Register For Our Mailing List

Register to receive our free weekly newsletter including editorials.

Home / 148

Super’s shift to digital communication

There’s no doubt that superannuation funds are moving their member communication and education into the digital world and the pace is increasing. But compared to the broader rate of technological change and uptake in other industries, funds still have much ground to gain.

Willis Towers Watson has been monitoring funds’ digital technology use since 2013. Last year, we went back to the industry to evaluate the overall trends and examine some key indicators, such as popular versus effective digital channels, potential roadblocks and what the future looks like.

Budget allocation to digital

All funds surveyed are increasing digital technology across a wide range of channels and, with it, their budgets. The current multi-channel take-up rate is 62% and funds are also using a wider spread of channels than previously.

In the past two years, 75% of funds have stepped up their spending on digital member communication by 10% or more. Around 35% of funds are spending $150,000 or more on digital communication (this excludes their fund website). Participants told us that the most significant investments to come will be made in improving mobile websites, their main website and webinars, as well as calculators.

Mobile websites are now rated as the most effective technology for communicating with members while more standard tools such as traditional websites and emails continue to be widely-used. Looking ahead, though, funds are expected to shift their focus to the use of apps.

Although apps, games and quizzes are not currently rated as effective as mobile websites, their use has increased at least five-fold. Our original survey in 2013 found less than one in 10 funds used these channels to engage members but, by 2020, funds believe apps will be their most-used tool for member communication.

Although ranked low in terms of overall effectiveness, participants who use social media (such as Facebook and Twitter) agree that as a liaison tool, it plays a crucial role. While a low touch tool for member communication, it is used by most funds to monitor the industry and the media and deal directly with member concerns. In 2013, participants acknowledged a small role for social media but it appears that funds are still feeling the need to have a presence there, mainly as a channel for listening and reacting to members.

Webinars are an interesting item. Less than half of our 2015 survey participants use them, yet the same proportion rated them as highly-effective. The funds running them agree that they work extremely well.

Print still has a significant role to play in the overall strategy, but this is dropping, from 38% in 2013 to 32% in 2015. By 2020, this is expected to drop to 11%.

The benefits of digital

Funds told us a key benefit in using digital communication is that it is personal, targeted, immediate and interactive. Increasingly, members are only wanting information that is relevant to them. Funds say this trend will be a priority for them as they increasingly move towards using online benefit statements and other personalised communication.

A range of channels is in play and the mix is wider than ever before. Our 2013 report predicted the rate at which funds would take up a multi-channel approach would increase from 45% to 77% by 2017.

Perhaps this is no surprise. A study of 30 countries by We Are Social on how web traffic is shared across devices shows that although digital information is still largely accessed through laptops and desktops (approximately 60%), access via mobile devices already stands at 30% and growing fast. Ensuring fund information and tools can work across different platforms is therefore crucial.

Tools used to deliver education

Funds continue to pick and choose from a wide range of digital media. More traditional digital channels such as calculators, websites and email remain top tools (see Figure 01). Although not surveyed in 2013, around three quarters of funds surveyed are now using mobile websites as part of their member education package.

Survey respondents cited mobile websites to be the most effective technology, unsurprising given the statistics around increasing mobile use, followed by non-mobile websites (see Figure 02). At the time of our 2013 report, over half of the Australian population was using smartphones, but it has now grown to almost three-quarters. This raises the bar for how funds must evolve to match member preferences and continue to create more sophisticated mobile-compatible tools.

In 2013, almost all funds predicted that they would still be using standard tools such as websites and emails in 2017, and this has played out as expected. However, the future sees big drops in the predicted use of websites (down from 96% to 65%) and emails (from 96% to 53%) by 2020. It is possible that in the case of websites, funds are switching their focus to mobile websites, however the reason for the expected drop in the use of email is less clear.

The use of calculators has increased, and was a feature in every fund surveyed in 2015, as compared to only 85% of funds in 2013. Looking ahead, four-fifths of funds intend to dedicate more resources to calculators.

The roadblocks

A key concern for funds continues to be around the security of member data, as well as practical issues such as resourcing and cost. Many participants felt that there was a skills and capabilities gap which might be restricting some funds from increasing the use of technology-based communication.

Since 2013, there has been little change to the perceived benefits of using technology to communicate with fund members. However, as members become used to regular updates, this breeds new challenges such as keeping up with continuous change.

Participants told us that learnings from the broader financial industry should drive much more sophisticated security and that superannuation needs to look at how banks have managed it.

