How rugby is reshaping the future for Queensland’s Indigenous youth

Guest blog – Dave Adler, CEO of Smartleasing and Smartfleet.

One of the attractions of becoming an official sponsor of the Queensland Reds and partner of the Queensland Rugby Union (QRU) in 2017, is their support of communities right across Queensland and, in particular, the focus on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Too often, Rugby Union is dismissed as an elite sport for private schools. But take a deeper look, and you’ll find so much more. QRU’s relationships at the grassroots level are remarkable, both in the playing of the sport itself and the education of Queensland’s Indigenous youth which, in turn, supports the development of future leaders.

On 30 May, during National Reconciliation Week, I had the opportunity to attend QRU’s launch of the Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP).  It was wonderful to hear from successful young Indigenous leaders who have gained so much from QRU’s Indigenous programs.

The Reds Generation Next program (RGN) launched in 2012, and since inception, over 260 participants have benefitted from mentoring provided by specialist staff. Through relationships built and opportunities provided, RGN has delivered outcomes that compare most favourably with similar programs run by Education Queensland.

Since 2012, RGN has achieved

  • 99% year 12 graduation
  • 92% successful transition to employment or further education

I was also delighted to see a couple of Defence members representing Indigenous Australia, and meet Australian Wallaroos prop, Caroline Fairs (pictured below on the right). Caroline has represented Australia in eight tests and is lining up against England, New Zealand and Canada for the 2017 International Women’s Rugby Seizes in New Zealand in June.

Congratulations to the QRU for its efforts. Most importantly, congratulations to all the participants who are reaching new heights as a result of their commitment to complete the Reds Generation Next programs.

Jamie Whincup continues to drive the Smartleasing brand

endurance-bathurst-12-hour-2017-jamie-whincup-maranello-motorsportOur partnership with Jamie Whincup, six-time V8 Supercar Champion and Smartgroup brand ambassador, is well into its third year and we reckon it’s going stronger than ever!

We recently shot six videos with Jamie and they’ve already had over 50,000 views on Facebook, YouTube and the Smartleasing website. My personal favourite is this one for Smartleasing Vehicle Protection Packs, with Jamie and his mate, Blue.

Video.-Vehicle-protection-packs

You can check out the other videos featuring Jamie and friends here.

A great deal of work goes into making a success of these campaigns, so I’d like to thank our Marketing Team, and of course Jamie, for pulling together such a terrific campaign.

Photo credit: motorsport.com

Budget 2017/18: salary packaging to help first home buyers

Budget 2017-18_social

Treasurer Scott Morrison delivered his second federal budget on Tuesday 9 May, including a key measure aimed at tackling housing affordability for first home buyers.

From 1 July 2017, first home buyers will be allowed to make salary-sacrifice contributions to their superannuation fund that, along with the related earnings, can be withdrawn for a first home deposit. Significantly, both members of a couple can take advantage of this measure and combine savings for a single deposit to buy their first home together.

As part of the proposal, salary-sacrifice contributions will be taxed as per current super contributions and withdrawals taxed at the marginal rate, less 30% offset.

Combined with the existing concessional tax treatment of contributions and earnings, this may reduce the time it takes for first home buyers to save a deposit.

Other key points to note:

  • Contributions will be capped at $30,000 per person, and $15,000 a year (within the existing $25,000 concessional super cap)
  • Contributions can be made from 1 July 2017, and withdrawals from 1 July 2018.

Changes to the Medicare Levy

Another notable change that will impact salary packaging is the proposed increase in the Medicare Levy from 2% to 2.5% to ensure the full funding of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).  Effective 1 April 2019, this is likely to lead to an increase in the FBT rate, expected to apply from 1 April 2020. For PBI employers, this may also impact the $17,000/$30,000 tax-free caps and the $5,000 Meal Entertainment cap.

Changes to HECs debt repayment

Also influencing salary packaging is a proposal that will see the income level at which HECS debt repayments commence reduced from $55,000 (including reportable fringe benefits and salary packaged superannuation) to $42,000, effective 1 July 2019.

We will be in touch with our valued customers to ensure that they understand the changes and how they may be affected by them.

