Australia’s superannuation industry has been the focus of intense and sustained scrutiny recently, with the Government and regulators aligning to examine fund performance, conduct, culture and member outcomes – and driving the public to do the same.

At the same time, consumer expectations are increasing across the board and super funds are not immune. Super fund members expect the same level of experience from their funds as the most recent great experience they have had with any company – meaning funds are competing on experience with the Amazons, Ubers and AirBnBs of the world.

Combined, heightened scrutiny and increasing expectations have seen unprecedented movement between funds.

These market and regulatory forces—including wholesales changes to group insurance composition and treatment of non-engaged/low-value members under the Protecting Your Superannuation Package—have underpinned an urgency to deploy new capabilities to better understand, engage, serve and retain members. The benefits are two-pronged – attracting and retaining funds under management, also enabling transparency across the business, providing a platform for ongoing compliance and risk management

Understanding members

Developing deep understanding of members at scale is a matter of deriving insights from the data super funds have access to – demographics, changes in contributions, attempts to draw funds or a variations in engagement.

The value of micro-moments is in their potential to develop long-term trust and loyal advocates of your members. For example a member can update a beneficiary on their life insurance policy; this could flag a life-event – for example marriage, a serious relationship, divorce, children.

That insight can trigger an action for the fund—which we refer to as the micro-moment, a small interaction with the member to say ‘we understand you’—such as advice on writing a will. The information provided is relevant in that exact moment, and that’s the precise type of data use members will not only allow, but appreciate.

And while consumers broadly are concerned about how their data is being used, correct and transparent use of an individual’s data is a critical part of maintaining trust. This means using that data for the benefit of the member in a transparent manner is not only an option; it’s imperative.

Engagement on members’ terms

The rise of the digital member has changed a previous lack of engagement with super. Members’ expectations are driven by new technologies – our recent research shows that 58 per cent of customers’ expectations of companies across all industries are changing based on emerging technologies. Fund members expect to have faster, easier access to their information and for it to be at their fingertips when, where and how they want it.

Four in five customers across all industries also say the experience a company provides is as important as its products and services. Along with greater insight, members expect better service.

So, while trust has become an essential ingredient to any member journey and loyalty is up for grabs, trust is still built on experiences and service value. There is an abundance of opportunity to leverage the value consumers place on trust—89 per cent are more loyal to companies they trust—as well as increasing funds under management and improving members’ retirement outcomes through engagement early and often.

Compliance alone is not going to win trust. Reputation and engagement will be key. Clearly communicating your values and purpose, as well as delivering proactive, personalised service with integrity is the only way to meet members’ new expectations.

The industry has a real role to help educate members on financial wellness and guide them through their financial lives – and this is key to remaining relevant. The funds that do this well and early, that really add value for members on a personalised basis, are likely to attract and retain more members.

New service channels

The major point of using member data well is giving members want they want and need, when and where they want it. Our recent research shows that across industries, 40 per cent of customers won’t do business with a company if they can’t use their preferred channels, and 55 per cent prefer digital channels.

Three-quarters expect companies to use new technologies to create better experiences, and 69 per cent expect those experiences to be connected.

This consumer-led shift to digital channels aligns with changes super funds and financial services providers of all stripes need to make to their engagement and interaction strategies and tactics to overcome member expectations – they’re used to being sold to or being upsold, to communications about fee increases; they’re not used to receiving genuinely helpful messages.

Cbus, the industry fund for construction and building workers, is delivering a new customer portal, app and website which will revolutionise the way their members can interact and engage with them.

Cbus Group Executive, People, Technology and Enablement Michelle Boucher said, “With Salesforce, we are delivering on a transformation vision, to be a fund of the future, which delivers value to its members through meaningful, consistent engagement.”

The fund that is looking at how members want to interact—like Cbus is—can reach members with a push notification rather than have a voicemail message languish, unheard.

Both might say something as simple as ‘your employer has processed your super contribution this month’ or ‘we noticed your income has changed and you might not have the best insurance for you anymore, so let’s chat about your options’ – but the fund that delivers this message on a channel where it is heard and is not accompanied by a sales push will be seen as helpful.

Retaining members and FUM

Along with regulatory changes to group insurance and the treatment of low-value members, funds are experiencing an unprecedented level of member movement.

But funds can also see where their members are moving to. Stemming this outflow then, is a relatively simple matter. The solution has two parts, both data-driven: working out why members are moving (and therefore what they want that a fund is not providing) and identifying red flags for attrition.

Understanding the ‘why’ is a matter of looking at where particular member segments are moving to and those funds’ unique offerings, making changes to deliver what those members wanted, and communicating those changes to existing members and the broader market.

Couple this with data analytics to chart those former members’ path to attrition—common interactions or patterns of interaction that should raise red flags, such as enquiries about exit fees—and you’ll have a clear map of who to communicate change to proactively.

Adapting to BEAR

All of the above tactics to retain members will improve their experiences – lowering the rate of attrition as well as the incidence of complaints. And the Australian Financial Complaints Authority (AFCA), means that complaints management requires urgent attention.

There’s a real challenge to managing executive accountability – gaining real insight and oversight at the executive level. Currently, the executive is exposed to liabilities they can’t see, and therefore can’t manage.

Managing those liabilities requires transparency – seeing complaints, feedback, audit findings and more, which represents a major structural and operational change.

This transparency along with strong member engagement—and so understanding members and serving their needs first and foremost—are at the core of positive outcomes, but the Banking Executive Accountability Regime (BEAR) has also created an immediate need for staff training and retraining, and the resolution of product issues.

We’re in a new age of interaction with members – super funds are no longer a storage house for deferred wages for a long-distant future. Members want and need more, and they expect it on their terms. Competition is increasing, trust has fallen, and the funds that can regain that trust by delivering what members want, when they want it, will retain them.

Find out more at ASFA’s Spotlight on Member Engagement in Super on Thursday 19 September in Melbourne.