Bankers are like anybody else when it comes to understanding personal finance—most are not especially good at it. Yet unlike, say, a plumber or dentist money is their field. Which makes them a lot like the cobbler whose children have no shoes.
SunTrust Banks CEO Bill Rogers saw enough. About 40% of the bank’s employees were not confident in their own finances and 46% lived paycheck to paycheck, internal research shows. That’s not good for morale or productivity—or the bank’s image, and thus its bottom line.
His research echoes broader studies. PwC found that 53% of employees stress about money and this stress causes nearly as many to be distracted at work. Financial stress leads 16% to miss work and causes poorer health in 35%.
So, two years ago—well before a recent personal information breach at the bank gave rise to an image campaign—Rodgers introduced an employee financial wellness benefit designed to turn all this around. “It’s an opportunity also to help bend the curve for society,” Rodgers told Chief Executive. “We can all learn together.”
The SunTrust program includes onsite sessions and online resources such as calculators and budgeting tools to help establish financial goals, build an emergency fund, curb spending and boost saving. Resources include game-based savings simulations.
At SunTrust, 90% of employees attended the program kickoff sessions. That’s a clear sign that they have interest and recognize such a program is needed. After completing the financial literacy lessons, 80% of the bank’s employees were more confident about their finances, and the retention rate was 50% higher. Employee engagement and productivity rose.
Among those who completed the course, those sticking to a household budget doubled to 87% and those with an emergency fund jumped to 98% from 68%. Employees increased their investment contributions for retirement by 35%, and a whopping 99% would recommend the program to others.
What began as in-house financial wellness benefit is now…
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…a bona fide nonprofit casting a long shadow. SunTrust shares its “Momentum onUp” program with corporate clients who may brand it and make it available to their own employees. Among the more than 100 companies taking advantage of the program are Home Depot, Delta Airlines, Equifax, and Waffle House.
This underscores a broad trend. A 2017 survey by the National Business Group on Health, in partnership with Fidelity Investments, found that 84% of large and midsize companies are offering financial wellness programs, up from 76% a year earlier.
Mercer has concluded that financial wellness programs bolster productivity, improve physical health, pad retirement savings, and promote greater career advancement opportunities. Little wonder that financial wellness programs are among the hottest additions to corporate benefits packages. This is an encouraging trend, and one that is long overdue.