Changing the Game
With over 30 years’ experience in the media as well as in public affairs, Sally Loane understands the importance of connecting with audiences more than most. Which is why she’s so excited about how Australia’s FinTech revolution is helping providers engage a whole new generation of consumers in a way they never have before.
When Sally took over as CEO of the Financial Services Council (FSC) in 2014, she realised much of her role would be about communication.
“When it comes to products, such as superannuation or insurance, there’s an assumption people don’t get it and may never,” says Sally. “But often it’s not the product consumers don’t understand, but the way that product is described. Chronic disengagement leads to poor outcomes for consumers.”
Much like good communication, technology is helping demystify ﬁnancial services for consumers, says Sally. “It’s enabling them to interact with providers and products in the same way they do with other brands they use every day.”
One area where it’s making a real impact is superannuation, something Sally is particularly passionate about.
“Many people don’t realise how good Australia’s super system is. There are very few places in the world where employees contribute in a mandatory system, almost 10 per cent of their salary every week to fund their retirements. But too many people are still not taking full advantage of our system, and of course compound interest, by engaging with super, adding more to it, and really understanding how to ﬁnd the fund that is right for them.”
Sally is on a mission to make sure young people understand the importance of planning for their ﬁnancial future. Here she speaks from experience, admitting she doesn’t have as much saved as she should: “I got going late, because I didn’t engage with compulsory super when it came in, in 1992. I was busy having my ﬁrst child, getting back to work, and I resented that three per cent I had to put into super. I thought I could do more with the money, for immediate expenses, rather than save for retirement which looked a very long way off. The trouble is, the longer you leave engaging with super, the bigger the gap becomes, particularly for women.”
Today, employees can manage funds through phone apps – merging multiple accounts, and adding to contributions and investment options with a few swipes. There are other apps, such as Raiz (formerly Acorns), which allow you to round up transactions to the nearest dollar and put the change directly into an investment fund.
“There’s no doubt technology – both from FinTechs and the larger, incumbent wealth companies – has made it much easier and quicker for young people to save for the future, while improving their knowledge of ﬁnancial products at the same time,” says Sally.
It’s not just super funds using technology to interact in new ways. Insurance ﬁrms are doing the same, giving birth to a whole branch of FinTech known as insurtech that is making insurance more personalised than ever before.
“We’re seeing insurers linking products to ﬁtness trackers, and giving discounts to anyone who hits their step target,” says Sally. “That is revolutionary as it’s making a positive association with health rather than using the ‘prepare for the worst’ type messaging that we’ve seen for so long.
“Microinsurance is another example. You can now cover yourself against very speciﬁc events, such as bungee jumping or climbing Everest. And you can do it all on your phone, from anywhere you have phone signal. It’s game changing!”
The innovation capital
So much of the innovation in the ﬁnancial sector is coming from startups, and Sally says Sydney’s entrepreneurial spirit makes it the ideal place for these new businesses to thrive.
She should know. Her husband and former CNN anchor Peter Ford launched Control Bionics to develop the Neuroswitch and NeuroNode technology, which helps people with severe paralysis and speech impairment communicate with the world.
“It’s been such an exciting few years,” says Sally, “and it’s fantastic to see the tech and products Peter invented, and worked so hard to develop, really making a difference in people’s lives.
“We have a great pool of entrepreneurs here, and there is not the same stigma around failure as there once was – which is so important in the startup world. And with the likes of Stone and Chalk, Tyro and Fishburners working with hundreds of startups to grow and develop their businesses, Sydney is continuing to strengthen its position as Australia’s startup and innovation capital.”
So the startups are thriving. But how are the large incumbents in ﬁnancial services responding to this revolution? “We’re seeing many different approaches,” says Sally.
“Some have their own innovation labs. Others have invested in startups, and are offering the technology to their own customers. The really forward-thinking ones have been doing both: collaborating and putting innovation at the heart of their own products and propositions.”
Shaping the future
There’s no doubt that innovation was on the agenda when Sydney hosted the world’s
biggest ﬁnancial services conference, SIBOS, for a third time this October. At the event, themed 'Enabling the Digital Economy', Australian companies had a chance to showcase some of
the world-leading innovation being developed right here.
“Hosting SIBOS was so important for Sydney and Australia,” says Sally. “The world has so much to learn from us, particularly when it comes to the innovative use of technology in our sector, and we in turn learned a huge amount from the rest of the world.
“We wanted the world’s leaders to leave talking about Sydney and Australia as a place where they want to do business, and for us to see the names of more global businesses appearing on the Sydney skyline.”
It’s no surprise that Sally is thinking about the broader legacy for the city. As well as Deputy Chair of the Committee for Sydney, Sally is a director of Venues NSW and has recently been appointed to the board of Destination NSW. She’s also been a BESydney Global Ambassador since 2015.
“Sydney and NSW have always been very close to my heart. I grew up on a wool growing property near Tenterﬁeld. I fell in love with Sydney the ﬁrst time my parents brought me here as a girl – we travelled down by train – and I feel very privileged to now be in a position where I can inﬂuence its future, and help make it the prosperous, competitive global city that it should be.”
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