Fully SIQ in 2016

fully-siq-award-winners_2014-2016

 

Every quarter here at Smartgroup, we recognise the great work of team members who go above and beyond to create a better experience for our customers.

Amongst the various awards, we have the “Fully SIQ” award (named after our ASX ticker).  Team members receive awards for all sorts of amazing things that they do.  What makes this award different is that the team members must have done something that is so memorable that people would be talking about it for years to come.  Since the launch of the award following our IPO in July 2014, we’ve had five Fully SIQ stories that I would like to share with you.

Katrina Wilson, Smartsalary Team Leader, was 26 weeks pregnant and undergoing testing when she met a hospital employee who recognised Katrina from a presentation she done the year before. This employee knew she would benefit from salary packaging but as a single mum in a busy job, setting it up hadn’t been a priority.  Katrina’s tests involved some waiting around, so she used the time to help the employee understand her entitlements, organise the paperwork and submit for processing. By the time Katrina’s testing was complete, this employee’s salary packaging was set up and ready to go.

Fionna Hamilton, Field Sales Consultant, went out of her way to organise the catering for an event at St George Hospital, getting up before dawn on the morning of the event to bake 400 scones; in fact, 200 plain scones and another 200 date scones! As you can imagine, the staff at St George were impressed with the freshness and home-baked quality, and no doubt left feeling pretty special that someone would go to such lengths for them.

Harish Dahal, Infrastructure Engineer, had spent hours going back and forth with Leasing Consultant, Carlee Jones working to solve persistent issues with Carlee’s phone and computer.  Even though it was late in the afternoon, Harish knew the best way forward was to pay Carlee a visit almost 200km away. So Harish hopped in his car and drove from Sydney head office to Newcastle to solve Carlee’s technical issues once and for all!

Michael Bell, Mobile Leasing Team Leader.  After severe storms had delayed new car deliveries in Queensland, one of our customers was not going to receive his car in time for a wedding and family reunion. So Michael went the extra mile (or 1000!) and took the initiative to fly from his home in Townsville down to the car dealer in Brisbane to pick up the car and drove it back up to his customer in Rockhampton.  Of course, he also cleaned and refuelled the car along the way!

Peter Arthur, Salary Packaging Consultant, was stopped for a random breath test (which he passed of course!).  Not only did he get to chatting with the officer about novated leasing, but he went back to the police station to chat with the officer’s colleagues about their novated leasing options, too.  Talk about making the most out of a situation!

They may be outside the norm, but each of these acts demonstrates the calibre of our employees and their commitment to customer service, and I certainly am immensely proud and appreciative!

So congrats Katrina, Harish and Fionna, Michael and Peter. You are all indeed Fully SIQ

Smartsalary bags 2 national customer service awards

2016-awards

2016 has been Smartgroup’s most highly awarded year to date with a total of four awards (two for innovation and two for customer service). I’m pleased to share our two most recent awards, both for excellence in customer service.

Best Contact Centre in Australia 50 – 149 FTE
In its annual awards, Auscontact Association assesses an organisation’s commitment, leadership and innovation in delivering exceptional customer service.  In 2016, Smartsalary’s customer service team was awarded the highest honour in their category, being named the Best Call Centre nationally with between 50 and 149 full-time employees.

Part of our submission was a video that we had great fun putting together. Check it out here.

Service Champion – Medium Business
With an aggregate score of 8.58 out of 10, Smartsalary achieved the highest score ever awarded in the 19-year history of the Customer Service Institute of Australia (CSIA). You can imagine how proud we are of our hard working team.

Areas of strength highlighted by the CSIA include:

  • Company strategy
  • Innovation and transformation
  • Customer service initiatives.

On the back of this great work, we were recognised with the CSIA National Service Champion Award in the medium business category.

I’d like to extend a hearty thanks and congratulations to the team here at Smartgroup who go above and beyond to achieve great outcomes for our customers, and to our customers whose ongoing support and incredible loyalty enable us to continue to improve our service and grow our business.

