DIG­I­TAL FU­TURE

The new ways to in­ter­act with your su­per

Money Magazine Australia - - CONTENTS - STORY NI­COLA FIELD

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,

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