If one thing has driven Mercer’s approach to superannuation administration and the underlying technology it is a simple question - What does the customer want and how does the customer interact?
Discussing what is driving technology investment in the superannuation space during an editor’s lunch sponsored by Bravura, Mercer Administration Services leader, Jo-Anne Bloch agreed with EISS Super chief executive, Alex Hutchison that funds and their suppliers needed to embrace the concept of “fact inside action”.
“We want to deliver a fact - this is your super balance - and inside did you know that you might need to invest more to achieve your retirement goals, and here’s something you can do about it. So, we want to be helpful to members, we want to service members, we want to be there when they need us, we want to be invisible when they don’t need us,” Bloch said.
According to Hutchison, superannuation fund members actually expect their funds to gather information on them and serve them a customised response, or a customised service.
“So, content and data is key,” he said. “Technology allows us to efficiently and effectively educate and engage with our members to give them that customised service. So now, that’s what members expect, if you don’t do that you will lose them.
They’ll turn over, you won’t retain them, and from a fund point of view, that retention and that engagement is key.”
But as important as technology is to superannuation funds in their interactions with members, legalsuper chief executive, Andrew Proebstl pointed to the need for funds to maintain a human face.
“I think the thing with technology is that some people think it’s like a panacea for everything,” he said. “Technology is very important in terms of being able to do the sorts of things that Alex mentioned, and I certainly agree with all the things that Alex just said, but you’ve got to have people who actually can drive and learn from the technology, who have capability to do that as well.”
Proebstl said that he believed it was not a case of accepting that, by implementing technology, all problems would be solved.
“You’ve got to have people who actually drive it, people who can learn from it, and people who can use the insights to do clever things,” he said.
Pointing to the need for super funds to be selective in technology adoption, Proebstl discussed the manner in which legalsuper’s administrator had suggested the fund’s adoption of a mobile phone app.
“… and we thought well, we don’t really know whether our members actually would use it or whether they’d need it,” he said. “So, we actually put a survey out, because we’ve got lots of email addresses for our members and can pretty easily test things with them, so we sent this email out and said, would you use an app?”
Proebstl said that the resounding response from members was that they did not want the app.
“So, we decided not to put an app in and to this day we don’t have a mobile phone app. Our members are happy to use the existing online portal, log on to that periodically and check their balances,” he said. “It’s not like they’re sitting on a train every morning asking ‘what’s my super balance today’ – maybe in the future our members will be there, but at the moment that’s not where they are. They’ve got busy lives, they’ve got a lot of stuff going on and they expect us to make super simple, or easier, for them, and serve up what they need to know for their particular – where they’re at on their life stage journey.”
Proebstl’s sentiments were endorsed by NGS Super’s Ben Facer who said the reality was that technology could often be cold and therefore present a challenge in translating the appropriate experience to members.
“I think you need to ensure that you’ve got the right technology in place but also couple that with the right people contact,” he said.
“An example that I’ve been leaning to recently around effective use of technology is around insurance – underwriting claims for instance – where there’s technology out there now which actually goes back to historical underwriting claims decisions, and actually is able to then automate easy decisions in the future,” Facer said.
“If you couple that with an effective ‘member facing real people’ service to get a claim done in days rather than months, you’ve got an effective solution. But in a lot of cases, it’s difficult to translate that to that experience.”
KPMG’s superannuation partner, Adam Gee pointed to the challenges facing superannuation funds, not least their need to measure their technology investments.
“I think the biggest challenge we’ve got as an industry on the technology side is the integration of back end platforms,” he said. “The administrators, I think, struggle to be able to bolt on various different systems to tailor some of those interactions.”
Gee also suggests that superannuation has much to learn from other industries in terms of using technology and improving client interactions and has pointed to Qantas as an example of what can be achieved.
“I think as Alex said, members will expect a segment of one, at some stage in the future. And if you have a look at how Qantas was 10 years ago and stood in a queue, and got your boarding pass and did all that; now everything is on mobile and you don’t talk to anyone, generally don’t queue up in the line unless it’s pretty horrendous in terms of checking in and doing all those sorts of things that we used to do in the past,” he said.
“I think super has got a lot to learn – they’ve got 12,000,000 frequent flyer members, the biggest super fund in Australia is Aussie at 2,000,000 – there’s no reason that Aussie can’t do that, but they struggle with the underlying integration of their systems,” Gee said.
He said there was also much that established superannuation funds could learn from the technology-based new entrant “disruptors” such as Grow Super.
“If you look at Grow they’re a technology player, they’re not really into super I don’t think,” Gee said but added there was much funds could learn from such players in terms of distribution and being user-friendly.
Deloitte superannuation partner, Russell Mason said that while technology was great and was making a significant difference to the superannuation industry, he believed it needed to be appropriately focused.
“I think the most important thing technology should be focused on is allowing management and trustees of funds to better deliver a message to members, and to better understand the members. I think all too often, funds know they’ve got 20,000, 50,000, 100,000, 1,000,000 members out there, but do they really know them? And I think technology is going to be the only way to get to know them,” he said.
“I hark back to the old corporate funds days, where you dealt with the HR director, and he or she knew every single member and assessing TPD claims was easy because they would know who were genuine and who weren’t. Today, the fund is distant from the members, so analytics to my mind, and the tools that providers like Bravura are developing, are so important, so that my fund actually understands me,” Mason said.
“I don’t want to get a message from the fund saying come to a seminar to qualify, to understand how you qualify for the aged pension, if I’m not in that demographic in any shape or form. The fund that actually appears to understand me through technology is the fund that I’ll be attracted to - that’s where I think technology really adds value,” Mason said.
“To be frank, we’re a long way to go down the track. I think the use of analytics in super is generally fairly amateurish compared to Adam quoting the Qantas’s, the Woolworths and Coles of this world, who understand my buying habits and my travelling habits so very, very well.”