UBS stresses financial wellness benefits during COVID-19

Financial wellbeing is no longer a nice-to-have perk – it’s a critical proposition for employers looking to keep their most talented employees, say UBS executives.

The wealth management giant recently surveyed more than 1,200 U.S. employees across a variety of industries to determine how financial wellness programs are affecting the employee experience. The survey, conducted in April and May – some of the worst months in the COVID-19 lockdown – found 82% of employees who participated in financial wellness programs felt more confident and knowledgeable about their money management. Of those who did not attend a financial education program, only 42% said they understood personal finances.

“Financial wellness programs help employees be better prepared for the future,” said Mike Nannini, Head of Client Management, Business Development and Industry Engagement at UBS. “They promote further acceptance of employee benefits and employee loyalty.”

Employees who participate in company-sponsored financial wellness programs are more likely to make long-term commitments to their employer: 81% of employees said they planned to stay with their company for five years. Less than half (48%) of those who do not participate in a financial wellness program could imagine joining the company for five years. Financial wellness programs also increase employee productivity; 88% of the employees are more likely to be “satisfied in their current position” and 91% are ready to “go beyond that”.

“Your employees spend a lot of time on personal finances because they’re stressed,” says Nannini. “Anything you can do to calm their minds and help them take control of their situation will increase productivity and morale.”

Although digital financial wellness tools and apps have become increasingly popular in recent years, they’re not enough to have a positive impact on the workforce, says Nannini. The ability to seek advice from a financial advisor or coach was important for all generations of workers, including Millennials (60%), Generation X (60%), and Baby Boomers (57%).

“When we talk to customers in the industry, there is a common theme: the workforce is younger and they think they want apps and digital tools,” says Nannini. “But millennials don’t necessarily feel that way – they want confirmation from a living person.”

For all its benefits, financial wellness programs have an engagement problem – but only because employees don’t know about it, says Nannini. The survey found that only four in ten employees knew their company offered a financial wellness benefit. Of those employees who knew about the program, two out of three participated. About half (46%) of employees who did not know that their company offered a financial wellness program said they were interested in participating.

“It came loud and clear through people who don’t appreciate what they don’t understand,” says Nannini. “We find that a lot of people don’t understand the power of the benefits their business offers. It is up to employers to make sure they communicate this so that they reap the benefits. “

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