Sav Pushparajah
Sep 30, 2022
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5 min
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Product thinking
Opportunity driven

Product Design and Distribution Obligations (DDO) – The opportunity FI’s are missing

History’s reliance on disclosure to drive good consumer outcomes was probably a bit naive.

The Wallis Report on the Australian Financial System (1997) placed a great amount of faith in the market to deliver the right products and services, believing that disclosure (e.g. product disclosure statements and terms and conditions) would fix any problems. Unfortunately, disclosures are not customer-centric and therefore are hard to understand, so it is no surprise that 80% of customers do not read PDS’s before purchasing a product or policy (source: Insurance Council of Australia’s Effective Disclosure Task Force). Knowing this fact misconduct by FI’s was rife, eventually leading to a royal commission 20 years later.

The Wallis Report of 1997 could not have imagined a world where information moves at the pace it does today. Social media platforms give consumers a collective voice to praise an organisation and take it to lofty heights, or condemn it and bring it down. Although there were some changes made by regulators over the 20 year period, the main takeaway should be that FI’s shouldn't stay still, even if governments and regulators are. It is important to evolve your people, processes, and technology to meet customer expectations, or risk losing market share to new players as we have seen happen. DDO is simply the regulator playing catchup, by mandating modern product development processes that are more customer-centric.

The shocking findings from the Royal Commission into misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry (Hayne Royal Commission 2017–2019) has put significant doubt into the minds of consumers.

DDO can be treated as another compliance project with a focus on designing and implementing a product governance framework that is enough to tick all the right boxes (for now). Or, you could take a step back and think about how to continually evolve your practices, tools, and mindset as customer expectations change. The latter would mean that the benefit of your compliance investment is growth, rather than the usual singular benefit of retaining your banking (or other) license.

DDO introduces four Design Obligations and five Distribution Obligations. Issuers of financial products must meet the Design Obligations. Organisations who sell direct to customers must comply with the Distribution Obligations.

There is no silver bullet, but there are great companies such as Productboard that take learnings from over 3500 organisations globally to build product management software that is not only customer-centric, but also provides robust product governance. What’s more, the software continually improves as practices and technology change across the world, meaning that you can keep up with changing customer expectations and stay ahead of governments and regulators.

Take feedback from a variety of sources directly into Productboard.

The four design obligations aim to ensure that products developed provide a real benefit to a group of people (target market).

Productboard as a system of record to capture target market research, feedback, and significant dealings.
  1. Target Market Determination (TMD): As part of the research phase data can be gathered from various sources (e.g, Survey tools), stored, and tagged within Productboard to gain a deep understanding of customer circumstances (e.g. understanding of product features, capacity to meet financial obligations) and review triggers identified.
  2. Record keeping: Critical data stored within Productboard can help illustrate TMD and the reasons behind chosen product features (e.g. prioritisation scores based on importance to segment, objectives, drivers).
  3. Assessing the appropriateness of the target market: Integrated customer service systems such as Zendesk and Intercom enable customer feedback to be reviewed in real-time to determine when an incident triggers a target market review.
  4. ASIC notification: As all data is stored within Productboard, so issuers can quickly notify ASIC if it becomes aware of a significant dealing.
Prioritize, deliver and distribute features that have the best impact on your target market.

The five Distribution obligations aim to ensure products are marketed to those it benefits and not those who it doesn’t.

  1. Prohibition of retail product distribution conduct without the target market determination: Productboard portal enables Issuers to notify Distributors that a product is ready for distribution (with a clear TMD). It also enables distributors to suggest and vote on enhancement to improve benefits to TMD.
  2. Prohibition of retail product distribution if the target market determination may not be appropriate: Data gathered by Distributors in the form of integrations with Salesforce and email can help identify where a TMD may be incorrect. Data can be shared securely with an Issuer within 10 days.
  3. Take reasonable steps to ensure distribution is consistent with the target market determination: Integration with tools such as Salesforce enables Distributors to align with the target market specified by the issuer.
  4. Collect, keep and provide distribution information: Integrated customer service systems such as Zendesk and Intercom enable Distributors to store and gather data, such as complaints received, within Productboard, so it can be tagged and shared with Issuers within 10 days.
  5. Notify the Issuer of significant dealings not consistent with the target market determination: All data is stored within Productboard, so Distributors can quickly notify Issuers if it becomes aware of a significant dealing.

Creating fast and effective feedback loops between ASIC, Issuers, and Distributors using specialist product management software will not only result in better outcomes for consumers and businesses, but also help governments and regulators stay up to date with modern practices.

If you are interested in finding out more about Productboard click here. Alternatively, if you want to have a virtual or real-life coffee and discuss further, drop me a line sav@productbox.com.au.

Key references

  1. Regulatory Guide RG 274 Product design and distribution obligations
  2. Deloitte: Are you DOO and PIP ready?

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