If you’ve been on this journey with me over the past several weeks I congratulate your past and present self. If not to minimise the chance of me sounding like a rambling KiwiSaver condemner, you may want to cover off Part One and Part Two. Or live a little and read out of order, nobody will ever know.

But if you don’t you’ve got to be onboard with the notion that we put our present needs before future needs and suffer as a result, and in an attempt to combat this behavioural phenomenon from a financial perspective things like KiwiSaver were invented. However it’s not doing it’s intended job flawlessly as we discovered some friction between scheme and user that results in suboptimal performance. Yeah, so again Part One and Part Two might be worth a read.

Now that everyone’s on the same page, let’s pick up where we left off. With me valiantly (naively) stating that I was going to propose a way to fix the broken aspects of KiwiSaver. I’ve changed my stance on that a little. With time and reason I’ve seen that instead of proposing what will inevitably be an idealistic and flawed approach to correction, I should stick to what I know.

So here is my attempt at turning KiwiSaver into a startup:

  1. The Problem
  2. As a product KiwiSaver unfortunately trips over on the first step of the startup ladder; validated consumer problem identification. It’s not fulfilling a perceived customer need, or problem as we can call it. The problem it solves is to not having enough money in retirement. But that’s not really considered a problem in our eyes today as we don’t really care about the future that much. This means that people don’t really care much about a product that solves that particular problem (until it’s too late).

    So we need to find an actual problem people want solved today. The problem that we can build a meaningful product around. And I would say we identified the real problem in Part One. The problem of not caring about our financial future self. This may sound the same as not having enough money in retirement, but it’s a matter of timing. Sure today’s problem leads to tomorrows, but given that we want to sell our product to customers today, we need to be focusing on today’s problem.

    Of course we would do work validating this problem with potential users to make sure we’re on the money before progressing. It would be a mix of the academic studies you saw in Part One, along with (most importantly) actually talking to people which we did a bit of in Part Two.

  3. The MVP
  4. The slight difference in the problem we’ve identified vs the one KiwiSaver is solving will result in a different MVP. An MVP in startup land is the minimum viable product which is defined nicely by Eric Ries as “the smallest thing you can build that lets you quickly make it around the build/measure/learn loop.” What he’s touching on here is your product is going on a journey and when you first release it you don’t necessarily know where that ends. So don’t build the end product, build just enough to take the first step with your customers.

    I think this diagram demonstrates really well what an MVP is and isn’t:

    Focusing on the problem identified I’d say the MVP of the KiwiSaver startup product would be an online platform that connects employees, employers, and fund providers in one place. A place that employees could interact with their KiwiSaver today, and have rich reporting on it’s current performance with (all else withholding) an eye to the future growth. Bring tomorrow into today, show what lifestyle users would lead with their KiwiSaver balance in the future. There would be far more ability to plan for the future, and set financial goals, such as saving for a first home, or a certain amount to live off per year. You would be able to track your performance against these targets and make adjustments before it was too late.

    Although the mechanics of the KiwiSaver product might be fairly comparable to what exists today, the key product changes would be around the communication and delivery of information and messages. All which would focus around the problem; not caring about our financial future self.

    Which starts with the Customer Acquisition process.

  5. Customer Acquisition
  6. Now that we have an MVP to launch we want to start acquiring customers. There are lots of ways a startup might go about it, alpha and beta testing, soft-launches with invite tokens, or simply a loud and proud public launch straight off of the bat.

    Given that the KiwiSaver initiative has fairly good sign up rates I’m not going to reinvent the wheel. They’ve got this part right so who am I to mess with it?

  7. User Onboarding
  8. So now that we’ve got the users agreeing to sign up, how to we onboarding them, or in other words, set them up to get going with the product?

    For starters users need to be more involved from day one. Instead of having your employer sign up up on your behalf, the actual employee needs to have skin in the game from day one. They would be far more involved in the registration process, completing it themselves. During this process the user would then sign into the portal and progress through a small educational exercise discussing risk profiles, fund options and some other key KiwiSaver information. We have an obligation as a financial service to ensure our users are educated about the product so that they can have the most informed experience on the platform and with their KiwiSaver as possible.

  9. User Retention
  10. This isn’t really a problem as with the current KiwiSaver system once you’re in you’re in. Like acquisition, I’m going to let this sleeping dog lie.

  11. User Engagement
  12. If KiwiSaver needs a wake up it’s here. KiwiSaver is currently a set and forget scheme. Sure, users do end up with a retirement balance at the end of their time contributing, but we’re really under utilising the amount of the balance through low engagement during it’s growth period.

    How do we make our users stay engaged with KiwiSaver?

    Every social media platform, or SaaS product tries to answer this question and KiwiSaver should do the same. Some techniques include social ties, i.e. a feed updating you on actions taken by your friends or connections, think Facebook. Competition is a big one, in Banqer we use a leaderboard to drive engagement in the app and encourage users to strive to better their financial selves. Fitbit and RunKeeper take this to even greater heights as you compete in challenges and competitions. We see external messages drawing users back into the platform during times of inactivity, or to alert them of platform changes. I’m sure you’ve all got a few well timed “people are looking at your profile” emails from LinkedIn.

    If KiwiSaver were just to adopt a few of these techniques we would see the KiwiSaver MVP platform become a financial destination, similar to online banking. Somewhere users go to follow up, plan, forecast, and who knows what else. I personally like the idea of connecting with friends, but this may be pushing it for our reserved society when it comes to talking about money. At a minimum regular emails, messages or alerts should be drawing the user to the platform communicating fund growth performance, or potential to change.

    And when users get to the platform it’s important that there are things to do. We should see users wanting to change funds. To get the best from their finances as their situations change and develop over time.

    If we focused on ensuring a product users wanted to engage with I think the impact on KiwiSaver balances would be astronomical. No more set and forget, instead a sticky platform showing you your financial future today.

I should caveat my ramblings with the fact I think KiwiSaver has done a wonderful job to date. Even instating such a system is a significant milestone for our economy and one we will rely on ever increasingly. And it’s young. Less than a decade old KiwiSaver is still finding it’s feet. I just hope that we’re still on the journey and this isn’t the end product.

Making suggestions and throwing ideas around is easy. Doing is the hard part. So for all of you out there thinking ‘great, well let’s see you do it better’ putting my money where my mouth is earlier this year we took my considerations to heart and along with support from Kiwi Wealth developed a KiwiSaver module for Banqer. It’s fun, educational, easy to understand, but above all, it’s engaging. So far more than 1,130 students have enrolled in a Banqer KiwiSaver fund. With only 39% of students knowing what KiwiSaver was prior to using Banqer we’re more than happy with this impact in such a short time.

With statistics like this it gives me hope that if we make the changes needed now the future in fact will be a golden one for many.

Insights by Kendall Flutey, Banqer co-founder (past, present, and future).