Over the past few years, financial institutions have significantly increased their investment in initiatives to grow consumer and small business financial literacy. An even more recent development has been the emergence of workplace-based financial wellness programs: a 2018 survey by Strategic Benefit Services found that 59% of employers offer financial wellness programs or planned to do so. And recent research by Alright Solutions found that 64% of employers say their organization’s financial wellness program is more important now than it was two years ago.
This rise of workplace financial wellness programs has been driven by several factors, including:
The overall growth of investment in financial education programs by the financial services sector in response to concerns about gaps in financial literacy levels, and the proven positive impact that financial education programs have in driving smarter financial behavior by consumers and small businesses.
Employer desire for additional benefits and services to attract and retain staff.
Employee need for financial education: PwC’s 2018 Employee Financial Wellness Survey found that 41% of employees say their employer’s financial wellness plan has helped them get their spending under control.
Recognition of the value and critical role the workplace channel can play in teaching financial concepts, as well as in providing advice and potential solutions.
Financial firms providing workplace financial wellness programs include banks, investment firms, and employee benefits providers. Many of the leading firms in these sectors have launched new or enhanced existing financial wellness programs over the past year:
Principal launched Principal Milestones, which provides personalized information based on an online assessment.
MassMutual introduced MapMyFinances, a financial and benefits planning tool that features a financial wellness score.
Morgan Stanley Wealth Management launched an enhanced Financial Wellness Program for employees of mid-to-large sized corporations, which features a digital portal, a catalog of financial wellness materials, financial assessment as well as the option to collaborate with a Financial Advisor or through Morgan Stanley’s online investing program.
Unfortunately, financial wellness programs do not tend to be immediately embraced by employees. This can be attributed to a number of factors, including a lack of interest among employees, perceived complexity of the programs, and the lack of resources to manage the program. To overcome these challenges, employers must clearly communicate to employees how they will benefit from engaging with the financial wellness program. To that end, financial institutions need to support employers in marketing the program to employees. It’s also important to gather feedback from employers in order to enhance features and improve the user experience.
The growth in workplace financial wellness programs shows no sign of abating, and we expect financial institutions to further improve and differentiate their programs through new features and options (such as enhancing access to the program via digital channels), as well as continue to develop financial wellness-related content.
EMI analyzed 2018 marketing spend by 27 of the leading U.S. banks, and found that most banks are ramping up their investment in marketing. The rise in marketing budgets is driven by a number of factors, including:
The continued growth of the U.S. economy.
The ongoing scaling back of bank’s branch networks. This reduces their on-the-ground presence, so banks need to invest more in marketing to maintain brand awareness. In addition, cost savings from smaller branch networks can be redirected to other functions, including marketing.
The need for established banks to reposition themselves in a changing financial services ecosystem, characterized by the emergence of fintech firms and direct (branchless) banks.
Overall, marketing spending by the banks rose 13% to $13.0 billion in 2018.
17 banks grew their marketing budgets.
14 banks increased their marketing spend by double-digit rates, led by Wells Fargo (+40%), BBVA Compass (+34%) and Capital One (+30%).
The 27 banks’ cumulative marketing spend represented 2.9% of their 2018 net revenues, which represents a 17 basis point rise from the banks’ 2017 marketing ratio.
The marketing ratios of the 27 banks ranged from 11.2% for American Express to 1.0% for Wells Fargo.
A majority of the banks (16 of the 27) had marketing ratios in the 1.5% – 2.5% range.
The variation in marketing ratios is due to on a number of factors, including product concentration, size of branch networks, perceived importance of strong brand equity, as well as the timing of marketing investments (such as the launch of new advertising campaigns).
For example, American Express and Discover have no branch networks, are primarily focused on selling credit and charge cards, and have traditionally invested to maintain strong brand awareness. Therefore, their marketing ratios are more in line with fast moving consumer goods firms, rather than financial institutions.
15 banks increased their marketing ratios between 2017 and 2018.
Wells Fargo, which has traditionally had a low marketing ratio as it focused resources of its large branch network, increased its marketing spend by 40% to more than $850 million in 2018, and its marketing ratio grew by 30 bps. The strong rise in spend was in large part due to the launch of the “Re-Established” integrated marketing campaign in May 2018. It is worth noting that Wells Fargo remains well below national bank peers, such as JPMorgan Chase and Bank of America.
Other banks with strong increases in their marketing ratios include Capital One (+161 bps to 7.7%) and BBVA Compass (+57 bps to 3.3%).
As financial institutions seek to position themselves as trusted providers of financial advice and solutions, one of their key areas of focus is financial education. Many of these firms have focused attention on establishing comprehensive financial education programs. However, equal attention should be given to how these programs are communicated. If you want to maximize the impact of your financial education program, consider the following methods to build client awareness and engagement.
Partner with national and local organizations seeking to grow financial literacy. Partnering with these organizations can take many forms, including publishing surveys or providing funding. In June 2017, Wells Fargo announced a $100,000 donation to Junior Achievement of Chicago. Operation Hope has partnerships with a number of leading banks (including SunTrust, Regions Bank and First Tennessee Bank), who all offer the Operation Hope Inside financial well-being program in several of their branches.
Host or sponsor events. Events constitute one of the key ways for firms to build direct engagement with their financial education programs. Firms have many options on how they wish to scale and direct their investment. MassMutual hosts FutureSmart Challenge events to provide financial education to middle school students, reaching 40,000 students in 17 cities to date. In June 2017, SunTrust launched the “onUp on Tour” to promote its onUp movement in 45 cities. And In October 2017, American Century Investments partnered with Investopedia to launch a Financial Fitness Tour, featuring a 45-foot bus, called “The Financial Coach.” These firms have extended the impact of these live events with tweets and postings on online portals, and also host virtual events, including podcasts and webinars.
Generate engagement through games and contests. In our highly interactive world, online games and contests can be very effective in enabling people, especially the younger demographic, to gain important financial knowledge in entertaining ways. For the past four years, H&R Block has been running the H&R Block Budget Challenge, an online game that teachers can use to teach financial concepts to high school students. In December 2017, The Hartford partnered with Junior Achievement USA to launch JA MyBiz Builder, an online experience that teaches entrepreneurial concepts to teens. And GOBankingRates recently launched a competition (with a top prize of $1,000) to identify the best tips, tricks and tactics for navigating one’s personal finances.
Reinforce the financial education message via social media. A number of financial firms are using Twitter hashtags to generate interaction around their financial education programs. Examples include Ally Financial’s #WalletWiseWednesday twitter series and Regions Bank’s @FinancialFitness hashtag (part of its Financial Fitness Fridays program). Other ways of using social media to promote financial education include events (Jump$tart Coalition’s Facebook Live event to discuss deposit insurance) and social communities (Canvas Designed by Citi, a beta-testing community that enables Citi customers to co-create products and digital capabilities promoting financial wellness).
Leverage online and mobile banking platforms. As consumers become comfortable with using online and mobile banking to perform a wide range of financial activities, some providers are starting to incorporate financial education tools into these platforms. Bank of America recently added a money management and financial education tool into its mobile banking platform. And Wells Fargo is planning to launch Greenhouse by Wells Fargo, a mobile banking experience that includes financial management tools.