you find this useful?

Thanks for your feedback

If you would like to help improve Deloitte.com further, please complete a 3-minute survey

Meet Our Trusted Faces

Filter by region:
All
  • All