Buyer’s guide to financial education

financial-education

What is financial education? 

Financial education provides employees with information and guidance relating to financial matters. It can cover workplace benefits such as pensions, share plans and insurance products, as well as mortgage information and issues such as dealing with debt. Financial education aims to help staff have control over their finances and improve their financial wellbeing.

What are the origins of financial education?

Financial education first hit workplaces in the 1970s as a result of mass redundancies. With long-serving employees receiving lump-sum payments, many needed financial guidance about how to best utilise their redundancy offering.

Where can employers get more information and advice? 

More information can be found on the Employee Benefits website, www.employeebenefits.co.uk.

What are the costs involved?

The costs for financial education vary, depending on the size and location of the organisation, as well as what the aims and objectives of the programme are, because this will dictate the type of content to be prepared and delivered. Providers that offer a day of presentations and follow-up workshops start with prices around the £1,200 to £1,350 mark for the day, including VAT. This would typically include two or three presentations to groups of employees in their workplace.

What are the legal implications?

Only advisers that are registered with the Financial Conduct Authority can legally give employees financial advice, although employers can still provide wider education on financial topics. 

What are the tax issues?

Individual financial education is viewed as a benefit in kind by HM Revenue and Customs, so the tax is generally charged on the cost to the employer of providing the benefit. There are exceptions, for example, there is currently a £150 limit on income tax and national insurance (NI) relief on employer-arranged pensions advice. In the March 2016 Budget, it was announced that this will increase to £500. The government is consulting on the introduction of a Pensions Advice Allowance, which would enable people to take £500 tax free from their defined contribution (DC) pension to redeem against the cost of financial advice, including those below the age of 55.

What is the annual spend?

Although there are no official figures available regarding the annual spend on financial education. According to Nudge Global’s April 2016 Workplace financial wellbeing: the definitive guide 2016 report, employers expect to pay a median of £31 per employee per annum for financial education.

Which providers have the biggest market share?

No data is available, but the largest providers include Aon Employee Benefits, Aviva, AHC, Clarity, Close Brothers Asset Management, Jelf Employee Benefits, Lemonade, Life Academy, Mattioli Woods, Money Advice Service, Nudge Global, Origen, Secondsight, Willis Towers Watson, and Wealth at Work.

Employers’ interest in financial education has rocketed in recent years as the changing legislation around pension freedoms and auto-enrolment has created a new landscape for retirement saving.

Nudge Global’s Workplace financial wellbeing: the definitive guide 2016 report, published in April 2016, found that the number of organisations supporting employees’ financial wellbeing increased by 45% over 2015, with 50% of employers now considering introducing a programme.

Financial education programmes help to inform employees about financial benefits, such as pension arrangements, share schemes, individual savings accounts (Isas) or life assurance. Financial education can also be broader in scope, helping to increase employees’ awareness of their wider personal finances or factors that could have an impact on their financial wellbeing, such as debt.

Traditionally, financial education has been delivered using face-to-face presentations, which can then be followed up using topic-specific workshops or seminars where staff can get more personalised guidance based on their individual needs. For example, staff in their 50s may want a more detailed breakdown of pension arrangements and the pension freedoms, while an employee in their 30s may find information on saving structures suitable for families and couples valuable.

The content of financial education programmes can cover general savings, estate planning, different insurance complexities, how to cope with education costs, how to buy a house for the first time, pre-retirement planning, managing changing situations financially, credit rating information and student debt, with career segmented seminars tailoring to the wide age range now found within the workplace. This more holistic approach broadens the traditional pension-focused education that was used in the past, to offer staff more choice according to their situation.

Technology tools

One trend that is having an impact on financial education is technology. The Nudge Global report found that 92% of respondents want to receive information via an online platform, and 58% want to watch an online webinar. Financial education provider Secondsight has also seen an increase in the use of webinars over face-to-face alternatives, noting that online equivalents to seminars are gaining in popularity. As well as the presentations themselves moving online, providers are also seeing a need for a 24/7 online platform providing financial and benefits information that employees can tap into whenever they require.

Subject matter has also evolved with providers often linking in to the health and wellbeing sphere to take a more holistic approach to financial education and making financial stress a key component. Financial employee benefits provider Neyber’s The DNA of financial wellbeing report, published in May 2016, found that 55% of employees feel that financial pressure affects their behaviour and ability to perform at work.

Engaging the entire workforce

The range of subjects covered by financial education reflects the multi-generational workforce that wants to take a more active role in, and understand more about, finances, in particular, with pensions. Pension freedoms, which were introduced in April 2015 to offer retirees different ways of accessing their defined contribution pension pots, as well as pensions auto-enrolment, means that employees are now more heavily involved in retirement saving without necessarily making a conscious decision to do so. Confusion over changing legislation provides a window in the financial education market that employers can fill in order to encourage engagement with occupational pension schemes.

Younger employees are another key group to engage with financial education, with targeted sessions on managing student loans and mortgages. For example, Secondsight has a dedicated presentation for younger people that it has seen increase in popularity. Meanwhile, according to Aviva organisations with instances of high stress levels and a predominantly younger workforce, such as call centres, can use financial education as an absence management tool, helping to eliminate financial stress that could be impacting upon an employee’s productivity and health.

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Providing financial education in the workplace can have a practical advantage for employers because increasing financial awareness can help to reduce healthcare insurance premiums for stress-related absence, and support workforce management by ensuring that staff can afford to retire when they want to, as well as giving employees more control over their own financial situation.

Statistics

  • 26% of UK respondents receive financial wellbeing support from their employer (Source: Salary Finance, July 2016)
  • 85% of employer respondents that offer financial education provide it as a core benefit to all staff (Source: Employee Benefits/Xerox HR Services’ Benefits research, June 2016)
  • 67% of employee respondents believe that their employer does not care about their financial wellness (Source: Neyber’s The DNA of financial wellbeing report, May 2016)
  • 20% of employee respondents do not feel their employer has explained pensions auto-enrolment in a way they could understand (Source: Aviva’s Working lives report, March 2016)