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Industry vs retail funds

I'm building my wealth | | 2 min read

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You’ve probably seen the TV ads.

The ones that compare superannuation returns between industry and retail funds.

But what do those terms really mean? And how do we compare?

Let’s take a closer look.

The difference between members and shareholders

Most businesses set out to make a profit. Superannuation funds are no different. The main difference between industry and retail funds is how those profits are distributed.

Industry funds like Catholic Super exist to benefit their members. That means any profits they generate are returned to members.

Retail funds have external shareholders that need to be paid. Any profits they generate are shared between fund members and these external parties.

We fall into that first category. We're an industry super fund, here to serve our members' interests. 

A short history of super funds

Australia’s superannuation system has a long and complex history.

Industry funds were originally created to serve specific industries, for example, car manufacturing or teachers. Over the years these restrictions have eased, and the funds have become broader, allowing members from all walks of life.

Retail funds were first introduced in the early 90s when the Federal Government introduced compulsory superannuation. These funds allowed anyone to join. They’re generally managed by banks and other financial institutions.

The Australian superannuation industry currently holds approximately $3.1 trillion in assets. That money is distributed along these lines:

Fund Type

Percentage Of 

Industry Fund


Self-Managed Super Fund


Retail Fund


Public Sector Fund*


Corporate Fund


Source: Canstar
*Public sector funds are only open to people working in the public sector.

A better retirement

So, the million-dollar question. Which type of fund has performed better?

The 2019 Productivity Commission into the competitiveness of the superannuation industry found that industry funds had consistently outperformed retail funds.

That’s backed up by data from SuperRatings, which provides 10-year comparison numbers. It shows that a typical industry fund returned  8.42% over the previous decade. Retail funds returned 7.84% p.a. during that same time.

Higher returns mean a higher super balance when you retire, and small differences can add up over the course of your working life. 1% might not sound like much, but it can certainly add up over the years, as the table below shows.


Scenario 1

Scenario 2

Scenario 3

Starting age




Retirement age




Starting gross
annual income




Starting balance




investment returns




Account balance
at retirement




Source: Canstar. Assumptions ^ 

Catholic Super delivers top performance

A small difference in investment return can have a significant impact on your long-term super balance. That’s also true for industry funds.

While history shows us that industry funds tend to deliver higher returns, not all industry funds are equal. Some have lower fees, some have higher returns, and some sit in the middle. So, it’s important to look at the big picture and shop around.  

Catholic Super has outperformed both the retail fund and industry fund average over the previous 10 years. 

You can compare these results for yourself, and rest easy knowing your super is on track for a better retirement.

Join our award-winning fund

Plan for your future with the industry fund that works hard for you.

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