The term ‘innovation’ is occasionally mocked as an abstract and fuzzy concept, with the ABC’s Utopia an example that springs to mind, and like the term ‘strategy,’ it can be overused or employed as a cover for muddled policy thinking. But this light-hearted teasing should not distract us from the importance of innovation as a practical means of making the superannuation system better for all Australians.

As I have said before, the post-Royal Commission world will increasingly demand flawless execution in the delivery of financial services, and innovation will be one of, if not the most significant, means of meeting this challenge. So, in case the hecklers arrive, what are the specific challenges innovation needs to address to meet the elevated expectations of the community, regulators and the Government?

The broadest challenge we face is to understand our members better: who they are, what their needs are now and as they change over time, their aspirations, and in many cases simply where they live. Technology offers many avenues to enhance our understanding and it should be acknowledged that innovations on the part of the Government such as the ATO’s Single Touch Payroll initiative will complement the work funds devote to the collection and use of this data.

We also need to create a seamless experience for members and one where contact with the member, significant events and transactions can all be tracked and seen through a single lens. Technological innovation offers the means to streamline and replace the occasional patchwork of administrative systems that don’t fully talk to each other, if at all, or to fill the gaps between them.

Technological innovation will also support efficiency and lower costs through simplified processes and claims management. Artificial Intelligence or AI is already being used to improve claims management for insurance claims and, in my view, its expansion in that field and extension to other transactions will produce faster, cheaper and more robust processes which will ultimately benefit fund members.

The Government also has a role to play in supporting greater innovation. The Government and the regulators have significant and varied reporting requirements and it doesn’t matter how world-beating we are or how advanced our systems are, if those requirements are antiquated or inconsistent with other overlapping reporting obligations, we’ll end up where we started. That is why we support a centralised, whole-of-government approach for government and regulator data collection which will not only support consistency in reporting but will support alignment with the increasing levels of sophistication in superannuation fund administration.

But you cannot innovate without courage. The potential for failure will always be elevated where things are being tried for the first time and businesses need the stomach to deal with reverses and setbacks, just as regulators and the Government need to accept that in the attempt to achieve rapid or substantial results there may be stumbles.

As we work to create a superannuation system with watertight processes, faultless delivery and pristine systems, innovation will be a vital part of the enterprise. We look forward to helping you explore these opportunities through our events and through media – such as the new-look Superfunds website.

It is fitting that the move to the new format should coincide with an issue featuring innovation and technology in the superannuation industry.

The magazine’s shift from print to digital has led to changes in the way content is organised and delivered in order to enhance the experience of our readers across mobile and desktop devices. I hope you will find the new Superfunds website easier to navigate and are able to find articles of particular interest quickly and easily.