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How much can AI help boost your super?

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By John Beveridge - 
AI boost superannuation Australia largest artificial intelligence portfolio

It has been hard to miss the excitement surrounding artificial intelligence which has been one of the main engines powering the global share market rally which has added trillions of dollars to the value of share portfolios.

The hard part now is proving that the extreme confidence behind AI an an engine for greater productivity can be translated into extra earnings and profits for real life companies.

Interestingly one of the global early tests for AI will happen at Australia’s largest super fund, AustralianSuper, which has announced that it is one of 600 companies globally to participate in the Copilot for Microsoft 365 Early Access Program (EAP).

Adding a co-pilot to help 3.3 million members

So, what sort of improvement are we talking about for the 3.3 million members who rely on the more than 1300 staff members at our biggest super fund to keep costs down and performance up for their retirement funds?

Well, initially the target is to increase productivity by 5% in the first year, although the potential is for much higher returns of up to 20% to 30% over time.

The reason being is that by taking over many of the more mundane tasks, the AI program will free up staff to concentrate on higher-value tasks – to literally achieve a lot more with a lot less.

Can 5% ramp up to 30%?

As for the cost of adding AI, AustralianSuper’s chief technology officer Mike Backeberg said even the initial 5% productivity aim would pay for the implementation of the technology many times over.

“With that kind of ROI (return on investment), we don’t have to be too aggressive,” Mr Backeberg said.

“Over the next few years, it’s probably going to be more like a 20 to 30% increase in productivity, depending on the evolution and availability of AI technology.”

The plan is for the use of the new generative AI technology to be adopted across about 18 months as more staff become familiar with the possibilities of the technology and it becomes embedded in the big fund’s processes.

AI pioneers expand usage

The use of AI is not a new thing for AustralianSuper which has been using it since 2016 in its decision support and straight-through processing systems, although this trial will extend that much further across the workforce.

In the initial stages about 100 employees will participate in AustralianSuper’s Copilot for Microsoft 365 trial, which started late last year.

That trial has now been expanded to around 260 active users.

As a not-for-profit fund, any benefits from the improved productivity will accrue to AustralianSuper’s members, so it is a good candidate to be one of the first Australian users of the Microsoft AI copilot.

The bigger question – and one that the investment analysts at AustralianSuper will be keen to know as well – is whether the reality of using AI in the workforce can lead to the same sort of productivity gains as the investment enthusiasm on world markets suggests.