You know one thing is crystal clear to me – the super industry has spent more time talking about what they need to do with their data for better outcomes while keeping an eye on other industries leading the way in this space.
The short summary is, not much has changed – until now. Over the past year we have spoken with more than 20 super funds and I can see the tide turning. Momentum is building with funds launching plans to tap into data sources and let their teams and members benefit from this knowledge. Think data warehouse, utilising cloud technologies, self-service analytic tools like Tableau or even launching a data science experiment. It’s now in discussions, in project plans, and for some super funds – already up and running and delivering major benefits.
This inspired my involvement in this year’s Conference of Major Superannuation Funds (CMSF19). I really wanted to share my learnings about how funds are using data in their day-to-day operations, through all job roles in a fund.
Queue my involvement in the “Harnessing Data to Drive Member Outcomes” panel. Chaired by Peter Treseder, who leads the Education team at Australian Super, we asked Amanda Ralph, who is Head of Product for First State Super, and Georgie Obst, GM Campaigns and Member Growth at HESTA to join our panel session and tackle the meaning of data to each and every one in a fund. Specifically, we wanted to reach the non-data, regular people in the funds that can benefit using data in their day-to-day jobs.
I love this summary from Georgie who summed up the session’s purpose perfectly:
“Data is great if you are a data scientist, but what if you are a simple marketer or work in education or any number of operational roles in a fund?”
It was a very interactive session with technology that supported audience polls throughout our debate – and everyone loves an audience poll, right? It was clear from the audience that questions that came back to our panel highlighted the majority of superannuation funds are at the start of their data and analytics journeys. Some of the questions we received showed truly analytical thinking processes and this puts us all in a good position to move forward.
Looking at the opportunity to be part of the panel and learn more about what attendees at CMSF were thinking was very much glass half full. Although we have much work to be done before super funds can contemplate deploying what I might call the finer edge of the analytics knife, many funds are beginning this journey. There is nothing to be embarrassed about when you are the super fund asking the questions about how to start the journey, rather than compare notes on the sexier elements of analytics. Being humble is nothing to worry about! Some of the major concerns we heard more about:
- How should we go about planning our data and analytics projects?
- How much will it really cost?
- We have heard horror stories about millions of dollars, and projects that never finish?
How we responded:
- We live in the real world: Start quickly in the real world – let practical learning override theory
- Learn on the job: Let real world experience – not meetings and strategy teach you the lessons you need
- Let your peers guide you: Super funds have already begun this journey and a playbook exists
- Harnessing data for insights is easier than you think: Funds don’t need big budgets, teams of consultants and never-ending strategy reviews to do this
What I notice about these superannuation funds that are just starting, is that all the attention on the leading-edge applications of data analytics can make them feel like they are really far behind their peers, and almost feel a bit embarrassed by it. The truth is, most of the funds we talk to are right there with them at the starting gates. Just begin!