Kelly O’Dwyer’s vision for Australia’s financial services sector

Honner recently attended the Financial Services Council (FSC) political series breakfast to hear Assistant Treasurer and Minister for Small Business, the Hon. Kelly O’Dwyer MP, outline her vision for Australia’s financial services sector.

Having delivered the government’s response to the Financial Systems Inquiry (FSI) and starting the dialogue around the Life Insurance Framework (LIF), it’s fair to say that Ms O’Dwyer has had a busy eight weeks since officially starting in office.

FSC CEO Sally Loane never tires of reminding the financial services community, “Kelly O’Dwyer does the job of two men” since being promoted under the Turnbull government into the positions of Assistant Treasurer and Minister for Small Business.  To top it all off, Ms O’Dwyer is also mother to six month old baby Olivia. As a full time working mother to a 10 month old myself, I am tempted to use the phrase “I don’t know how she does it!”

Much of Ms O ‘Dwyer’s address, which, according to the FSC was the new Minister’s first major speech on financial services, focused on the FSI.  Ms O’Dwyer stressed the government’s commitment to “providing a financial services framework that encourages economic growth, innovation and investment, and one that is fair to both consumers and businesses.”

Overall, the government accepted the overwhelming majority of recommendations made in the FSI final report and, on the whole, Australia’s financial services sector is performing well. But, as is often the case, there is room for improvement.

Super trends…

Future success rests heavily on our $2 trillion super system, which is set to grow to $9 trillion in assets by 2040. Ms O’Dwyer said the government will first enshrine the objective of the super system in legislation to help “align policy settings, industry initiative and community expectations. “

At the same time the Productivity Commission will review the efficiency and competitiveness of the system as well as exploring alternative default option models. In the retirement income space, the government will enable super fund trustees to pre-select comprehensive income products for retirement (CIPRs) for their members.

Ms O’Dwyer also mentioned that all super funds excluding SMSFs will be required to have a minimum of one-third independent directors on their trustee board, including an independent chair – with the aim of providing “increased scrutiny and transparency.”

Hello, crowdfunding…

In other areas, Australia’s flourishing small business community also received a nod with government plans to introduce new legislation to allow start-ups and small companies, with a turnover of less than $5 million, to raise annually up to $5 million in equity through crowdfunding. Ms O’Dwyer said the changes would “allow mum and dad investors to make investments in start-ups and small business.” It will also bring Australia up to speed with global peers in Canada, the UK, US and New Zealand who already have similar models.

Ms O’Dwyer concluded that the government was committed to making Australia’s financial system s the best in the world and that the government’s financial system program “will enable the system to meet its fundamental role in funding a more competitive and productive economy that is able to embrace uncertainty and encourage innovative activity.”

Disruption is about more than just technology…

“What will be the Uber moment in financial services?” asked Sally Loane, CEO of the Financial Services Council, opening the FSC/Deloitte luncheon on Customer engagement in 2015: how the finance industry can learn from the new wave of business.

Uber moments appear imminent across the industry, with the emergence of robo advice, peer-to-peer lending and equity crowdfunding, to name but a few fintech ‘disruptors.’

Uber General Manager and keynote speaker, Simon Rossi, emphasised that essentially Uber is in the business of transforming a functional need into a memorable experience. The need to get from A to B can be elevated by Uber into an experience that people will “love and share,” he said. For example, on Melbourne Cup day 2014 Uber chaperoned punters to Flemington by helicopter. And in the US, it teamed up with the Transformers franchise to transport film-goers to cinemas in an Optimus Prime-styled truck. There is no reason a sensational experience cannot start at home, rather than the destination, Rossi proposed.

For most of us, the “Uber moment” is more likely to be an experience of exceptional ease when getting a ride home from the most obscure of city nooks or at peculiar times of day. It’s the emotional value of alleviating fear and uncertainty, as well as the delight of efficiency and convenience. And of course it’s also the anticipation of being delivered free Messina gelato- one of the tactics Rossi described as building a “halo effect” around the brand.

But beyond these grandiose and diabetes-inducing gimmicks which showcase Uber’s philosophy writ large, Rossi emphasised the unanticipated socio-economic outcomes generated by ride-sharing.

