October 09, 2020
Eighteen attendees from several companies participated in the call. Companies came from various industries.
Purpose of Meeting
Business Group on Health sponsored a 60-minute member conversation on global financial well-being. The content of the call included current strategies, programs, vendors and communications.
When asked about their approach to financial well-being, 56% of the companies polled stated that their approach differs country by country rather than consisting of a global strategy. An additional 22% stated that they used neither a global strategy nor differed country by country. Instead, they turned to alternative approaches, described below.
- Two companies shared that they use a hybrid of both approaches for global financial well-being—some countries have a global strategy while others differ. One of these companies has a global strategy statement with shared concepts but faces challenges in program implementation from country to country.
- Another company emphasized the difference between its programs in the United States and those outside the U.S. Within the U.S., this company has a much more robust program in place. Companies also recognized that COVID-19 and related effects such as furloughs have had a significant impact on financial well-being.
Barriers to effective financial well-being programs mentioned during the discussion included the use of English-only programs and the need to address needs specific to financial planning and pensions for noncitizens (such as mobile employees or international transfers who are working on a local contract for a few years with the intent of returning to their home country).
All companies represented on the call indicated that their global financial well-being programs included general financial well-being education through webinar and video formats.
- None of the companies on the call indicated that they are currently offering emergency loan programs. One company, however, said it is considering this service for the upcoming year.
- One company mentioned how it wants to ensure that it is not employing a U.S.-centric approach in its financial well-being programs. The company worked to accomplish this goal by using an employee assistance program (EAP) and government resources. The company is also following the lead of its local country colleagues because they understand the local context better.
- Another company considers financial well-being a key part of wellness and offers 1-hour financial planning sessions for all employees around the world. Its global EAP provider contracts local planners, who can speak to local issues, for these sessions. The company, however, faces difficulties in delivering financial well-being services due to country-specific regulations and financial restrictions. While the company would like to offer employees a common experience, it struggles to find vendors that can help with financial well-being on a global scale.
- One call attendee said its employees found some financial well-being offerings to be too generic. This company tailored something specific to India and noted that U.S. offerings often cannot be adapted for other regions.
- Another difficulty discussed was addressing the needs of noncitizen employees who must interact with financial institutions and pension providers of outside countries.
When asked about vendors, 88% of respondents stated that they leverage programs through an EAP provider.
- One specific benefit that employers shared an interest in is financial assessments. One company recently rolled out an additional pilot assessment program. Another shared its concerns about unintentional bias in financial assessments and said it is reviewing financial assessment vendors of to encourage diversity and inclusion.
- One provider described its robust customized system that was built for the United States and has been well-received by its employees. The system consists of various benefit tools, including personalized advice and information for employees. While creating such a program requires a significant amount of effort and resources to build initially, the provider noted that it does not take a lot to manage and is something that the provider is considering for other countries.
Variation by Country
Companies on the call shared that they find significant differences in the priorities among employees around the world. While some issues may be shared across countries, they often vary in importance.
- For example, while student debt might be at the forefront of financial well-being in the U.S., other countries found housing costs or familial financial responsibilities to be the most pressing concern.
- Another employer agreed that the focus of financial well-being varied by country. This company also noted that legal concerns have become more relevant to employers during the COVID-19 pandemic as it faces relationship issues and financial obligations.
Employers also stressed the importance of having financial well-being programs that can shift as a company’s country presence and needs of local employees change.
- One company described how it primarily uses email for communication on financial well-being but is looking into other options such as webinars and videos. The company’s focus has been for employees to meet with a financial advisor, but it has had to stop on-site consultations since COVID-19.
- This same employer has launched a benefits newsletter with the aim of encouraging employees to think about benefits in different ways and to consider them from a financial perspective.
- Several employers were interested in developing communication that is engaging due to short attention spans.
- Another employer has published quarterly benefits magazines (that were 8 pages long) in the past and sent biweekly email blasts with benefit information.
- One employer is considering TikTok videos, but another employer said it would not be allowed to do so due to security requirements.
Financial well-being continues to emerge as a major focus for employers, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic. Going forward, companies are eager to develop financial well-being offerings tailored to the needs of their employees both in terms of country-specific regulations and individual differences and priorities.