The new ways to interact with your super
The days when you only heard from your super fund once a year via a statement in the mail are over. Funds are investing in digital technologies that help members stay in touch with their retirement savings anywhere at any time. The push to expand digital services is a plus for our retirement nest eggs. Despite the nation’s collective super savings reaching $2.3 trillion, many Australians remain out of touch with their super. Two out of five people don’t know how much they have in super, and the system is awash with $14 billion in lost or unclaimed super.
Many in the industry hope digital services will change all this, and it seems interest in digital tools among members isn’t limited to tech-savvy millennials. Andrew Howard, chief operating officer of REST Industry Super, which has introduced a number of digital service options, says: “We are seeing strong take-up across the full spectrum of our members.” Key drivers
According to Howard, several broad trends are driving the push to digital service channels. “Smartphones have been with us for a decade, putting the power of a supercomputer into consumers’ hands,” he says. “This has fuelled expectations that consumers can have services delivered online or over the phone, allowing them to do what they want, when they want. Superannuation funds are not immune to this expectation.”
While younger fund members have grown up expecting nothing less than digital services, Howard says their ranks are being swelled by those workers who have benefited from compulsory super for the full 25 years since its inception in 1992. “These fund members now have a good chunk of money invested in super, so they take a keen interest in their retirement savings.”
From the funds’ perspective, the cost of new technology has fallen over time while the capabilities have increased. “This makes it both more achievable and more attractive to introduce digital service options,” says Howard. For large funds like REST, which has around 2 million members, digital service channels can provide a cost-effective way to stay in touch with existing and prospective members as well as employers.
As well, there’s another factor behind the race to embrace digital service options.
After years of managing super’s strict compliance regime and bedding down the “simpler super” system, funds are now well placed to focus on consumer engagement. And in today’s highly competitive market, improving member engagement has become a top pri- ority. Employer-paid super contributions are frozen at 9.5% until July 2021, when they go to 10%, and growing numbers of baby boomers are reaching preservation age and starting to draw on their nest egg. It’s putting pressure on super funds to foster member loyalty and grow their funds under management.
In response, funds have started to invest heavily in digital services. A study by IQ Group found virtually all super funds allow members to join and switch investment options online. The vast majority provide online retirement calculators and around 70% have the capability to let members search for lost super via the fund’s own website rather than heading to the tax office site.
Even the traditional super statement is no longer a one-size-fits-all document. Many funds give members the option to receive statements via email and SMS. REST has gone a step further, providing interactive statements with the capability to let members consolidate their super. Streamlined services
Other digital channels are still emerging. Live web chat is available with just one in four funds, and a fraction of funds provide online advice. However, where these services are available, members can enjoy a streamlined customer experience.
REST has invested in a virtual agent known as Roger. “Roger is an automated response mechanism that handles customer inquiries made via the website’s search function,” says Howard. He says Roger manages 6000 to 7000 inquiries each week and 23% of people surveyed say Roger saved them a phone call.
REST members can also engage in live chat through a pop-up on the website that allows visitors to connect with the service team in a manner similar to SMS messaging. “We handle about 2000 of these chats each week,” says Howard.
While convenient for members, the downside of digital tools is the potential for funds to lose the human touch. “It is critical that digital options incorporate a mechanism that allows a real person to intervene,” says Howard. “Roger, for instance, recognises the point where people are not getting an answer and that’s when the chat option pops up, or an offer is made for a call from our service team.” Impressive app functions
One area where super funds still have a way to go is mobile apps. More than 80% of funds have optimised their website for mobile but the availability of apps is far from widespread. In Canstar’s 2016 super rating report,