Trenna Probert launched Super Fierce in 2022 after a very personal crisis showed her the importance of having financial security.
She used the shock to her system as a driving force, rather than a crutch. She recognised that women weren’t being served by existing advice models, and with some very thorough research, she and her team recognised that women were consistently being left with less super at retirement, than their male counterparts.
Women on average earn $2 million less over their lifetime and they retire with 42% less. At age 63 the gap can blow out to as much as $114,000.
“We envision an equal world, and finance is our weapon of choice, armed for good not evil. Our mission is to democratise economic security. Our first step is to make it easy for women to get financially fit for life, so they have the power of choice.”
OnImpact spoke to Trenna about why she started the business, the factors impacting women’s super balances, and how better advice can help to correct the imbalance.
A Personal Crisis Led to Personal Growth
The genesis for the company was a very personal one. Trenna experienced first-hand the challenges of a marriage breakup, and being suddenly financially stranded.
“Super Fierce is my answer to my deeply personal experience of the implications of financial vulnerability.” Trenna says.
“Despite a successful career in financial services, at the age of 34 I had to borrow $3,000 from my parents to start life again as a single Mum to a gorgeous little boy. I learned the hard way the importance of self confidence and financial resilience, for women in particular. With decades of experience as a finance executive, and a heart filled with hope, I am determined that other women won’t have to make the same mistakes I did.” Tenna says.
The global wealth gap between men and women is estimated at $30 trillion, and while it’s much discussed, the potential policy options will take many decades to take effect. Super Fierce wants to drive societal change, today.
“We believe that financial education alone isn’t enough to build a brighter financial future and narrow the gender wealth gaps. Female-focused tools are required to support women’s financial independence. Furthermore, the financial strategies & products that suit one woman could be the worst suggestion for another, depending upon age, financial means, technical competency, risk profile & social/cultural preferences.” Trenna says.
“This makes personal advice critical, but it is too expensive for most with less than 10% of Australians accessing advice. And women, who arguably need it more, access advice 30-40 percent less than men.”
Super Advice Specific to the Needs of Women
The product is an advice platform that aims to empower women with targeted financial advice, and resources to improve decision-making. The Australian advice industry is in a state of flux, and Super Fierce wants to ensure individuals receive information suited to their unique situation.
“We want to deliver customer-centric tools with single-scope advice based on the user’s personal circumstances, such as age, gender & income. With our own AFSL, and technology, we’re licensed to build financial products and provide advice across all pillars of wealth.” Trenna says.
“We started with super because retirement savings are the single largest contributor to the gender wealth gap. It will comprise 63% of the $33 billion wealth pool Australian women will control by 2030 and will be the largest lifetime financial asset for women 37 and under, apart from residential property. It’s the only financial asset every working woman has throughout her adult life.”
The Super Save product, which launched at the end of April 2023, is a self-serve version of the launch product, a technology-backed super advice service. There’s a free retirement planner that allows users to design their retirement lifestyle and see the budget they need compared with a personal retirement projection.
“Our proprietary algorithm compares 2,000+ investment options from 350+ super funds to show users how to optimise their super and improve their retirement position in a personalised digital Statement of Advice (SOA). It recommends an investment strategy and one of our proprietary investment portfolios which balance cost, time-in-market, risk, & performance. This is new IP, previously only available through costly traditional advice.” Trenna says.
“Our first product unraveled fee complexity, so women can easily compare the cost of super funds on a like-for-like basis, and last year we launched our proprietary Fierce Performers Index (FPI) making it easier to select a fund with greater likelihood of delivering consistent returns over time.”
Deep Research Shows a Stark Disparity
The Super Fierce research showed that there is no difference between men and women on what they choose to invest. Instead, the majority of the gap is caused by wages and time out of the workforce raising children.
“When I tell women that over their lifetime, an average man will earn $2 million more than the average woman, the answer is always the same – shock, indignation, and outrage because nobody believes the average man is worth $2 million more than any woman. As Melinda Gates states, “The data is unequivocal. No matter where in the world you are born, your life will be harder if you are a girl.” The difference we see is not in savings habits, but in the deep, life-long impacts of privilege that women do not have.” Trenna says.
“In Australia, by the time a woman is 23, she will on average earn $10,000 less than a man. At that time, her super balance will be around $1,000 less. But by the time that cohort is 33, the super gap has widened to $12,000 less. Then the negative power of compounding really starts to hurt – by the time she is 43, on average she has around $42,000 less, by 53 she has around $72,000 less, and just as she heads towards those so-called ‘golden years’, at 63 the gap has blown out to a crazy $114,000.”
The numbers are stark, and the reason brings right back to where we started, the gender pay gap where women earn less on average. They also spend significantly more time out of the paid workforce, birthing and raising the children, caring for the elderly, and doing the lion’s share of unpaid work at home. In each of these circumstances they are missing super payments and growth, work promotions and pay increases.
It is also harder to take advantage of the tax benefits of super and voluntary contributions when you are earning less over an extended period. All this compounds the impact of the gender pay gap which set them off on a lower trajectory in their early twenties.
Ethical or Sustainable Options Don’t Appear to Have Major Impact on Returns
The company’s research went deep, and it explored the topic to impact investors, that being the potential outperformance of a fund targeting sustainable investment. But in 2023, the results appear to be neutral, and any disparity is vastly outweighed by the huge differences between average super balances of men and women.
“According to our research, the ethical/sustainable strategies have not materially outperformed (on average they have outperformed by 0.35%pa over the past ten years). What we did to determine this performance difference (or lack of in the end) was to identify all investment strategies that are genuinely ESG or sustainable etc, adjust for their risk taken (equities vs bonds mostly), and compare to non-ethical funds with the same risk characteristics.” Trenna says.
“What we found was that contrary to the most popular views, it typically costs nothing to be green when it comes to super. But also contrary to the recently marketed views, there is also no reliable upside putting your super in “green” or ethical funds. That is, sustainable investing is a personal preference, costs and/or pays nothing, so just like so-called normal super, it pays to do your homework and pick a fund that has performed consistently and has lower fees.”
Fierce Impact Gives 10% of Fees to Charity
While Super Fierce is designed to be a social enterprise, it also has a philanthropic arm called Fierce Impact.
It donates 10% of gross fees to initiatives that support Aussie women in need. So far they’re partnering with organisations like the GoGo Foundation and Zahra Foundation, while also providing free money coaching services to women who need support.
“The flow-on impacts of improving women’s financial independence in later life cannot be underestimated. Relieving the pressure on social infrastructure & reducing the reliance on pensions will have an undeniable, positive impact on the wellbeing of communities & the nation’s prosperity as a whole.” Trenna says.