Thursday, August 04, 2016

Trust in super: "precarious" and "passive"

One area of financial services that DOESN'T suffer a trust deficit is superannuation - in particular the industry fund movement.

So I was intrigued to understand how Sally Patten, Bernie Dean and Damien Mu would approach today’s superannuation Fund Executives Association (FEAL) panel session on trust in brands.

“Superannuation is trusted.
But it’s a precarious trust. 
It’s precarious because it’s passive, not active,” 

For me, the AFR’s Sally Patten kind of nailed it, out of the gate.

Bernie Dean shared how ISA has started by understanding, capturing and communicating about the very real ‘lived experience’ of fund members - and using that as a jumping off point to communicate about superannuation. Hugely successful campaigns are based very deeply in someone’s current reality - what we feel, perhaps deep in our gut, but can’t necessarily articulate. In ISA’s case that may well be that the bank, end of day, will roger you!

And Damien Mu of global insurer AIA talked both about the systemic issues we must over come to to engender trust but also what we must do, rather than say. How do we treat people when they need us most, for example, as an insurer? Do we talk and act in a way that’s about us (pay claims fast) or our member or client (help them on the often fearful journey towards their own death)?

I don’t use that example lightly. What struck me deeply about the nature of trust, as addressed by the panel today, is that to get it right we must start with compassion and deep understanding. 

If we don’t, any product, member service action or marketing is founded on shaky assumptions - most likely erroneous because they’re shaped by our industry experience.

Rufus Black, who spoke before our panel, took as an assumption that we need a stable political and economic system in order for trust to thrive - actually an intact social fabric.

That's a social fabric that's not threatened - as we increasingly hear - by fear that arises from social inequality.

One key risk is that super gets caught up in amore general fear about the economy, about jobs, about the future. Personally I see a very real risk of this.

Closer to home we actually just need super itself to be stable: a system people can rely on. As an industry (as individuals, brands and collectively via industry organisations) we can all work towards this.

So what IS stability? Well it doesn't mean no change - it's a stability that's responsive to markets, economic, social, political and demographic change. It’s responsive to the needs of those it serves.

But it IS a stability that keeps the promise of super.

Government, the industry collectively and each of us as people should perhaps think about both what expectations members have of what we do, and how we do it OR to change those expectations by educating members, then by carefully changing their experience.

From the panel, and our conversations prior, I offer some take home assumptions about trust to frame the conversation inside your organisation.

Assumption 1: Trust is the essential lubricant without which no relationship - 1:1 or en masse to over million members - works
Assumption 2: Trust isn’t always seen or valued - you often don't know what you had until you lose it

Assumption 3- In the end it's about who you DO, not what you SAY - as a person, a brand or industry