At the start of 2020, it could be said we are living in interesting times.
Over the past couple of decades, society has come a long way and while the pace of change may appear alarming to some, the clues have always been there if the trends are examined closely enough.
Take the banking industry. Over a short period of time, technology has enabled people to go from carrying out transactions in high street branches to online banking to the present day, when banking with our smartphones is commonplace.
Or take the rapid rise of the climate change debate. It has reached such a peak that climate change activist Greta Thunberg recently made the cover of Time magazine. But there were small signs of growing unrest about protecting the environment ten years ago when the Green Party overturned a large Labour majority, winning its first Westminster seat at the general election.
And ten years ago, the idea that the UK would leave the EU appeared far-fetched. However, if you examine the trend at the time, there was a small indication of the seismic disruption that was to come. UKIP, latterly the Brexit Party, gained more than 3% of the national vote for the first time at the election.
Cutting through the noise with the power of data
It’s never been more important to be alive to technological, political and societal trends.
Our 24/7 news cycle will always be dominated by dramatic headlines and breaking stories but if we only pay attention to the big news of today, we’ll miss the clues to the big stories of tomorrow.
For me, it’s about constantly monitoring the main trends shaping our industry and having the right data available to enable us to do that.
Looking for clues and closely examining patterns in the data gives us the ability to work out the ‘knowns’ that will develop in the future. Looking for that detail is the driver behind understanding and predicting the broader trends in our industry, allowing us to spot the signs of early activity.
Most importantly, understanding the data in detail allows us to gain an insight into the future.
Data can help you understand your clients and their employee base
We know that in order for you to deliver better outcomes for your clients and their employees, you need to understand your client base and data can help. Using the latest technology which models scenarios based on scheme-specific data helps cut through the noise. This is fast becoming an essential, whereas previously it may have been a nice to have.
Using data in the right way can surface trends to help clients make the best decisions to support good outcomes for their employees. This can help to develop a segmented communications approach sending the right message, at the right time, to the right employee and ultimately driving good outcomes.
However, while it’s important to keep abreast of the trends, it’s even more important to be on the right track to keep ahead of the curve in the first place.
So one of the key questions to ask ourselves is whether data is being used to its full potential and what’s being done to track trends?
Trends that will evolve over the next ten years
We need to be spotting the green shoots around us today that will have an increasing impact over the next ten years; trends which will help the upcoming generation of pension savers make good decisions for better outcomes.
As an example, fund managers across the board are seeing increasing pressure to deliver a range of funds that incorporate environmental, social and governance factors (ESG). This focus is only going to intensify in the face of global challenges, such as environmental issues, human rights and climate change.
There are many views about which direction the retirement savings landscape can evolve over the next ten years. At present some of these are barely even concepts, and others are such a seismic change that we naturally think they won’t happen.
But if we were to transport ourselves to 2030, which of these will be a reality that we could point back to 2020 being the start of that journey?
The effective use of data will help us spot the big news stories of tomorrow sooner and get ahead of the curve.
May we continue to live in interesting times.