Traditionally, the employer has been the first point of contact for retirement fund members seeking information on their retirement fund and other queries. This is starting to change as the industry moves into an era of consolidation towards umbrella funds. The inter-relationship between employee, employer and fund is starting to give way to one which sees a lesser role for the employer, and a more direct relationship between the member and the fund. In years to come, could one expect to see a move towards members choosing their own retirement fund product, as is the case in Australia?
It is all the more important therefore that the fund itself steps into the gap and builds an active relationship with the member. Many funds are doing this but some need to build this capability from scratch. Beneficiary funds have much experience in this regard, because there has never been a strong inter-dependent relationship with the deceased member’s employer. Beneficiary funds have therefore operated more of a “retail” relationship with the end member, allowing them to access services without going through the employer.
To build a relationship with members, a fund needs to understand who they are and what their needs are. But equally, it is imperative that the member understands what the fund is, what to expect from it, and how to use it. If your fund’s communication strategy simply relies on the odd SMS and annual newsletter as the only forms of communication, you may need to consider upping your game.
The first step is to build a multi-channel distribution strategy which facilitates dialogue with your members. Channels could include:
Walk-in centres - although relatively expensive to operate, face to face contact can make the world of difference for members to discuss fund matters with someone who can provide holistic solutions to them
Telephone through a multilingual contact centre- ideally the system should recognise the phone number and match the member with an agent that speaks their preferred language
SMS - this is most effective, although the important thing is to ensure up-to-date records based on the member’s most recent nomination form
Annual newsletter in multiple languages - this should be in plain language, educational and simple to understand
Member roadshows where members can engage with the fund
Field agent programmes for those who cannot travel far distances
Communication also needs to be two-way – feedback is needed from members in order to gauge their needs and meet them accordingly. This can be obtained by way of a simple survey conducted via the contact centre agents.
You may wish to underpin the distribution strategy with a series of service principles which can guide the communication. These could be:
In essence, the important thing to bear in mind is ease of access for the member. Everything else can flow from there.
Let’s not let the member get left behind in this new era of umbrella fund products.