2016/17 Budget: changes to super contributions the largest impact for salary packaging customers

By David Lilja, Group Remuneration Services Manager, Smartgroup

David LiljaThe Australian Federal Budget was handed down on Tuesday, May 3; the first for the Turnbull-led Coalition Government, and on the eve of the much-anticipated 2 July election announcement.

From a salary packaging point of view, the budget does not offer any significant changes or challenges. Unlike budgets from previous years, salary packaging rules were left relatively untouched so all current salary packaging items will remain available.

The only notable impact on salary packaging is the proposed reduction to annual concessional (pre-tax) superannuation contribution caps. These caps are currently set at $30,000 per year for those aged 49 or under as at 30 June 2016 and $35,000 for those aged 50 or over as at 30 June 2016. From 1 July 2017, the government proposes to replace these with a single cap of $25,000 per year and remove the age restriction so that it applies to everyone. You should note that your employer’s Super Guarantee contributions count towards this cap.

The knock-on effect will be a decrease in the amount employees can contribute to super from pre-tax income.

A further proposal which impacts higher income earners is the reduction of the threshold for the 30% superannuation contribution tax from $300,000 to $250,000, effective 1 July 2017. Currently, those with an adjusted taxable income of less than $300,000 have a 15% superannuation contribution tax.

The Government also affirmed its decision to remove the 2% Budget Repair Levy from 1 July 2017, which will benefit those with an adjusted taxable income greater than $180,000. As a result, there will be an impact on Fringe Benefits Tax (FBT) and, by default, salary packaging.

Currently, the Budget Repair Levy is factored and included in the FBT Type 1 and Type 2 gross-up rates, as well as the FBT rate. From 1 April 2017, these rates will be reduced to reflect the removal of the levy.

While this will have no effect on the $9,010 and $15,900 cap benefit thresholds currently received by PBI and hospital employees, it will have a positive impact on the combined meal/accommodation cap introduced earlier this year, increasing the net benefit value from $2,550 to $2,650. Details will be communicated to affected customers closer to implementation, which is expected to be 1 April 2017.

The positive news continues with changes announced to the 32.5% marginal tax rate which is geared to benefit “average Australians.” The income tax threshold margin will rise from $80,001 to $87,000, and Opposition leader, Bill Shorten had indicated Labor will not oppose this change, which is set to take effect on 1 July 2016.

Overall the budget has not been detrimental to Australian salary packaging arrangements, nor has it required any significant change to packaging systems or procedures.

This means that Smartsalary will continue to focus on the delivery of simple, safe and valuable benefits without disruption for the foreseeable future.

Smartgroup retains highly-engaged employer status

Since 2009, Smartgroup has participated in Aon Hewitt’s Best Employer program, which measures the engagement of our workforce and identifies areas of strength in our people practices and where improvement is needed.

I’m pleased to report that, for the fifth year running, Smartgroup ranks among the most highly engaged organisations in Australia and New Zealand.

HBE-graph-2016-high-engagement-area (2)

As you can see from the table above, Aon Hewitt’s research shows that organisations with engagement scores above 65% are considered to be highly engaged. In people terms, this means two out of three employees feel energised and engaged with their work, and this correlates directly to the satisfaction and loyalty of our customers. So you can understand why this is such an important metric for us.

The analysis of our 2016 survey showed our employees feel:

  • Smartgroup has a high-performance culture, higher than ever before
  • Frontline and functional managers are now more highly engaged than ever before
  • New starters are now more engaged than ever before
  • Team members have a high level of confidence in their direct line manager.

The standout result was in the area of frontline managerial support. Developing our frontline managers has been a key focus, and the result speaks to the positive impact they’re having on the business.

Just as the analysis identified where we’re performing well, we also learned where we need to focus in the coming year to retain our status as a highly engaged employer. We’ve made significant operational changes in the last two years so, as disappointing as it is, the dip in our score is not entirely unexpected.

The work to curb this downward trend is underway, and the Executive Management Team and I recognise we must redouble our efforts and better engage with the rest of the business if we’re to maintain and, indeed, improve our engagement scores going forward.

Finally, I’d like to extend my sincere thanks to everyone at Smartgroup for your energy, effort, and commitment to being the best that we can be.


Deven Billimoria
Chief Executive Officer
Smartgroup

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