How Ganschow is leading customer-inspired data transformation at Aware Super

Aware Super's first head of data sciences and former NAB, Westpac marketing leaders details how she's working to build a data-driven approach across the superannuation firm

Data management, reporting and action are the holy trinity for Aware Super’s first group head of data sciences as the organisation works to build a data-driven capability that drives bigger rewards for members, employers and stakeholders.

Karen Ganschow joined Aware Super in the newly created role head of data sciences a little over 12 months ago. The former marketer has built up a raft of expertise in data-driven marketing and customer engagement, including two years with NAB as GM of consumer marketing and customer strategy, and more than five years as Westpac’s GM of customer relationship one-to-one and digital marketing leader.

“I have a curious title, but what I have stepped into is an organisation with a clear declaration that they want to be data-driven,” Ganschow tells CMO. “We have our strategy on a page and one of the key enablers is data across the organisation. My role is to create the strategy for what it means to be data-driven at Aware Super and then go make it happen.

“I’m not a data scientist, I haven’t cut code in Python – I am learning R – but what I am doing is understanding the business need and opportunity in every facet. That includes my heartland of how we engage with consumers, members and employers. But it’s also about what can we do on the operations side and dealing with investments to get a real understanding of every part the fund’s imperative, their problems and opportunities, then what data and tech can do to enable that. And then we enable it.”

Credit: Ganschow


A key aspect is working closely with the technology function on what’s possible and making the case for development.

“In the medium term, we look at what can we do with what we’ve got so that every part of the business is enabled by data, and we gain a clear understanding of where that shows up and how it can make a difference,” Ganschow explains.

Step one is the maintenance element of getting data into a place where it’s usable, accessible, clean and of quality. “It’s not sexy but it’s very important,” Ganschow says.

While data utilisation has been a mature capability across superannuation firms for some time, Aware Super is the result of several company mergers combining Heritage First State Super with State Plus, VicSuper and WA Super by the end of 2020. One of the priorities is therefore bringing together disparate data environments to unify the member offering.

“Where I get excited is creating insights dashboards that drive business decision making,” Ganschow continues. “Our measure of success is how many people are using them and how often they’re using them. Everyone in my team’s imperative is if you have a repeat question from somebody, turn it into a dashboard.”

This has led to a range of self-service dashboards for every facet of the business as it shifts from Excel to PowerBI.  

“I constantly talk about not giving stakeholders the fish but the fishing rod to be able to fish themselves. They should be empowered with the tools to ask their questions so we can move on to the next question,” Ganschow says.   

“It’s about creating a capability so we build the report once and people can slice and dice any way they choose.” 

End-to-end customer engagement

More exciting again for Ganschow is putting those insights into action. As well as being Aware Super’s key business sponsor for capabilities such as next-best conversation, Ganschow is pulling together the business strategy for customer relationship management end-to-end, which will be empowered by technology.

“We have a clear vision to be much more engaged with our members. We all know superannuation isn’t necessarily something people choose – it’s chosen for them. But we want to persuade our members to choose to stay because we show great relevance,” Ganschow says. “That comes from being engaged in moments that matter for our members.

“It’s about the notion of life moments where your super can be helpful. Like saving up for your first home – you get a better return on your super than a savings account right now. Or being mindful when you’ve formed a relationship who will benefit from your super. Or if you have a new addition in your family, topping up your insurance. These are all important life moments where your super does have a role to play.

“Our vision is that we use our data, online engagement and external data where relevant to sense when that’s going on for members so we can start to take them on a guided journey that’s relevant for that moment and therefore earn their enduring desire to stay with us all the way through to retirement.”

It’s a customer-led data approach Ganschow built her credentials in at Westpac. “I got to see when you join the dots between comms to the customer that’s followed up by the banker is so powerful,” she says.

At NAB, I got to test the life moments. Part of the website became dedicated to those life moments and converted at a higher rate because we were talking about what mattered to consumers the most.

“What’s exciting about my role now is it’s not limited just to the marketing domain, it’s supporting operations, the contact centre and investments. The themes and principles still apply, but it’s a fascinating role joining the dots across the organisation.”

One of the silver linings from the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 was the heightened interest in superannuation. Traditionally a hard category to get consumers to engage in actively, the ability to withdraw super during the crisis has meant many are now much more aware and active about their superannuation accounts and balances.

Digitisation has helped too. “For example, we would try very hard to get people thinking about or transitioning to retirement to have an appointment. Traditionally this was only done face-to-face,” Ganschow says.

“With the pandemic, people got more comfortable with a Zoom-based planner meeting, which makes these meetings so much more accessible.

“There have also been large numbers of members from all funds drawing out super because they have known it’s there and they’ve had more appreciation for the balance was there. That is top of mind now, so we are looking at how we leverage that to ask at what point are you going to top that up and put the money back, as it’ll cost you in the long term. We want to leverage that moment of engagement to ensure you appreciate the value super can provide.”

Data priorities

To get there, a single view of the member is a must, Ganschow says. “We’re not there yet but we know we have to know when a member has a relationship across multiple dimensions and anyone interacting with that member has that appreciation,” she says.

“It’s not a quick win, but there’s no question gaining a single view of the member and their employer and creating an experience that honours that is a given. And we’re in flight.”

As to other priorities, Ganschow says the guiding light is identifying the business use case first. “That doesn’t mean we don’t present a new idea to a stakeholder group, but it is a balance of where is there a burning platform from what the business says they need and we can solve for that, then what can we do in the short term, as well as what’s the elegant long-term solutions,” she says.

“I give my team permission to explore ideas and what’s possible, and if there is a business user that wants it, then go nuts. It’s a two-way street.”  

As to team structure, Ganschow says her first focus was on ensuring skills in certain areas could be harnessed while broadening the understanding of that area across the whole function.

“Our structure is still fluid as we all need to work together, and we’ll be like that for some time given we have still such a volatile environment,” she says. “The real key is cross-team collaboration and learning from one another. As one person does something, other people can leverage and learn from it. It’s about building once, then using many times.”  

Data governance is another major aspect of the strategy and approach and Ganschow is managing the data council across Aware Super to ensure everyone understands their data obligations.

“Part of my role is to bring up the maturity of the organisation to understand the data on their watch, its sensitivity and criticality, and the interplay between the people who created the data, such as the contact centre, and those consuming the data, such as modelling, finance investment,” she says. “These two teams need to understand their interplay and if you make a change up here, it’ll change things down here.”  

With a bigger company vision of being a force for good for members, employers and the community, Ganschow says “data is such a big part of that and critical to the role we need to play”.

“I have such an exciting couple of years to build this capability and leave a great legacy here. My desire is to deliver to that, and a data ecosystem where there is a huge library of self-service reports enabling every facet of the business to make better decisions that show up in a systematic way with members and employers,” she says.

“It’s about landing that so we get to where we aspire to be: Strong member engagement, being the preferred superannuation for employers and delivering the returns our members deserve.”

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