Voices from Accenture Public Service

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Engaging members from the very start of their careers through retirement and beyond is a top priority for pension organizations. Governments and employers worldwide recognize the need to bridge the widening retirement savings gap. And that challenge is underlined by recent Accenture research which shows that only 11 percent of all pension members are confident that they have enough saved to retire right away, and just 27 percent of those near retirement age feel the same.

The message is clear: people need to start saving sooner, save more and do it more consistently. The good news? New digital technologies may provide a big part of the solution for achieving earlier, more active and productive member engagement. We already know that there is a strong appetite for mobile apps as a way to interact with retirement systems. Our research shows that 87 percent of members would use a mobile app if it were available. That’s no surprise in a world where people, on average, check their smartphone every six minutes.

But what about the next generation of digital innovations, in particular, virtual and augmented reality technologies? While these have mostly been associated with immersive gaming and leisure experiences, their application in the pensions industry could prove transformational. A study by researchers at UCLA and Stanford looked at the use of virtual reality to show people their future selves with and without enough money to retire. The experiment inserted people into a virtual world in which they could see themselves and their circumstances at age 65 according to a variety of scenarios in which they had or had not saved enough. The results showed this immersive experience was so profound that it could persuade people to make decisive changes in their approach to saving. VR like this demonstrates the power of ‘showing’ rather than simply ‘telling’.

As younger generations join the workforce in ever-greater numbers, pension plans will have to find ways to connect with them through the kinds of immersive experiences those young people expect.  Today’s novelty technology is quickly becoming routine. And that’s the direction of travel that we examine in Extended Reality, one of the trends in this year’s Technology Vision.

It’s a trend that is now starting to capture the imaginations of both pension organizations and their members. Accenture research shows that two-thirds of survey respondents would be willing to use virtual reality if it could help them better manage their retirement savings, and almost one-third have already used the technology for gaming or learning activities[1].

It’s a trend to which Accenture is responding, in a first for the industry, working with one large retirement system to create a virtual reality app that will give all new members a completely novel way to discover what the retirement system offers. Instead of a single information sheet in their joining pack, new members will be able to engage using a VR app accessed via a specially-branded Google Cardboard viewer. This will give them an immersive introduction to the retirement plan and the benefits it offers. And with that momentum established, it’s more likely that new members will enroll sooner rather than later. That benefits them and the pension organization.

This is just the start of VR applications for the industry, and other possibilities are not hard to envisage. For instance, when people apply to retire, it’s vital for them to get everything right. Using a VR app pension agencies could walk retirees through the process step-by-step so that when they actually apply, they’ll be more confident that they’ve taken care of everything they need to. Once again, it’s all about engaging and supporting members from the very start to the very end of their pension journey.

I believe VR technologies could be a gamechanger for our industry. I’d value your views. Get in touch or leave a comment below.

To learn more, visit accenture.com/pension and follow me on LinkedIn and Twitter.

[1] Accenture Citizen Survey 2018

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