An Interview with Shawn Blackmore, Group Executive Member Experience and Advice, AustralianSuper

"Barely five to seven years ago, super funds had a simpler, easy-to-understand business model that involved one or two distribution channels. It was very paper centric but now we are focussed on becoming a digital first organisation - nearly all initiatives have a digital element.."

FST Media: What are your business and digital priorities for the next 6 months?

Blackmore: The past 12 months have been focussed on putting in place a strong foundation to support a digital operation.

This has included;

Leadership - appointing a Head of Digital

People - changing our structure to support a digital operation

Change management - establishing a change management program to support all AustralianSuper staff to understand and embrace a digital approach

Infrastructure - developing an architecture map and building it out

Customer Experience - develop a customer experience strategy and roll out to business users

The next six months will be focussed on leveraging this foundation and scaling initiatives in pilot. 

 

FST Media: What technology or innovation is proving to be the biggest game changer across financial services?

Blackmore: The point is that technology itself is the gamer changer in financial services, - it’s not one single initiative. Digital is now everyone’s business – there wouldn’t be one employee at work today without at least one smart device on them. At home, they probably have at least 10 devices connected to the internet-of-things. Technology is driving change, but more so is the consumer. They expect more engagement with their finances. That’s not to say one single thing won’t emerge and tip the industry sideways, but at the moment the game is changing on a wide range of technological fronts.

One specific focus will be to develop out our API's. This is quickly becoming an accepted practise in financial services and I think will lead to the next wave of service innovation.

 

FST Media: How are you leveraging big data and analytics to meet industry demand for customised products?

Blackmore: We have made a significant effort to increase our capability in relation to data and analytics.

We have established an enterprise data team to support the Funds data needs. We have also established a dedicated member data team focused on analysis of member data to gain insights that will lead to improving engagement, product develop and service. Underpinning this is a culture shift towards being an evidenced based decision making organisation.

The primary focus is to better understand what our members need from us, and when.

 

FST Media: How are digital disruption and IT innovation transforming the superannuation industry?

Blackmore: It’s more about how digital and innovation are transforming the focus of the industry. Barely five to seven years ago, super funds had a simpler, easy-to-understand business model that involved one or two distribution channels. It was very paper centric, accumulation only, with a largely disengaged consumer.

We are now focussed on becoming a digital first organisation. Nearly all initiatives have a digital element. Like many other industries, we’ve changed and will continue to change, as consumers and other industries innovate through technology.

 

FST Media: What are the key challenges for AustralianSuper in the current competitive market space?

Blackmore: We need to ensure we remain relevant, develop solutions that are scalable and that appeal to a majority of our 2.1 million members and increase our delivery cadence.

 

FST Media: What is the next big thing for AustralianSuper in bolstering customer engagement?

Blackmore: The next big thing is really just a culmination of all the things I have outlined. When we get the insight and turn that into something real that better meets members’ needs, we’ll see a new level of member engagement. Again, it may or may not be one thing. We can’t lock ourselves down into thinking that the answer is just sitting there and all we need to do is go and acquire it off the shelf. If we work hard on a range of fronts and focus on our members’ needs then our engagement and service levels will improve.

 

FST Media: Where do you look for emerging technology trends?

Blackmore: We have spent considerable time developing key partnerships that keep us informed of the latest trends. The challenge is to be able to interpret the trend and analysis the impact on our business.

Just by their nature, trends occur globally at any given moment. We’re aware of what’s happening across the globe, but there is no point zeroing in on one particular industry or country because the big change could emerge from any sector in any territory.

 

FST Media: How do you build a culture of innovation in your team?

Blackmore: I want our organisation to think of itself as a digital business, one that can adapt, be nimble, innovate and meet our members where they’re at. We have to ask them, ‘what else can we provide for you?’ Maybe we can provide a single AustralianSuper platform where a member can access their various banking, home assets and insurance accounts – somewhere they can see all their financial information in one place. That’s the sort of thinking and culture we need to have to allow innovation to emerge and then transform into realisable change.

 

FST Media: How do you maintain a good work/life balance?

Blackmore: Balance is the key word. The Fund has always promoted the importance of work / life balance. As a senior leader and also someone with a young family I can set the example. Twice a week I pick the kids up from school which is extremely rewarding. The trade-off is you may be doing work later that night.

 

 

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