Marketing specialist Toby Ralph said it was hard to build member trust in the ever-changing regulatory landscape.

Super funds understand the need to improve member communications but knowing how to go about it and where to begin is challenging and communicating through demography doesn’t work.

Late last year, Finance Services Minister Stephen Jones told super funds to step up member engagement.

“Survey after survey show Australians’ engagement with their super fund is low, especially among younger Australians,” he said.

“Focus on your members; respond to complaints more quickly; invest more in your relationship with members; and do better at understanding the needs of those who trust you with their contributions.”

While the primary objective of super funds might be to build the retirement savings of their members, Jones said taking the time to have positive conversations with members should also be a priority.

Difficult to build trust

It’s not just about member savings, according to marketing specialist Toby Ralph at last week’s Australian Institute of Superannuation Trustees’ CMSF Conference. There’s a growing number of members, mostly those with higher balances, complaining that management, boards and trustees are not trying to stop the government constantly changing regulations he said.

It was difficult to build trust with members when the regulatory landscape is constantly changes.

“The key to building trust with people who are concerned about regulatory changes is to use your muscle, your $3 trillion worth of industry muscle to do something about it. And not only try to do something about it but to be seen to be doing something about it,” Ralph said.

“You have enormous power and I happen to think that as a muscle, if you don’t use it you lose it.”

Moreover, Ralph said the majority opinion was that super funds are lousy at communications, which he believed was because most financial institutions map what they call the customer journey which is demographically led.

Communicating to tribes
As people become more tribal and clustered around values rather than age, communicating to tribes is more effective.

Tribes, and not demography, have emerged through globalisation, the rise of technology, a changing media diet, truth becoming more attached to an algorithm than truth, the collapse of trust, virtualisation of intimacy and the evaporation of average, Ralph said.

The seven tribes are:

  • Inner city progressives (18.3 per cent) – they are pro-change, like climate action, are left-wing and upwardly mobile, they earn good money, aged mostly between 18-24 years.
  • Active egalitarian (18.2 per cent) – believe it would be better to use super for a house, any age, are pro-wealth distribution, pro-pay equality.
  • Ambitious saver (9.9 per cent) – not huge earner, bias towards SMSFs, pro free trade and conservative voter.
  • Anti-establishment firebrand (6 per cent) – more male, often decent income earner, anti-vax, less educated, believes super is just another tax.
  • Lavish mod cons (5.5 per cent) – high earners, conspicuous brand consumers, want more money in home, not in super.
  • Prudent trailblazers (29.9 per cent) – older conservatives, highest balances in super, believe world is changing too quickly, not too career orientated, want solid returns.
  • Pitstop pessimist (12.2 per cent) – the life losers, see themselves as victims, more regional than rural, rent rather than own, low earners.

Reaching the marginalised

In reaching marginalised members, including disabled, homeless and Indigenous Australians, the advice provided by previous Australian of the Year and disability advocate, Dylan Alcott, Homelessness Australia CEO Kate Colvin and Founder of the Cape York Partnership and Good to Great Schools Noel Pearson, was just talk to members.

Alcott shared with the delegates that the best way to find out about what works with the disabled is to ask them. “Listen to lived experience – for too long our voice hasn’t been heard,” he said.

“With disability, people don’t want to feel uncomfortable by asking questions – so the disabled voice gets left out.”

Regarding homelessness, Colvin said a lot is invisible and treating people with respect and dignity is important but one of the issues is people cannot keep jobs if they don’t have access to housing.

“There are two main reasons should be tackling homelessness and disability: doing the right thing as a company is good for members to see and it’s also important to reflect your members,” she said.

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