Workplace financial wellness is a multi-billion dollar market. And while corporate programs are not new, they’ve not yet taken hold as most companies hoped they would. With mostly limited uptake and low sustained usage, workplace financial wellness could use a shot in the arm to better deliver the outcomes employers want.
That means the timing could be right for wealth management and other financial services firms to take a fresh look at this market. Eight out of 10 employers now offer a financial wellness program, up from just two out of 10 in 2015. But they need help with uptake and sustained use, as only 31 percent of employees participate in them.
Financial services firms that capitalize on this growing opportunity with well-designed, holistic offerings could corner a market that has no clear owner yet. If you’re a wealth management firm looking for a complementary adjacent business, a life insurer looking at the opportunity to help consumers understand their value proposition, a fintech player whose sweet spot could be helping group benefits carriers create cutting-edge capabilities—the time to act is probably now.
Three key areas to address
A well-designed, modern workplace offering will ultimately move employees from financial literacy to financial empowerment—giving them the tools, information and customer experiences that create sustained behavior change in their financial lives. But to get to that level, financial firms need to address a few key areas, from design to the employee experience.
Use design thinking. Holistic offerings created with design thinking are de rigueur for the real competitors in this market; they design with the employee’s perspective in mind. Because it’s not enough to address piecemeal aspects with solo programs like retirement savings and budgeting. A holistic approach could help employees organize their financial “junk drawer,” drawing connections between various elements of financial health—from preparing a will, to saving for a home, to managing credit card debt (and everything in between). Good design thinking involves demystifying financial wellness, rather than causing analysis paralysis due to a bevy of untailored information.
Personalize with digital technologies. Digital technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) and analytics are the only route to the level of personalization employees expect, at the scale and competitive pricing companies desire. Corporate programs can and should personalize for life events and stages, rather than using the traditional one-size-fits-all approach. For instance, an employee making $40,000 per year with minimal health insurance and huge debt will likely not respond to content about saving for an expensive home. But the up-and-coming, recently married young executive expecting a baby probably will. Use employee demographics and data to determine not just what to offer employee segments, but in what order and prioritization.
Today’s technologies can take personalization and “moments that matter” to the next level: hyper-relevance. Using data-fueled predictive analytics, companies can offer individual employees a financial wellness customer experience tailored for their needs—hitting the right touchpoints at the times most likely to foster uptake and action.
Create a category-breaking customer experience. Simply creating a digital platform with reams of content will not move the needle. Using the principles of behavioral finance, companies need to cover every element of finances in a holistic way, but offer information in logically sequenced, digestible chunks—given that employees want to focus on the “next best thing” to do. To get to that goal, firms will need to offer a seamless, consistent, tailored customer experience across all channels—from advisors, to website, to call center. Employing a host of techniques and options—from gamification to self-service, responsive feedback options to data-fueled personalization—firms will need to consumerize employee financial wellness so it performs on par with what employees expect based on their financial experiences outside of work.
Things to consider
Play to your legacy strengths. I see firms try to dive into this space as if they’re starting from scratch, only they’re not. Whether your strong suit is product, advice or some other element, be sure to lead with it. Because . . .
. . . Ecosystems are your best friend in this space. With non-traditional partnerships and players increasing in this space, take advantage of their expertise. For example, payroll company ADP is partnering with SmartDollar to offer an online, app-based financial wellness employee program that covers everything from getting out of debt, to saving for emergencies and retirement.
Work with a trusted partner. Employee financial wellness is a market niche that is changing quickly. Work with a partner who spans the capabilities and players, with experience developing and implementing market strategies in this space. It can speed your journey and help you hit the right window of opportunity.
If your firm is considering this topic, read our latest paper, Cornering Workplace Financial Wellness.
You can also email me, Kendra Thompson, as our wealth management teams may be able to help speed the journey.