What drove you to establish the digital engagement study?

Our clients are focused on digital means to deliver services to members. Now we find that this is a leverage point for employers to maximise the opportunities that digital engagement may provide. IQ Group does a significant amount of work within this space so it was a natural progression for us to consolidate our understanding of the market and to provide a report on the various services being offered.

How did you design the framework for the study? Why draw the line under the Top 50?

The intention of the top 50 was to obtain a sample of the market representative of most funds and Australians from the retail, industry and public sector superannuation sector. These top 50 funds are those with the widest representation of the population as they have in excess of 20 million members and account for a significant pool of funds under management. The group surveyed has made significant investments in the digital space and it was an interesting journey to follow. I would like to point that some of the smaller funds may also be making a significant investment but it was the decision to do this at scale we felt would make the greatest impact.

What surprised you by the first study?

It was surprising how limited digital services enabling members to join a fund online were. At the time of the first survey approximately half of those surveyed provided online joining facilities, which meant that that the remaining half did not have a digital onboarding strategy in place. Similarly, the lack of services offered to employers was surprising, especially in light of SuperStream and the significant changes this legislation introduced for employers.

On the other hand, what was not surprising was the low participation within the social media space as well as the lack of apps and mobile optimised sites available given the general digital technology understanding of funds. It is encouraging though to see that this is improving.

What surprised you by the second study?

The significant uptake in mobile optimised websites is reflective of how funds are actively investing in technology to allow members to access services on a number of devices. There is however a lack of investment being made in member apps. It seems that there is a clear move towards optimising websites rather than creating apps which does indicate that super funds are recognising the need for and investing in mobile technologies.

How have things changed over the course of one study to another?

Mostly there has been a significant shift towards optimising fund websites for use across a number of devices. It is clear now that funds are heading towards aggregation services which will allow funds to more efficiently consolidate data previously harvested manually.

Aggregation services can enable funds to offer additional tools such as online calculator and lifestyle services which can be delivered digitally. This information results in a holistic view of the member that will assist in the provision of services and member engagement.

What are the take-aways from this year’s result?

There is a clear shift towards digital service offerings. Funds will continue to focus on digital services which will lead to re-framing their business models to encompass services beyond online facilities. Many clients have started and are on this journey and over the next one to two years we will begin to see new business models and business service providers that offer additional services to members. Aggregation services will be part of that mix of services.

What focus will you be placing on next year’s study?

The focus may move towards how business models are changing as a result of the move to digital service offerings, the rise of aggregation services, and the lack of services to employers.

As employers look to efficiently comply with their SG liabilities there is definitely a need for a service centered on this process. Greater emphasis may be placed on how funds can add value to the employer relationship by assisting with the SG payment process. For this to occur funds will need to shift their focus to employers.

And we will be watching closely as social media platforms continue to make inroads into the digital strategies used by Funds.

Ron Mullins is the author of the IQ Group Annual Superannuation Industry Digital Engagement Study and Director of Business Development at IQ Group.