PSNC 2020: Promoting Lifelong Financial Wellness for Employees

The keys are tailoring it for people as they age, making it actionable and providing one-on-one access to a financial adviser.

At the virtual session “Promoting Lifelong Financial Wellness for Employees” at the 2020 PLANSPONSOR National Conference, speakers discussed how they use plan demographics and knowledge about the composition of their workforce to decide what kinds of financial education to offer.

Sixty percent of VSP Global’s workforce is female, so many of the financial wellness programs it offers are tailored to them, said April Bettencourt, senior director, global employee benefits at the company.

“We have five lines of business, including laboratories where employees don’t have access to computers,” so VSP makes its digital programs available on cellphones and tablets, Bettencourt said. VSP also sends annual retirement readiness mailers to employees’ homes with specific messages according to age, she said.

Through surveys, VSP has also been able to find out what its employees are interested in learning about, and at the top of that list are budgeting and debt management, Bettencourt said, adding that all employees are given access to certified financial planners (CFPs).

“We also look at how retirement ready they are,” Bettencourt said. “This is how we slice and dice our data.”

The first thing UBS does when it starts working with its plan sponsor clients is to help them promote their financial wellness programs to their workers, said Sudhir Tauro, executive director, UBS Workplace Wealth Services. “Only 40% of employees are aware of their company’s wellness program, and, of them, 67% participate,” Tauro said.

The people who are the most likely to participate are men, younger employees and those with the most assets, Tauro said. To compensate for the low participation rates among women, UBS provides its plan sponsor clients with communications to target them, he said.

It is important to offer programs that will resonate with various age groups, he said. Those in their 20s are typically most interested in managing credit card debt and building up emergency savings, Tauro said. Those in their 30s and 40s are often concerned with saving up money to buy a home, taking care of elderly parents and building up adequate retirement savings, he continued.

“Older employees nearing retirement focus almost exclusively on retirement, longevity and having the funds to leave a legacy,” Tauro said. “By understanding these various needs by age, we can tailor our financial wellness program to make it relevant and actionable.”

Kelli Send, principal, founding member, Francis Investment Counsel LLC, said that beyond looking at the demographic data, it is very helpful to survey workers to find out what they want to learn about.

It is also critical for plan sponsors to offer one-on-one financial planning advice sessions to participants and for the sponsor to assume that cost, Send said. “At the end of the day, what matters is getting one-on-one advice from a financial planner who can met the participant where they are at in their financial journey, be it early, mid- or late career,” Send said.

Francis Investment Counsel creates unique financial wellness programs for each of its plan sponsor clients, Send said, taking into consideration the operational concerns of each workforce. For instance, employees may work in a manufacturing plant and not have access to a computer, or they may be shift workers, or perhaps not tech savvy, she said.

Financial wellness programs should take a multi-channel approach, because different age groups prefer to be reached through different formats, such as on-site group meetings and online video, she said.

Send agreed with Bettencourt that successful financial wellness programs need to include access to an adviser. “You need to follow up with money advice, not so much from a call center, but we feel very strongly it is the relationship between the participant and the adviser that will enable a person to make true financial progress.”

Francis Investment Counsel has “had great success in gamifying and using polling in our classes to drive engagement,” Send said. It also helps to drive participation if workers hear testimonials from peers who have participated in the financial wellness program, she added.

“Lastly, and this is super important, embed the ability to track change, to create a before and after picture you can show to the people making the decision to fund the program, to see that it is actually making a difference for people,” Send said.

Sudhir said UBS has learned through surveys that participants want a financial wellness program that touches on many different topics. “Ninety percent felt good about their experience when there were six or more features,” he said. “They are not looking to solve just one problem, and when they are offered these resources, they are more satisfied with their employer.”