Need to know:
- Employers are increasingly keen to offer holistic financial education, including around employees’ personal finances.
- New providers are offering ways employers can offer help with an employee’s personal finances while staying at arm’s length.
- Like financial education around pensions and benefits, education around personal financial wellbeing can benefit from audience segmentation and using forms of communication that are not static and passive.
There was a time when financial education centred on pensions and not much else, but the scope has now widened, with employers increasingly playing a role in helping staff improve their financial wellbeing.
Research by financial education provider Nudge, Financial education: the definitive guide 2016, published in March 2016, found that the number of organisations now supporting their employees’ financial wellbeing increased by 45% in 2015. The level at which employers are prepared to get involved with their employees’ finances is also deepening, albeit with a third-party provider between them to keep them at arm’s length.
According to Nudge’s research, more than 50% of financial education programmes were limited to the workplace pension in 2013. However, its 2016 research found that 96% of employers would like to provide a holistic programme, covering pensions, employee benefits and personal finances.
As well as education on personal finance issues, this more holistic offering may also include wider financial support services, such as access to loans that employees can repay through salary deductions. Monica Kalia, founder of Neyber, which provides such a service, says: “It is a new concept and there will be early adopters that are prepared to do something different because they want to have a best-in-class benefits package.
“While it may not be an employer’s first inclination to do something about financial stress in the workplace, it is clear that they are starting to recognise, much like mental health, that the problems are at their door so they need to be part of the solution,” adds Kalia. “Helping employees with financial wellbeing, outside of just providing them with a pay cheque, can go a long way to helping with engagement.”
Another way some employers are offering personal financial wellbeing support is through financial services that help with day-to-day budgeting. Provider Squirrel offers a service that diverts an employee’s monthly outgoings, such as bills, into a separate bank account once they have been paid, allowing them to manage their money and save if they want to. If an employee wants to access their savings, they contact Squirrel’s call centre and explain what they want it for. Mutaz Qubbaj, chief executive officer at Squirrel, says: “Helping employees manage their money is the last taboo and something employers can do to boost engagement and the wellbeing of their employees.”
Technology is increasingly seen as part of the solution when it comes to engaging staff with financial wellbeing. While traditionally, employers may have put information about pensions and other benefits on the intranet, many employers are now taking a more proactive approach. This could include targeted support and communication around legislative changes or lifestyle events, such as moving house, having a baby, or reaching retirement, or when there is an organisational change or drive towards a particular benefit.
Providers such as Nudge also enable employees to set their own ‘nudges’, perhaps to remind them when their individual savings account (Isa) rate is going to change, for example. Tim Perkins, director at Nudge, says: “What our clients have in common is that they all recognise the importance of an employee’s financial wellbeing and the impact on the employer, and they realise that the traditional channels don’t work.”
Simply expecting employees to read something on a static site is unlikely to have the desired impact if it is not supported by additional, and more interactive, engagement methods and resources, such as financial modelling tools.
Just putting information on an intranet is probably the worst way to do it, says Jonathan Watts-Lay, director of Wealth at Work, which provides financial education in the workplace. “The most effective [method] is face-to-face. That could be seminars or [a] one-to-one [session. In] second place is a webinar, which is live, so it is still quite interactive, and then [there are] a lot of joint third places, things such as animation and pre-recorded webcasts,” he adds.
When it comes to engaging staff with their financial wellbeing, workforce segmentation can help to overcome logistical constraints. “[Organisations] might have people in a head office, people on the road, people on a production line or shift working and overseas workers,” adds Watts-Lay. “There are two dimensions: what is most effective in that [education] pecking order and marrying that against logistical constraints.”
Technology will become increasingly important as more millennials enter the workforce. However, Watts-Lay says: “We find our helpline really works. On something such as pensions people like to speak to someone. Technology is great, but it isn’t the answer to everything.”
Police Mutual engages staff with loan offering
Police Mutual, an organisation that offers financial services to police and military employees and their families, gives its 500 employees access to competitive loans through Neyber, a service where monthly repayments are deducted straight from their pay packet.
Since introducing the scheme at the beginning of 2015, around 5% of the organisation’s staff have taken up the service, typically consolidating existing loans and borrowing an average of £10,500 over a four-and-a-half-year repayment period.
Kenny Graves, head of HR at Police Mutual, says: “I think [employers] do have to pay attention to the stresses and strains that people have in their personal life. You have to get the basics in place in terms of feeling safe and being secure financially.”
There is no cost for offering the service. “It is probably one of the most straight-forward deductions we do, so it is almost a zero overhead,” adds Graves.
The organisation utilises a range of channels to engage employees and communicate the benefit, including posters, email and SMS. It also held a roadshow walk-in session attended by the provider.