There’s a steady drumbeat of news stories about how Americans aren’t saving enough for retirement, so SunTrust came up with an entire timely communications platform to address that concern among existing and potential customers. It created a sub-brand called onUp and even based a 2016 Super Bowl commercial around how SunTrust is helping people overcome such anxieties with education, determination and proper planning—and a website to facilitate it all.
But that wasn’t enough for the Atlanta-based financial services giant. Now SunTrust is working with other major brands and employers to pilot and roll out Momentum onUp, a financial wellness curriculum for employees, as the next great HR benefit. Fellow Atlanta-based companies including Delta and Home Depot have already signed up for the program, which helps their employees learn more about how to tackle retirement savings and other financial anxieties—and brings them peace of mind.
SunTrust is comparing the need for financial wellness coaching to the need companies recognized several years ago to help their employees with physical fitness. Companies are realizing how many employees spend time at work—a lot of time, for some of them—worrying about their personal financial situation. So SunTrust offers Momentum onUp at cost to help companies increase the financial well-being and preparedness of their employees as the next “must-have” employee benefit.
“Financial wellness is the new physical wellness,” Brian Ford (right), who designed and runs the program for SunTrust, told brandchannel. “An employee doesn’t know that he or she is going to die of a heart attack in three years. But they do know that they’re fighting with their spouse about money or they may be ill-prepared for retirement, and the kids are going to college. Financial wellness is so much mor eoin the mind of employees but is underserved in the workplace.”
The relationship with corporate clients and with their employees also, of course, boosts the SunTrust brand and broadens its exposure.
brandchannel talked with Ford for more insights:
We see so much about how most Americans are woefully unprepared, or under-prepared, for retirement, which is one of their biggest financial problems. How did Momentum onUp get started?
[SunTrust CEO] Bill Rogers assumed that his employees were doing better than average in their retirement planning. They did a survey and he found out that they were just average. He said it wasn’t acceptable; we have to start at home. They went on a search for programs and I came in and we trained 16,000 of the 24,000 employees at SunTrust.
We had great success, and we moved the needle in some very significant ways as far as financial wellness is concerned. We reduced turnover, increased productivity. A couple of years ago I was approached and company was purchased by SunTrust and I came on as a full-time teammate. Last year we did a pilot and this year we’re going more broadly for corporate America.
Why should other companies care about this?
First, we’re helping them understand that folks are struggling financially. Then the question is what does that have to do with your employees? They’re not leaving that at home. They’re bringing that stress to work. And it’s costing companies money. The average employee spends 28 hours each month stressed over their personal finances, costing companies about $5,000 per year per uneducated employee.
We’re not necessarily trying to sell this to a CEO but letting them know what we’re doing, and their eyes light up because they know about low 401(k) participation at their companies, and they know what happens when they miss pay day by just a day because of some glitch — they say this is an issue within our company. Tell us more. It’s those CEOs we’re gravitating toward.
Our job is to get their employees in a better place financially and give them credit for it. With Home Depot and Delta it’s not about SunTrust. It’s their financial wellness program. We’re not selling a product to the employees or even marketing to the employees. It’s provided at cost. It’s not being sold as a product from SunTrust. It’s not provided for free. We’re trying to recoup our investment.
How does Momentum onUp work?
We follow a three-step process: inspire, educate and equip. You can’t just start with education … you’ve got to start with inspiration, then educate them with what we call our “eight pillars,” and then you need to equip them with tools that help long-term behavior change. We can do it online; classes; physical sessions; a work book; or in-person classes. And this isn’t a one-hour lunch-and-learn put on by your 401(k) provider. We get 30 to 40 percent participation. And 50 percent of employees say they definitely need this help. We have 40 companies on board now.
You describe this as the “new physical wellness benefit.” What do you mean?
CEOs are seeing it as a way to differentiate themselves, building trust. The difference between physical and financial wellness is that financial is easier. You can’t automate your physical wellness.
Does Momentum onUp do anything for the SunTrust brand?
I think so. There’s no doubt that when you get an employee in a better place financially and do it in a fun and engaging way without strings attached, and they’re thanking their employers, there’s no doubt that C-suites of their organizations are grateful for SunTrust and our relationships and differentiating ourselves. CEOs are looking at us differently; “Look at what they did.”
And the employees [of clients] do know that it’s brought to them from SunTrust and powered by SunTrust, and when our people come in they share their titles. But it’s subtle; it’s about [the clients’] companies. Marketing materials are all done by the [client] company and they can name their program. Their logo is front and center when employees first log on.
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