Funds are still learning to manage their digital member facing channels: Investment Trends Member Engagement Report

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Investment Trends has released its latest Member Engagement Report.

Leading research firm Investment Trends has released its latest Member Engagement Report – an in-depth survey of the engagement channels, activities, transaction and advice services provided by Australian superannuation funds to their members.

The report, now in its fifth year, is based on a survey of 44 of Australia’s largest super funds concluded in December 2017. This year’s study highlights a number of important trends:

Key highlights from the Investment Trends 2017 Member Engagement Report:

  • Funds are still learning to manage their digital member facing channels
  • Member insurance remains a key challenge
  • A strong values-based proposition is driving growth for many new retail funds
  • AustralianSuper is the best all round fund for member engagement services, while Rest Super is the most improved

Funds are still learning to manage their digital member facing channels

Superannuation funds continue their march along the path of digital transformation – moving from a simple online presence towards channels that foster a more interactive and engaging experience for their members.

According to the latest research from Investment Trends, many super funds are making inroads in the development of their digital member service platform, but the move from internal processing systems to real-time member facing applications has been challenging.

“This year, we observe many funds struggling with the reliability, consistency and quality issues in the real-time digital-based channels used to support and interact with their members,” said Ian Webster, Technology Analyst at Investment Trends.

“However, super funds are gradually mastering the challenge of managing these channels more effectively, building upon basic content publishing towards digital channels that provide easy access to services and promote two-way engagement with members,” explained Webster.

“For instance, recent website developments from HESTA, Sunsuper and AustralianSuper are shining examples of industry funds adopting a ‘member first’ approach. The last 12 months alone saw a host of interesting developments by super funds, including an increase in the number of fund mobile apps, increased social media activity, and direct engagement through online chat and bot-based applications,” added Webster.

Member insurance remains a key challenge

The introduction of opt-out insurance in the MySuper reforms and a range of media coverage have highlighted the conflict between outcomes for the collective group of super members and outcomes for individual members who are encouraged to have personal agency in their own retirement.

“Super funds have enthusiastically promoted insurance to their members, but the lack of urgency among many funds to commit to the Voluntary Code of Practice is beginning to affect their social licence,” said Webster. “Most funds are only gradually accepting their role in protecting low balance members and supporting the member claims process, but AustralianSuper is among the few that have taken early and decisive action.”

“Among the 44 largest super funds surveyed, roughly half have yet to provide explicit guidance and support for member insurance claims, while a quarter do not provide explicit information about member insurance claims on their website,” added Webster.

A strong values-based proposition is driving growth for many new retail funds

A number of retail super funds have experienced sustained growth in members and funds under advice in recent years. Fast growing funds such as Australian Ethical Super, Crescent Wealth, Essential Super, Grow Super, Netwealth Personal Super and Spaceship have little in common with their more established counterparts, focusing instead on a value-based proposition that resonates with their target segment.

“Australians now have a greater choice of funds that align with their values and lifestyle,” said Webster. “While these funds do not tend to provide as wide an array of member services as those offered by the more established funds, they differentiate through the effective use of digital communication channels, growth hacking and SuperMATCH 2 to grow at pace.”

“For instance, funds such as Spaceship offer their members a more evolved digital member account experience through a well-developed mobile app and replacing their administration platform provider’s online member portal with a more user-friendly interface,” said Webster.

AustralianSuper is the best all round fund for member engagement services, while Rest Super is the most improved

Each year, Investment Trends ranks the 44 largest super funds across four key areas of member engagement – touch-points, activities, transactions and advice. On an overall basis, AustralianSuper has once again captured top spot. The top five funds by overall member engagement scores are:

1.   AustralianSuper

2.   Sunsuper

3.   HESTA

4.   QSuper

5.   HOSTPLUS

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