The benefits of financial wellness programs for employees

Money Matters

By Jim Mears, President and CEO, BayPort Credit Union

As business owners, if there is one thing we know well, it’s that our approach to employee financial education and wellness is not one-size-fits-all. A recent study conducted by the Filene Research Institute, a credit union and consumer finance think tank headquartered in Wisconsin, found that 50 percent of workers experience financial stress. Knowing this, it is no surprise that financial stress impacts physical health, emotional health and productivity. The Filene Research Institute recommends implementing workplace financial well-being programs to assist with five key concepts:

  1. Improve financial capability and reduces financial precarity among employees.
  2. Differentiate your company from other employers.
  3. Attract and retain talent.
  4. Reduce productivity losses; save your organization money.
  5. Turn employees into advocates for your organization.

Increasingly, this is why organizations are recognizing the need to create holistic employee financial well-being programs designed to lessen the burden and counter-productivity impacts. Through the interactive use and application of FinTech platforms, business owners can expediently reach and help more employees while also leveraging existing financial education offerings and outreach initiatives. By better understanding employees’ financial concerns, employers can then work to improve their long-term financial health and wellness. To do this, organizations must embrace being innovative, high-tech and high-touch.

Be innovative

Being innovative means always thinking about the most convenient, interactive ways to enhance employees’ financial wellness and experience. Similarly, people are looking for highly personalized experiences most valuable to them based on their individual and family needs.

BayPort knew it needed to expand its financial literacy outreach to be more appealing in a digital-friendly world. After strategic research and planning, we partnered with the financial wellness platform of LifeCents to help us accomplish this. Through this partnership, we launched SmartCents, a customized mobile-friendly, chat-like tool that uses Artificial Intelligence and gamification designed to help improve employees’ financial wellness.

Be high-tech

To me, high-tech means innovation in action. Through the use of FinTech platforms, employers can better understand their workers’ financial concerns, while also working to help improve the well being of the community-at-large.

After the rollout of SmartCents, BayPort is able to leverage the gamification system to create incentive-backed “challenges” to encourage employees to use the platform. To participate, employees were invited to sign up, complete a “welcome badge” and be entered for a chance to win up a money reward toward paying down their debts.

Be high-touch

For a business to be genuinely well rounded, it has to be high-touch. This often means personalized, one-on-one outreach that best meets and accommodates employees’ needs.

However, through the use of Artificial Intelligence, your research can have implications beyond employees. For example, with the data we have been able to collect, we can modify and/or use our existing resources to better reach and serve the community.

The statistics are pointed.

  • 85 percent of users are interested in improving their credit score.
  • 50 percent of users indicate they do not use a budget.
  • 20 percent report having bad credit is a money issue that keeps them up at night.

Knowing this, we are able to create highly personalized education outreach initiatives. Currently, we are leveraging our existing curriculum and resources to plan and host interactive education workshop events on both the Virginia Peninsula and Southside. These efforts are focused on understanding and improving FICO scores, as well as budgeting.

Identifying people’s most pressing financial education needs enables business owners to improve education, program offerings, marketing, messaging and communications. The Filene Research Institute recommends several steps to build a financial well-being program, to understand employees’ financial health, needs and challenges, as well as attitudes towards money.

  • Provide today to help employees earn, spend, save, borrow, insure and plan.
  • Understand your employees. Learn their financial health, needs, challenges and attitudes towards money.
  • Get leadership on board.
  • Include a mix of high-tech and high-touch for the most effective programs.
  • Consider a partner.
  • Identify your goals and measure results.

The goal of holistic financial wellness programs is for workers and employers alike to feel comfortable telling his or her financial story, so the business can implement and invest in a well-designed financial wellness program that works.

Jim Mears is president and CEO of BayPort Credit Union. He can be reached at 757-873-4032 or

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