AustralianSuper is the country’s largest superannuation fund, managing $263 billion in assets for almost 3 million members. Its purpose is to help members achieve their best financial position in retirement.
The fund has a strong focus on technology-enabled innovation to support the delivery of its 2030 strategy and provide better outcomes for members. AustralianSuper recently launched its own innovation lab, known as TS Labs, to help solve complex business problems by enabling fusion development – that is, bringing together its business and technology experts to build better applications, faster. TS Labs is also ensuring the fund remains agile in an ever-changing superannuation landscape.
At a recent TS Labs ‘Hack Day’, AustralianSuper developed a solution to streamline the onboarding of financial advisers using the Microsoft Power Platform. The fund has also been using the platform’s low-code development capabilities to unlock other process efficiencies.
Microsoft caught up with Mike Backeberg, Chief Technology Officer at AustralianSuper, to learn more about the fund’s tech-led innovation efforts.
Microsoft (MSFT): Can you explain AustralianSuper’s approach to technology-led innovation and the role of TS Labs?
Mike Backeberg (MB): Australia’s $2.7 trillion superannuation industry faces a shifting landscape influenced by increased regulatory pressures, disruptive technologies, changes in demographics and ever-changing member expectations. It is critical that the fund understands and addresses these forces of change and can quickly respond to new challenges and capitalise on opportunities with greater efficiency through technology, data and automation.
Our focus is on delivering customer-driven solutions and change that demonstrate clear benefits to members. AustralianSuper’s strategic pillars, such as sustainable growth and scale benefits, form the basis of our innovation framework and ensure that TS Labs remains aligned to the fund’s strategic objectives.
We want to ensure that we can accelerate when opportunities emerge. By adopting a future-forward view, we are in a great position to implement new and emerging technology at scale to deliver this benefit to members.
MSFT: How do the TS Labs ‘Hack Day’ events work?
MB: Our people are dedicated and focused on their core roles, which means they don’t often have time to step back, challenge and create. Hack Days are about creating space and dedicated time for colleagues to think beyond what they do today.
Our Hack Days focus on collaboration to develop viable solutions to business problems. We explore and refine problem statements in advance so that a cross-functional team of business and tech colleagues can work together on a solution.
At our inaugural Hack Day in September 2022, we looked at using the Microsoft Power Platform to drive a broad range of operational and financial process efficiencies. We focused on those that represented the biggest opportunity to increase efficiency; reduce operational risk, manual error and touch time; and increase colleague satisfaction.
The Hack Day brought together 25 people from our finance, membership and brand, member experience and technology services teams to solve eight problem pitches as part of a pilot program for TS Labs. We had a panel of judges who assessed the viability of each pitch. All use cases highlighted real benefits, which made judging the overall winner a challenge. We chose a winner across three different categories and considered the type of innovation, the business value and the complexity of delivering it. The adviser onboarding use case has the largest immediate impact to members through delivering process improvements.
MSFT: Tell us more about the adviser onboarding use case – what was the previous process and how did you streamline it using the Power Platform?
MB: Our adviser services team members perform a valuable function within AustralianSuper. They are the conduit between the fund and our network of advisers, and as such, need to ensure they can process interactions quickly.
A large number of interactions are completed by direct email and requests through our adviser portal. Many of these are easily automated, albeit heavily customised, to complete tasks such as validating adviser details, creating new records and cases in our CRM [customer relationship management] platform, responding to requests with tailored information, and processing a vast array of message and attachment types.
Using the Power Platform’s low-code capabilities and leveraging the expertise of Microsoft’s Designated Support Engineers, we were able to accelerate innovation generated from the Hack Day and deliver a viable solution in just two weeks. The solution is seamlessly integrated within the Microsoft suite of applications such as email, CRM, reporting and approvals. We also used other connectors to external data sources and sites to ensure we could complete an end-to-end transaction.
As a result, we reduced manual effort by 90 per cent, which led to a 95 per cent reduction in turnaround time and a four-out-of-five colleague satisfaction rating.
MS: Do you plan to expand your use of the Power Platform?
MB: Absolutely. There are clear benefits for members, and it aligns strongly to our strategy pillars of sustainable growth and scale benefits.
The huge success of our TS Labs pilot program has led us to build a governance team and model with a centre of excellence. These enable our people to create innovative solutions on the Power Platform that deliver strong business growth and reduce operational risk.
We expect to complete the first tranche of solutions in the first half of 2023.
MSFT: What advice do you have for other organisations on using the Power Platform to streamline processes and achieve tech-led innovation?
MB: Business sponsorship, technical ownership and strong governance are key to success with the Power Platform. By focusing on these three things, we have strengthened our innovation pipeline and created viable tech solutions that will drive better outcomes for AustralianSuper members.