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The Insurance Game - How Sun Life Financial leverages Gamification


Gamification continues to gain ground in shaping the way people interact with information. In some cases, traditional industries that might not seem like good candidates for a gamification initiative are finding success and new ways to interact with a broader customer base. Canada-based Sun Life Financial has experienced a surge in membership thanks to a recent partnership with gamification pioneer Bunchball in launching their money UP campaign. Sun Life’s SVP of Group Retirement Services, Tim Reid, offered some isnight into the campaign and how gamificaiton is changing how information is shared with a new demographic segment.

Q. With Gen Y membership usually being low, the gamification platform was a method to increase awareness/members for this demographic. What did your data show in terms of participation amongst Gen Y members?

A. From January to December 2013, we found that use of (our secure site for the employees of our clients’ organizations) for Gen Y was at 24.5%. With money UP, Sun Life is seeing participants from a broad range of age groups but the largest demographic is Gen Y (age 21 to 35). Since we launched money UP on December 8, 2013, to March 9, 2014, we have found that 32% of participants are Gen Y.

In just a few months, that’s a 29% increase compared to our overall 2013 web statistics for This is especially encouraging because a key challenge for our industry is educating and engaging younger employees about what their workplace retirement and savings programs can offer them. With so many competing priorities and distractions in the workplace, finding time to learn about saving and investing can be difficult for all age groups. For younger employees, it’s especially challenging to prioritize when retirement is many decades away.

Sun Life needed an innovative approach to cut through the clutter and motivate all employees to learn about what their employers offer in a fun, interactive way. So far, our metrics are showing that money UP is appealing to this younger generation.

Q. What evaluation process did Sun Life go through to determine Bunchball was the best platform?

A. As the leader in group retirement services, Sun Life wanted to work with the leader in cutting edge gamification technology. Bunchball is the innovator in this space. We feel a great synergy working with them and share a vision of how we want to use money UP to engage and educate Canadians.

We were looking for a vendor that could help us integrate game mechanics into our existing retirement and savings education program and provide an engaging path to get employees to not only learn about investing, saving and retirement planning, but take the necessary steps to achieve their financial goals.

Q. Were there any prior examples of similar programs in your industry that you could draw from or is your company a pioneer in using a gamification platform?

A. It’s important to continually look outside our industry to see what other companies are doing to engage their customers – and evaluate whether that approach would be the right fit for us. With that in mind, Sun Life has had a history of using these innovative technologies to engage our clients’ employees with greater ease and convenience, whether it’s our mobile app or wireless enrolment, as examples.

With money UP, Sun Life became the first Canadian financial institution to use gamification to educate the employees of our clients’ organizations.

Q. Did you determine specific metrics of success or is the main purpose to build awareness and change behavior regarding saving for retirement?

A. Sun Life’s goal in launching a gamification initiative was to help employees learn more - and ultimately earn more - for their retirement through increased financial literacy, retirement education and increased savings. The need is there.

Just 37% of Canadian employees say they have a very good or excellent understanding of their workplace retirement plan. (source: 2013 CAP Member Survey, Benefits Canada). Only 17% of employees have maximized their contributions in 2013, even though 74% realize they are leaving “free money” on the table. (source: 2013 CAP Member Survey, Benefits Canada).

We are monitoring weekly web metrics and participation rates to determine how successful we are in getting our clients’ employees to participate in money UP. More importantly, we are also keenly interested in how we are changing behaviours such as increased usage of our financial planning tools or increased enrolment in a product.

We are putting together our first quarterly report but even with a recent sample review of 70 employees, we saw that 20% took action either by enrolling in a new product or by increasing their contribution levels.

Q. How have other demographic groups in your memberhsip responded so far?

A. Sun Life is getting interesting metrics across the spectrum of age groups:

Gen X (36-45) and late boomers (46-55) each make up 27% of participants so they’re not far behind Gen Y.

Early boomers (56-65) comprise 13% of the participants.

Q. How do you see the platform expanding? If successful, does this change in any way how Sun Life does business in the future?

A. Saving and investing for retirement is an ongoing process, and we will be driving our clients’ employees back to money UP with new missions and levels to introduce new concepts and reinforce key tasks and messages (such as revisiting their asset allocation regularly).

Sun Life plans to implement annual campaigns that will keep money UP front and centre as one of our premier education tools. We feel this approach will revolutionize how our industry provides education programs within the workplace, whether it’s for retirement and savings or for health benefits.

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