Professor Susan Thorp was at a conference on superannuation when she heard a representative from industry fund Cbus talk about a trial they were running with their members. She realised they were sitting on a treasure trove of data that could be used to further expand understanding of consumer behaviour around saving for retirement.
“I said to him, ‘It sounds fascinating. Can I have your data?’ And nearly fell over when he said yes.”
For many, especially young people, saving for retirement is a somewhat abstract concept. Cbus wanted to increase their members’ engagement and so developed tools that provided projections of members’ future retirement balances to encourage greater consideration of what actions people could take today to have more money for their eventual retirement.
“A significant number of people started to talk to the fund more and started putting a little bit extra in, on top of their compulsory contributions,” Susan says.
Susan, Professor of Finance and Associate Dean Research at the Business School, says this type of innovation is crucial to give an understanding of the way ordinary people make complex financial decisions regarding super or mortgages.
Understanding how people navigate complex financial issues requires a research team with expertise in a range of areas. This includes Isabella Dobrescu, an economist whose sophisticated models can project the effects of increasing super contributions on people’s future wellbeing and wealth; Ben Newell, a psychology researcher who specialises in behavioural questions; and Hazel Bateman, who has researched superannuation for decades and is well connected with industry and policymakers.