The AIST is to launch a digital innovations department that will seek to create solutions which take advantage of the collective scale of industry funds.

The digital innovations department, which will launch in the second half of 2015, comes as part of a pledge made by Tom Garcia, chief executive of AIST, to help not-for-profit funds keep pace with digital innovation carried out by bank-run super funds.

“We are aware that banks are making the most of their scale,” said Garcia. “We see this initiative as an investment for our members.”

AIST is also conducting a research tour to the US in May that will visit firms such as Google as part of this initiative.

“We are acutely aware banks and other commercial providers are dedicating serious levels of money to their digital platforms,” he told delegates. “They are partnering with emerging online players and using data insights to do business in new ways.”

But Garcia thought the collaboration would be a factor in progress.

“The not for profit sector as a whole, has a unique competitive advantage in the form of its culture and a willingness to collaborate,” he said.

Additionally, he thought not for profit funds’ focus on acting in members’ best interests could not be underestimated.

As a measure of the urgency he highlighted how some were predicting that every single financial transaction would be carried out on a mobile device in five years’ time.

He urged: “The world is moving to self-service and members are doing it for themselves.” He referred to a vast array of digital solutions entering the market.

Garcia suggested that innovation might be a financial aggregator for members through an App; an e-commerce portal for employers; or better business analytics of member data to help customisation of services.

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