power your advice

The Precarious Trust of Superannuation Thanks to Stability

One area of financial services that DOESN'T suffer a trust deficit is superannuation - in particular the industry fund movement.

So I was intrigued to understand how Sally Patten , Bernie Dean and Damien Mu would approach today’s superannuation Fund Executives Association (FEAL) panel session on trust in brands.

“Superannuation is trusted. But it’s a precarious trust. It’s precarious because it’s passive, not active,”

For me, the AFR’s Sally Patten kind of nailed it, out of the gate.

Bernie Dean shared how ISA has started by understanding, capturing and communicating about the very real ‘lived experience’ of fund members - and using that as a jumping off point, to communicate about superannuation.

Campaigns which are hugely successful are based very deeply in a real people’s current reality - what they feel, perhaps deep in their gut, but can’t necessarily articulate. In ISA’s case that may well be that the bank, end of day, will roger you!

And Damien Mu of global insurer AIA talked both about the systemic issues we must overcome to engender trust but also what we must do, rather than say. How do we treat people when they need us most, for example, as an insurer? Do we talk and act in a way that’s about us (pay claims fast) or about our member or client (ie help them on the often fearful journey towards their own death)?

I don’t use that example lightly. What struck me deeply about the nature of trust, as addressed by the panel today, is that to get it right we must start with compassion and deep understanding.

If we don’t, any product, member service, action or marketing program is founded on shaky assumptions – which are also most likely erroneous, because they’re shaped by our industry experience. And not by the customer’s.

Rufus Black, who spoke before our panel, took as an assumption that we need a stable political and economic system in order for trust to thrive – actually, we need an intact social fabric.

By that he means a social fabric that's not threatened - as we increasingly hear - by the fear that arises from social inequality.


One key risk is that super gets caught up in a more general fear about the economy, about jobs, about the future. Personally, I see a very real risk of this.

Closer to home we actually just need super itself to be stable: a system people can rely on. As an industry (as individuals, brands and collectively via industry organisations) we can all work towards this.

So what IS stability? Well it doesn't mean no change - it's a stability that's responsive to markets, economic, social, political and demographic change. It’s responsive to the needs of those it serves.

But it IS a stability that keeps the promise of super.


Government, the industry collectively and each of us as people should perhaps think about both what expectations members have of what we do, and how we do it. OR we should seek to change those expectations by educating members, then by carefully changing their experience.

From the panel, and our conversations prior, I offer some take home assumptions about trust to frame the conversation inside your organisation.

Assumption 1 - Trust is the essential lubricant without which no relationship, either one on one or between an organization and over million members – works.

Assumption 2 - Trust isn’t always seen or valued - often you don't know what you’ve got til it’s gone.

Assumption 3 - In the end, it's about what you DO, not what you SAY – whether you are a person, a brand or industry.

And the more we all, as an industry, accept and act on these assumptions, the less precarious the public’s trust in us will become.