Resourcing digital specialists who understand technology, digital and superannuation is incredibly difficult. Small to mid-sized organisations, in particular, would not find it viable to have one internal resource who has both the breadth and depth of skills needed in the digital space. As a result, super funds are partnering to help them grow their digital capabilities.

A full copy of our survey findings, with insights on current and future digital direction from UniSuper, Cbus, CareSuper, Kinetic Super, Maritime Super, HESTA and Australian Catholic Superannuation and Retirement Fund, can be found here.


Emma Longmore is the Communication Leader and Richard Body the Head of Digital Solutions for Willis Towers Watson Australia.



Leave a Comment:


Most viewed in recent weeks

Is it better to rent or own a home under the age pension?

With 62% of Australians aged 65 and over relying at least partially on the age pension, are they better off owning their home or renting? There is an extra pension asset allowance for those not owning a home.

Too many retirees miss out on this valuable super fund benefit

With 700 Australians retiring every day, retirement income solutions are more important than ever. Why do millions of retirees eligible for a more tax-efficient pension account hold money in accumulation?

Is the fossil fuel narrative simply too convenient?

A fund manager argues it is immoral to deny poor countries access to relatively cheap energy from fossil fuels. Wealthy countries must recognise the transition is a multi-decade challenge and continue to invest.

Reece Birtles on selecting stocks for income in retirement

Equity investing comes with volatility that makes many retirees uncomfortable. A focus on income which is less volatile than share prices, and quality companies delivering robust earnings, offers more reassurance.

Welcome to Firstlinks Election Edition 458

At around 10.30pm on Saturday night, Scott Morrison called Anthony Albanese to concede defeat in the 2022 election. As voting continued the next day, it became likely that Labor would reach the magic number of 76 seats to form a majority government.   

  • 19 May 2022

Comparing generations and the nine dimensions of our well-being

Using the nine dimensions of well-being used by the OECD, and dividing Australians into Baby Boomers, Generation Xers or Millennials, it is surprisingly easy to identify the winners and losers for most dimensions.

Latest Updates

SMSF strategies

30 years on, five charts show SMSF progress

On 1 July 1992, the Superannuation Guarantee created mandatory 3% contributions into super for employees. SMSFs were an after-thought but they are now the second-largest segment. How have they changed?

Investment strategies

Anton in 2006 v 2022, it's deja vu (all over again)

What was bothering markets in 2006? Try the end of cheap money, bond yields rising, high energy prices and record high commodity prices feeding inflation. Who says these are 'unprecedented' times? It's 2006 v 2022.


Tips and traps: a final check for your tax return this year

The end of the 2022 financial year is fast approaching and there are choices available to ensure you pay the right amount of tax. Watch for some pandemic-related changes worth understanding.

Financial planning

Is it better to rent or own a home under the age pension?

With 62% of Australians aged 65 and over relying at least partially on the age pension, are they better off owning their home or renting? There is an extra pension asset allowance for those not owning a home.


Listed infrastructure: finding a port in a storm of rising prices

Given the current environment it’s easy to wonder if there are any safe ports in the investment storm. Investments in infrastructure assets show their worth in such times.

Financial planning

Power of attorney: six things you need to know

Whether you are appointing an attorney or have been appointed as an attorney, the full extent of this legal framework should be understood as more people will need to act in this capacity in future.

Interest rates

Rising interest rates and the impact on banks

One of the major questions confronting investors is the portfolio weighting towards Australian banks in an environment of rising rates. Do the recent price falls represent value or are too many bad debts coming?



© 2022 Morningstar, Inc. All rights reserved.

The data, research and opinions provided here are for information purposes; are not an offer to buy or sell a security; and are not warranted to be correct, complete or accurate. Morningstar, its affiliates, and third-party content providers are not responsible for any investment decisions, damages or losses resulting from, or related to, the data and analyses or their use. Any general advice or ‘regulated financial advice’ under New Zealand law has been prepared by Morningstar Australasia Pty Ltd (ABN: 95 090 665 544, AFSL: 240892) and/or Morningstar Research Ltd, subsidiaries of Morningstar, Inc, without reference to your objectives, financial situation or needs. For more information refer to our Financial Services Guide (AU) and Financial Advice Provider Disclosure Statement (NZ). You should consider the advice in light of these matters and if applicable, the relevant Product Disclosure Statement before making any decision to invest. Past performance does not necessarily indicate a financial product’s future performance. To obtain advice tailored to your situation, contact a professional financial adviser. Articles are current as at date of publication.
This website contains information and opinions provided by third parties. Inclusion of this information does not necessarily represent Morningstar’s positions, strategies or opinions and should not be considered an endorsement by Morningstar.

Website Development by Master Publisher.