L-R: Julia Newbould, Danielle Murrie, Gretchen Fox and Andrew Inwood

Andrew Inwood, the global CEO of research house CoreData, said there is an increasing cognitive dissonance among members – essentially a gap between what are being promoted at the front end of superannuation and what they actually experience. 

“The reality is that there is quite a lot going on inside the communication between superannuation funds and their members,” he told the Fiduciary Investors Symposium in Healesville, Victoria, last month.  

“The amount of money which is in the system, particularly for individual members, is becoming real.” 

He said even comparing to the rest of Australia’s financial service ecosystem, superannuation is lagging behind in understanding the dynamics of audience segments and group behaviours and turn it into effective communications strategy. 

“At the top end of the market, people are starting to save outside of super into trust-based vehicles and family investment offices. It’s one of the fastest growing parts of financial services, which is a perverse outcome for the country.” 

Legal minefield 

With that said, Inwood acknowledged that member engagement is a complicated issue especially with intense scrutiny from regulators, but funds cannot let investment or legal teams dictate their communications process.  

“The legal team are often the last person to see every piece of communication and that leads to they having the final lens on it, or there could be a big dominant personality in the investment team who wants to have a conversation about what they’ve done, and what’s made them different, special and better. 

“Members don’t care – all these members, it’s about them.” 

However, it’s hard to not prioritise legal advice when funds are under intense scrutiny from regulators. Just in November, ASIC fined HESTA was over “misleading marketing” regarding the 10-year performance of its ‘balanced growth option’. The corporate watchdog also wrist-slapped Future Super in May over allegedly false green claims on in a social media post. 

Aware Super’s chief marketing officer Gretchen Fox said her team has a legal employee who sits within, which she finds addressed the challenge from both sides. With the investment team, however, she said there’s always some “healthy tension” over the best way to communicate returns to members.  

“It’s more about educating our marketing teams about what the risks are, and how easy it is to get yourself in trouble,” she said.  

UniSuper’s chief marketing and growth officer, Danielle Murrie, added that it’s also essential to periodically revisit of legal disclaimers and staff trainings materials to keep the fund up to date with regulatory requirements. For her, legal has become ingrained in the marketing process.  

For example, she said while the fund never includes any performance number in advertising, she noticed in a review recently that the numbers do exist in the fund’s organic channels like webcast.  

“Me and my team know we are hand in glove with not only the fund managers but with the legal team, we have to be,” she said.  

‘Cradle to grave’ 

A CoreData evaluation of individual super funds’ communication effectiveness revolved around six metrics – awareness, effectiveness, authenticity, advocacy, consideration and brand perception. UniSuper was the top performer in the latter three categories.  

Murrie said UniSuper has an overall ‘cradle to grave’ lifecycle marketing strategy. And from there, it’s all about telling members the right thing at the right time.  

“You may have heard my CEO talking about UniSuper becoming the Netflix of retirement. What does that mean? It means hyper personalisation, relevant communications informed by data and turning those insights into at scale, nudge campaigns.” 

In Murrie’s view, this is better than showing off UniSuper’ spokespeople in a big television campaign. “It’s bad enough that you have key person risks tied up with the actual product, not to mention with a brand that’s going to be sustainable through the years,” she said.  

“For us, we’re intentionally trying to position ourselves with a nod back to our heritage of the university sector.  

“The way we are pursuing above the line is trying to position ourselves as that place where the great and smart thinkers are and if you want that for your money, then come to us.” 

For more information on member experience research conducted by CoreData in partnership with Conexus Financial, please contact commercial director Ben Thomas at ben.thomas@conexusfinancial.com.au  

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