Workplace financial wellness programs
have not generally been well—with limited
employee uptake and low sustained
usage. The Rx? Well-designed, holistic,
scalable programs that combine the best
of design thinking and digital technology.
The opportunity for financial providers is
now, in a multi-billion-dollar market that
has no clear leader as of yet.
2 CORNERING WORKPLACE FINANCIAL WELLNESS
Historically, as employees’ needs
changed, companies simply layered
additional benefits onto existing plans.
Given the comparatively homogeneous
employee profile (male, married with
children, retiring with a gold watch
after many years of service), this
approach fit the need. While neither
appealing nor innovative, a one-size-
fits-all model worked.
But it doesn’t anymore. Today’s diverse
workforce ranges widely, from age and
gender, to marital status and life goals.
In a globally competitive business
environment, companies depend on
their workforces more than ever to
be productive, innovative and on task.
While those traits may not be intuitively
linked to employees’ financial health,
companies have learned they are
intertwined in a way that impacts
business performance significantly.
A recent study shows a company
with 50,000 employees can save
from $33 million to $49 million
annually by increasing the financial
wellness score of its workforce by
just one point (on a 10-point scale).
Two points reaps $65 million to
$97 million in savings.1
Conversely, employers who don’t
tackle the issue could risk up to
$250 billion in lost wages due
to employees’ stress about their
personal finances. Employees report
spending approximately 150 work
hours annually—almost four weeks
of work time—worrying about money.2
Employers’ enlightenment could
be financial firms’ gain. Eight out
of 10 employers now offer a financial
wellness program, up from just two
out of 10 in 2015.3
But they seem to
need help with uptake and sustained
use, as only 31% of employees
participate in them.4
Financial services firms who can
capitalize on this growing opportunity
with well-designed, holistic offerings
may corner a market that has no clear
owner. But they must act fast. 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 now, before the market could
Eight out of 10 employers
offer financial wellness
to improve employees’
financial health, but
only 31% of employees
participate in them.4
3CORNERING WORKPLACE FINANCIAL WELLNESS
Holistic offerings created with design
thinking are de rigueur for the real
competitors in this market. It’s not
enough to address piecemeal aspects
with solo programs like retirement saving
and budgeting. A holistic approach helps
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). It moves beyond the expected
into a service that recognizes finances
touch on just about every aspect of
employees’ lives—from children, to aging
parents, to education and a home.
Putting employees and employers at the
heart of a holistic offering—from design
through execution—is key to success.
The research proves design thinking is
worth the effort; design-led companies
outperformed the S&P 500 stock index by
211 percent over a recent 10-year period.5
To create guided, specific, tailored
offerings by employee profile, financial
firms need to involve end users in the
process. Targeted outcomes depend on it.
They cannot rely on employer input alone,
as evidenced by Bank of America Merrill
Lynch’s 2018 Workplace Benefits Report.
When asked what would help improve
employee financial wellness the most,
employees wanted practical guidance
that would “focus on the single next thing
to do—one step at a time.” By contrast,
employers said the top item to improve
workers’ financial wellness would be:
“considering the impact of employer
benefits on overall personal finances.”6
Wealth managers, insurance companies, fintechs and other
financial firms will need to get a few things right as they design
their approach. Moving quickly is key, but not at the cost of a
comprehensive strategy. A well-designed, modern offering
will ultimately move employees from financial literacy to
financial empowerment—giving them the tools, information
and customer experience that create sustained behavior
change in their financial lives.
5CORNERING WORKPLACE FINANCIAL WELLNESS
Using design thinking could help
your firm avoid the disconnect between
employees’ and employers’ views of what
is needed. Good design thinking could
ensure your firm’s offerings demystify
and encourage financial wellness,
rather than cause analysis paralysis
due to a bevy of untailored information.
Firms that really want to move the needle
will ensure their financial wellness
program encompasses a user’s context.
For many employees, an experience
tailored for them must take into
account the financial demands of a
larger network—their family. By doing
due diligence upfront, firms can design
offerings that could help improve more
than just an individual employee’s stress
about finances; they could also improve
quality of life for the entire family.
Using design thinking helps companies frame up employee financial wellness programs
designed with users for users—which increases the chance of uptake and sustained usage.
It’s about thinking through all the tangible and intangible things that make for
a positive experience for people and addressing the business and technology
elements needed to deliver them well.
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New technologies can help
differentiate between types and
categories of employees. Corporate
programs can and should personalize
for life events and stages. And today’s
technologies take it 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 that will most likely foster
uptake and action.
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.
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
Advanced analytics and AI can identify
employee needs and patterns of behavior,
presenting the right information at the
right time to maximize the chances
of behavior change. And, they do so
with speed, scale and cost efficiencies
not possible without them. To be truly
competitive in this market, companies
need to infuse digital strategically
throughout their offering.
7CORNERING WORKPLACE FINANCIAL WELLNESS
Over the past several years, the
number of interactive, on-demand
financial wellness apps has skyrocketed.
Employees and employers have more
choices than ever. While this sounds
like an ideal scenario, it can muddy
the waters for companies that have a
less-than-firm grasp on their employee-
experience goals for financial wellness.
Upper management increasingly
looks for a return on investment (ROI)
in this area—from improved retirement
readiness to greater workforce
productivity. But, to get to that ROI,
the financial-wellness, corporate-user
experience needs to be simplified and
personalized. The current patchwork
quilt of financial wellness apps and
programs doesn’t provide for that.
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—change
via a series of incremental tasks
that don’t overwhelm them—a good
customer experience allows for that.
A great customer experience goes one
step further, building on employee
momentum and showing milestones
that indicate progress, encouraging
continued positive behavior change.
Successful programs will educate
employees to make the best choices
in a stair-step approach, rather than
To foster this, companies must
give up the archaic service website
and anonymous contact center.
Success in this space is now measured
in outcomes. Advisors need to flip the
framework they’ve traditionally operated
in to be truly effective. Success is no
longer who put how many shares in a
plan, but rather, how many employees
have made strides to take care of their
family’s financial wellness.
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 they perform on par with
what employees expect based on their
financial experiences outside of work.
Success is no longer who
put how many shares in a
plan, but rather, how many
employees have made
strides to take care of their
family’s financial wellness.
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Most firms are not starting from
scratch, so begin with your best suit.
If your core capability is product,
complement it and expand upon it
to design solid products to back up
your education efforts. If it is advice,
build on advice. If it’s inexpensive
distribution, determine which services
differentiate your company from a
basic administrator and add them.
Your jumping-off point should already
be an area of strength.
Non-traditional partnerships and
competitors are proliferating in
this space. For example, Prudential
launched a $5 million partnership
with the Aspen Institute think tank in
2017. The organizations are working
together to create new financial tools
for workers and a financial wellness
program roadmap for companies.7
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.8
Many of the newer programs
emphasize bite-sized steps to
increase the chances of lasting
behavioral change in employees.
Employee financial wellness is a
market niche that is changing quickly.
Work with a partner who spans the
core competencies and ecosystem
players, and has experience developing
and implementing market strategies
in this space. It will save you countless
headaches along the road and can
leapfrog you ahead of competitors
who may have been early entrants.
Making your move in a multi-billion-
dollar market is no small undertaking.
But, employee financial wellness is a
noble cause and represents a market
ripe for the taking. Making your move
now could help ensure your firm is
not locked out of lucrative future
opportunities in this arena.
To enter this market in earnest and take advantage of a
limited window of opportunity, firms will need to move quickly.
A few things to keep in mind as you think about moving forward:
11CORNERING WORKPLACE FINANCIAL WELLNESS