“If you don’t have a customer-centric digital plan for your customers, then you’re going backwards,” affirms Todd Johnson, Head of Strategy and Transformation at Guild Group. And while most companies will proudly boast of their digital transformation credentials, few can demonstrate the life-changing impact that those plans will have on their customers. Guild Group can.
The Australian financial services company has rapidly become an innovative and disruptive force in the superannuation sphere, embarking on a digital journey that has seen it evolve from – in Johnson’s words – a “very traditional superannuation fund” to one that has developed a suite of digital tools. Specifically, Guild’s digital journey has focused on the development of a product aimed at helping women have a better understanding of their own superannuation fund and, as a result, be more secure when they retire.
Out of the entirety of superannuation funds in Australia, Guild has the highest percentage of female members at 85%. In order to help facilitate this change, Johnson believes his firm’s strategy to engage with a higher proportion of women has driven significant growth. “Our story is one of innovation, with an overriding philosophy of solving problems for our customers. It began at a time when we were looking to grow the business and find ways in which we could significantly improve our member outcomes. Rather than embarking on a traditional customer engagement journey to inform our product development, we approached things from a different angle so that we can truly understand the problems that Australian women face from a wealth creation perspective, their emotional motivation with regards to their finances and the wider challenges presented to them.”
Johnson admits that the process led to some stark revelations, including that Australian women will retire with 47% less superannuation than men. Further research, he says, “painted a really bleak future for many Australian women”, including that the highest growing percentage of homelessness in Australia was women over the age of 45. “It’s linked to working life and broken work patterns,” explains Johnson. “If you work part time or earn a lower salary then your superannuation balance will be lower – at the moment it’s highly geared towards men. This really got our whole team focused on solving this problem and ensuring that we serve women better.”
The problem, says Johnson, was helping women to grow their retirement balance without asking them to lessen their living wage. “We looked to develop a suite of digital tools covering several areas of budgeting to make building a superannuation fund simple and intuitive for our female members; we wanted an automated portal through which they have access to rewards programmes, can take advantage of discounted rates from retailers and see all the information about their superannuation fund at the click of a button via their phones.”
The development of the new product, GuildSuper, was a significant step in the company’s journey so far, centered around one key question: ‘What do our customers really need from us?’. “We used this focus to find a gap in the market, to develop something that no one else is doing and create a digital solution that addresses something really important – it really is a world first,” Johnson notes. The concept behind GuildSuper is simple; through spending and normal routines, women can effectively put ‘free’ money into their superannuation fund. Government funding, provided to those on low income salaries, is also managed through the GuildSuper portal. “In effect, the product manages this snowball effect of extra funds and the difference in terms of the actual balances that our members see is significant,” Johnson highlights.
As with any significant digital transformation, Guild sought out partners to assist in the development of GuildSuper. “We had a vision, and we knew what we wanted the customer experience to be. It really was a case of approaching it by saying ‘let’s do what we do best and bring in vendors that do what they do best’,” Johnson explains. “It was important to get these ideas to market as soon as we could, so we actively sought out the specialist skill sets we needed – we wanted the best in their chosen fields. Some of the partners we worked with include Protiviti, which excels in planning and project leadership; AHC, which helped us with our calculator and app development; Folio1, a technical solutions provider; and Double Denim, a creative marketing agency based in New Zealand.”
For Johnson, one of the positive outcomes of developing GuildSuper has been the impact the programme has had on the wider company culture at Guild. Employees have a new sense of vigour for their work, driven by the feeling they are helping others. Staff across the company were quick to form close bonds with the female personas that Guild created during product development – Elaine, Claire and Sandra. They began to say “I really feel like I’m coming in for a reason,” Johnson states. “Our culture has changed from one that was quite traditional to one that is about doing something meaningful every time you come to work. In turn, that has shaped our new vision: ‘Changing the Future for Women and Their Families’. It’s bigger, it’s more aspirational and it genuinely represents what we want to do as a business.”
Looking ahead to the future, Johnson explains that further development is planned. The company has recently commenced its phase two programme, designed to “take the experience to another level”. This involves further application of new technologies such as intelligent payment cards to evolve the digital experience. “It all comes back to solving the problems of our customers. We want to help them with any challenges they face with their financial services to make their lives better,” Johnson concludes.