Uber certainly wasn’t started with the idea it could become a catalyst for economic transformation- it was launched by a couple of mates who had trouble finding taxis and thought they could extend a service to friends.

Now with over 1.1 million drivers internationally, Uber has become a force to redress unemployment and underemployment by creating a new way to work. It provides the information and tools for people in 58 countries to generate an autonomous income or top up their wages.

Uber’s mapping of the areas of greatest demand also demonstrates that its services are successfully filling gaps in current transport infrastructure, complementing rather than taking away from public facilities.

The positive impacts of ridesharing on congestion, safety and connectivity in cities is often missed in the media, which is more focused on the war with the taxi industry or regulators, lamented Rossi.

While Uber is a self-professed ‘technology company,’ it collides with the share economy by connecting people directly. And out of this shared or collaborative consumption socio-economic benefits have organically emerged.

Uber has taken ownership of its accidental social impact wholeheartedly, launching ever more elaborate #impact initiatives and partnerships globally- around health, safety, disability, veteran and family affairs and animal welfare.

For several years the UberKITTENS campaign has delivered hundreds of abandoned kittens to homes and workplaces across 50 cities worldwide, offering customers 30 minutes of ‘playtime’ with their furry parcel. This year the initiative led to the adoption of over 300 kittens and generous donations to support animal shelters.

This successful initiative encapsulates the elements that seem to make up the ideal “Uber moment” from a customer experience perspective- an easy or effortless transaction process, a touch of hedonism in product or service delivered, and a feeling of contributing to some wider good.

There are many financial services technology platforms emerging that promise to disrupt- but the lesson to be learned from Uber is that disruption is not about technology; it’s about ease and an unexpectedly enhanced experience, it’s about the emotional and social dimensions that create memorable moments.

Newspapers may be on the way out

As a trained journalist, practicing PR professional and casual lecturer on Communications at UTS, I have a strong interest in navigating the fast changing media landscape.

Ross Gittins, whom I have followed avidly since high school days, is one journalist who has been vocal, in recent months, about his views on the changing mediascape and the future of journalism.

Recently, at the new news conference organised by the Centre for Advancing Journalism, Gittins alarmingly said: “I don’t doubt that newspapers’ days are numbered. That’s likely both because of the continuing shift of advertising to online and because most of the younger generation favours screen-based information and simply doesn’t read newspapers.” How long until newspapers stop publishing he is unsure. But “probably sooner than 10” years was his prediction.

That may surprise, and even perhaps delight, many.

However, the question for the traditional (legacy) media publishers is: how do they pay for the quality journalism we have come to expect – and in fact, demand?

In September Crikey reported research from Essential Polling finding that seven in 10 Australians aged over 18 have no intention of paying for online news.

So, few and fewer Australians are reading hard copy newspapers, but the majority do not want to pay for that same news online.

In its battle for online readers, Fairfax has taken a ‘digital first’ approach to reporting, hoping that by breaking news online it will attract enough eyeballs (and subscribers). And while the SMH/Age has been able to build up to 130,000 subscribers over the past two years, the “soft paywall” means readers can access several articles a month for free, after which they can choose to pay, or as many savvy readers know, simply clear their browser history and start the ‘free’ count again.

The change is happening fast for everyone – including consumers.

As Gittins told New News delegates, “the digital delivery of news is so new that outlets are still experimenting with different ways of presenting it and users are changing their behaviour in response to developments in technology.” As an example Gittins notes “a declining proportion of clicks (to Fairfax websites) is from people coming direct to our website, with more coming via referral from social media such Facebook and search engines such as Google.”

Earlier this year, Honner Media rebranded to Honner. The reason? What we do today is broader than simply traditional media relations. Client, internal and member communications; issues and crisis management; strategy and planning; digital and social media; and content marketing – we offer a breadth of communication advice and services to clients.

As the reader and viewership habits have changed, so too we’ve needed to upskill and broaden our capabilities and offer. However, media remains a key stakeholder and delivering earned media outcomes still central to the practice of PR.

The future of a robust and competitive media landscape that fulfils, as Gittins refers to it, its “higher purpose”, is “a matter of great importance for the community, not just to those who make their living from it.”