The Public Trustee’s purpose is to provide financial and administrative services to eligible South Australians, to help those that cannot manage their own affairs and those who have trusted the organisation to assist them.

The Public Trustee Strategic Plan for 2019-2021 outlines that the core objectives of the organisation are to provide a positive customer experience, improve the way services are delivered, ensure appropriate governance and financial sustainability and support the people delivering that service. The continued focus has and will be on cultural change, wellbeing, workforce planning, training, recognition and improving the customer experience.

During 2019-20 the Public Trustee completed all recommendations of the Independent Commissioner Against Corruption’s (ICAC) Evaluation of the Practices, Policies and Procedures. This included streamlining policies and procedures, increased training of staff, improved staff communication as well as ensuring robust procurement processes and a plan to progressively update legacy systems over time. To ensure the recommendations were implemented and embedded in the business, PWC conducted an internal audit as part of the Public Trustee’s 2019-20 Internal Audit Plan and confirmed that all items were finalised by the end of November 2019.

There were a number of changes to the Public Trustee services which were implemented in 2019-20. These included changes to eligibility for Will and Enduring Power of Attorney making services and ceasing to provide an investment service for private investors under Section 29(1)(b) of the Public Trustee Act 1995. The implementation of these reforms returned the Public Trustee back to its core business as a trustee, executor and administrator.

The operations of the Public Trustee have been improved in 2019-20 by:

  • Taking an incremental approach to modernising the existing electronic systems. As part of this approach, the Public Trustee enhanced telephone call and management recording. The system has continued to be enhanced over time and forms part of staff coaching and training.
  • Strengthening investment governance with the appointment of two additional external Investment Committee members.
  • Enhancing existing dashboards that monitor performance against service standards and key areas of service provision to improve the customer experience.
  • Strengthening the staff and manager training regime, improving staff consultation and making organisational changes to improve workforce capacity and capability.
  • Holding the second annual staff recognition event in November.

The Customer Satisfaction Survey for 2019-20 has confirmed an improved level of satisfaction compared to the prior year in all areas of customer service provision.

The COVID-19 crisis resulted in a number of major changes to business operations during the period including:

  • Experiencing a significant increase of in-bound calls, receipting and payments to suppliers and clients, as a result of payments to customers under the Commonwealth Government’s economic stimulus package.

    3,241 Commonwealth Government payments to support households (each of $750), totalling $2.43 million were receipted to customer accounts.

  • Undertaking extensive work to expand our ICT capability with increased server capacity for remote users.
  • Transitioning to working from home arrangements and the change in processes that have been involved to accommodate at least 50% of staff working from home.
  • Ensuring employee wellbeing was central to our planning including enhanced weekly communications.
  • Creating a ‘smiley face survey’ wellbeing initiative, a brief, two minute email survey in which employees are asked “How do you feel today?”, using smiley face icons to indicate their reply – a free text section provides opportunity for further context to be shared by the employee.

The Public Trustee’s profit for 2019-20 was $5.648 million.

The 2019-20 financial year was an extremely volatile period for financial markets. After a particularly challenging March period, markets partially recovered in the June quarter.

For the financial year, global shares and fixed interest were the best performers, finishing with positive returns, whilst Australian shares, listed real estate and most other asset classes finished down. The Public Trustee’s investment returns ranged from 1.03% for Cash to -2.48% for Equities, net of fees. Ten year returns ranged from 2.90% p.a. for Cash to 9.26% p.a. for Equities, net of fees.

Nicolle Rantanen
Public Trustee