Mercer has just launched Care & Living with Mercer (CaLM) a service which will help Australians plan, implement and monitor arrangements for their living and aging care needs. The program is the brainchild of Will Burkitt, Mercer's Leader of Retirement Innovation and Care & Living. He spoke to Industry Moves about his motivation and the journey he has taken to get this product off the ground.
I came over to Mercer so I could create this product. When I was at ANZ, I had this idea and I took it to ANZ bank management about a year before the Royal Commission. They were downsizing [and] not looking at new growth initiatives so I decided which organisation to approach and that was Mercer. I was talking to Mercer for about a year because it's something Mercer hasn't done before. It takes some time to sell the model.
I guess it grew over time and [from] my observations working with wealth management clients and advisers, combined with the demographic changes ... and increasingly more and more people needing aged care.
There was this massive gap in the market and that's what sent me down this path. The vision is for it to be the most widely used service in Australia so it had to be affordable and also accessible. That's also why I joined Mercer is for relationships with super funds and employers, as well as the contributing capabilities such as contact centre, allied health specialists, capital and quality.
It's not a direct to consumer service. We're working through trusted institutions. We look for employers, or super funds or (for example) combining with wealth managers and advisers. They pay an annual license fee, not dissimilar to wellbeing benefits or member services for super, and then institutions promote to their end cohort (members, employees, customers).
Then they can access Mercer Care & Living through a portal. A user can answer pertinent questions which will lead to them being provided a personalised questionnaire. The user can return to this roadmap and rely on the steps and actions for specific guidance towards solving their desired outcomes. The user can also request a roadmap review which is provided by the Care & Living with Mercer "Care Concierge" advice team who provide very individualised additional actions for the user to rely upon. That portal is designed as a self-help [but] if you don't feel comfortable...you can engage the care concierge on a fee for service basis.
A lot of thought goes into it but deliberately the end design is made to look like it's quite simple. For me, personally, about five years ago I just decided to start developing connections and leveraging LinkedIn and following breadcrumbs and reading as much as I could.
We have partnered with two experts from the aged care industry - agedcare101, [that provides] publicly available information in an easily digestible format and we've cloned that into our website. We've also bought into our team an expert care concierge, Danielle Robertson.
We see the aged care industry as arms-length so we don't take any commissions. We are fee for service but we still want to foster good working positive relationships with the providers in the industry as well as then working with employers and super funds.
It's based on the number of users, a sliding scale depending on the size of the organisation. There is a license fee for the institution and then for those users who choose to use the care concierge model [it's] fee for service, not dissimilar to financial planners.
A care needs assessment and plan plus the placement can cost $5,000 to $6,000 with ongoing support $2800 a year with full quarterly report.
It didn't exist before we launched so taking a new concept to organisations [was a challenge]. Not many people are early adopters, many are followers, so trying to get the attention of decision makers [and have them understand] that this is a really important issue that needs addressing.
Number 2 was COVID-19. We we were due to actually begin building the service in April 2020 so we had to delay. [But in the end] it was really fun to do and it proved you can build really meaningful quality services even if you are not able to meet face to face.
I grew up in Darwin and lived through Cyclone Tracy. I remember hiding under a round cedar table with Mum and Dad holding mattresses on the sides. The wind howling around us for five or six hours. I remember more afterwards walking over bricks, the walls were gone, there was debris everywhere. Everyone was homeless. Then I grew up in a household where mum developed this Red Cross Home Care and years later that has stayed with me and I think that's where I developed this interest in aged care from.