Communication is only effective during a crisis if its understandable, says AMP’s head of superannuation, retirement and platforms, Lara Bourguignon. And at this point in time, financial service providers should be trying their utmost to make sure the advice they’re giving – whether it’s with a big or ‘a’ small ‘A’ – is getting across.
“It’s a time where the industry has a real opportunity to communicate, communicate and communicate,” Bourguignon said during a streamed panel discussion this week at the Conexus Financial Retirement Conference.
While financial planning firms have been good at sending out volleys of education and advice to clients during the crisis, Bourguignon believes not all of the messages are getting through because people often don’t understand them.
‘We’re in an industry with so much jargon and so much disclosure that to be honest many of us struggle to understand, so we sometimes forget that to engage our members we have to be understandable,” she says.
To get real cut-through, Bourguignon says, firms should “take a step back” and try to see their missive from a consumer’s perspective.
“Try testing communications within different groups,” she says. “I regularly bring things home and ask my teenage children or my husband – who’s a health worker – to look at them and understand them.”
The conference session, entitled “Working together to improve adequacy in retirement”, focussed heavily on financial literacy and the ability of clients to digest the information given to them during a crisis era. Bourguignon recalled a client experience she had during the Hayne royal commission that reminded her not to make any assumptions.
“A client was gravely concerned that due to the reputational damage that the financial services industry had experienced that that would impact the financial service providers’ ability to make their pension payments,” she explained. “This person had worked in banking for over twenty years.”
Bourguignon called it a “strong experience” that stayed in her mind.
“It was a really stark reminder to me that even financial services professionals weren’t confident that superannuation and pension assets were held in trust and weren’t available for any organisations going through financial hardship,” she said.
Liz Hughes, a principal and adviser at WealthSpring Advice who shared the panel with Bourguignon, shared a similar anecdote about the lack of financial literacy among consumers.
“The one thing I’ve been quite disappointed by has been the comments from the general public in the media on superannuation funds,” Hughes said. “Comments like: ‘Why shouldn’t I take my super out now, it’s doing minus 20 per cent so why don’t I take it out while it’s not performing?’ This is the sort of thing I’m seeing which is indicating a real need for better education.”