COVID-19 has changed the way we work, live, and engage with one another. It has significantly challenged us all from testing government leadership, companies, and entire industries – enforcing rapid environmental and operational change. It’s no longer about who has the monopoly on the market or the lion’s share of members, clients, customers but rather who is able to dynamically respond, act and innovate where no two days are the same and the goal posts are continually changing. Superannuation is no exception

Many of us are familiar with the COVID-19 news stories of distilleries shifting their beer production to hand sanitizers and start-up engineering companies using 3D printers to create the valves used in ventilators to save lives. Similarly, the superannuation industry has had to rethink and transform its approach to technology and innovation during COVID-19.

With limited time and resources available, the need to transform traditional member communication has been highlighted, accelerating the implementation of innovative digital technologies. While the solutions developed may not save lives, they surely have the potential to have a long-term impact on people’s lives.

Crisis leads to innovation

In every member’s journey, there are specific opportunities or trigger points in which the right (or wrong) decision can make a material difference to their standard of living in retirement. It is at times like this that clear, easy to understand communications, using everyday language with simple terms, and realistic case studies—soliciting swift action and an innovative solution—is most important.

COVID-19 has left many members feeling anxious and nervous watching their retirement savings diminish. Other members have had to face the difficult decision to withdraw super, following the COVID-19 early release measures, because of a change in their personal or financial circumstance. This is when members need to feel supported by their superannuation fund, their employer, the Government, and the industry in general. Providing everyday Australians with tangible, meaningful and accessible information communicating the value of staying the course, rather than making knee-jerk reactions, is vital. We all have a role to play in ensuring this happens.

When the Federal Government announced the COVID-19 early release of super measures, time was short and the superannuation industry was somewhat taken by surprise. With less than a month to prepare, everyone in the industry had to think on their feet to ensure members were given comprehensive information and support to enable them to make informed decisions about their financial future, as well as their present situation. Many members were unaware of the long-term implications of withdrawing money at the bottom of a significant market correction, as well as the long-term impact this could have on compounding interest, so calculators with projected figures have been a helpful way to show this. AHC created an Early Access calculation on their existing Supermodeller to show, in a simple and engaging manner, the long-term implications on an individual’s long-term superannuation savings. Some of their major clients have reported a 300 per cent upswing in usage of the Supermodeller, and specifically the early access modelling feature, helping many members to make better informed decisions.

Engage, navigate and innovate to stay ahead

Technology, clear communication and innovation have played vital roles in these unprecedented times. Super funds should see the changes around them as an opportunity to radically reshape and restructure how they interact and communicate with their members. To maintain their competitive edge and remain current, funds should actively monitor fast-changing trends and dynamically evolve their own thought leadership and member offerings to create, develop and enhance digital solutions that are flexible and focus on effective communications that continue to put members first.

Those funds that acted quickly during the COVID-19 pandemic will be remembered for doing so. The next steps they take over the forthcoming months are crucial in helping to support and improve member outcomes as well as rebuilding confidence in the superannuation industry.

Times of crisis present new opportunities for learning and highlight the importance of financial literacy. Effective communication coupled with innovative adaption of technology could not only be a game changer but help reshape the industry. Some of the most impactful technological developments in the superannuation industry to date include personalised and interactive video statements, designed to engage members and drive action. Studies have shown that visualising and hearing your own name sets off unique brain functioning activation. Personalised videos populating members’ names, balances, and income in retirement will help members to navigate and engage them in ways that were near impossible just a couple of years ago.

Taking it to the next level, some of the latest trends seen in the superannuation industry include videos with interactivity where the user can ‘choose their own adventure’ type scenarios. The user is asked a series of questions through the video and the content is tailored based on their responses.

While personalised videos and interactive statements are not yet the norm, the COVID-19 crisis could be the black swan event that changes everything. The market shapers that help reimagine the future of their industry rather than adapt to it will emerge stronger.

There is no guarantee as to whether the Coronavirus crisis will continue to slow down or end. We are yet to know the full extent of its impact on us – as people, workers, or as an industry. Hopefully we can use this unique time as an opportunity to innovate, learn and grow, and create a better future for members. Where we find the superannuation industry struggling, it is worth considering which changes will endure beyond the pandemic. It is time to ask: what do we want the superannuation industry to look like on the other side of the crisis? And, what will our role be in shaping it?