Getting members and employees on their way to financial health is a goal for many credit unions, but figuring out how to start a financial wellness program, measure success, and maximize impact can be daunting. During Inclusiv’s 2021 virtual conference on Thursday, executives from the University Federal Credit Union ($ 3.7 billion) discussed
Both speakers emphasized that there is no one panacea or one-size-fits-all approach to implementing a financial wellness program. “It all depends on what your organizational goals and priorities are and whether you want to measure multiple financial health indicators or just one,” noted Monica Andry, UFCU’s financial health program manager.
The first step in this process is deciding how to assess the current status of the financial health of members and employees. The UFCU worked with the Financial Health Network, a Chicago-based nonprofit, to survey each individual about their spending, saving, borrowing, and planning habits, and used the results to assign financial health scores between one and 100 . The survey results showed that 48% of employees had financial problems (of which 35% were “coping” and 13% “at risk”) and 61% of the members had financial problems (38% were defined as “coping” and 23% as “vulnerable”) .
The UFCU then used survey data to launch several small pilot programs using a people-centric approach, Andry said. “We ultimately know that when our employees are financially healthy, they will have a newfound trust and experience, and this would translate into the financial health of our membership and ultimately allow us to build a financial health platform for all.”
One of the UFCU’s pilot projects was a microsite developed in May 2020 in response to COVID-19 that included an online financial education center and the ability to contact employees with specific financial issues. The credit union also used Inclusiv’s Pathways to Financial Empowerment advisory platform, and using data collected from both the microsite and the Pathways platform, the UFCU gained insights into the financial pathways of users that it later used adapt their approach to measuring and improving their financial health. Given that deleveraging and home savings were a major pain point for both members and employees, the UFCU also launched incentive campaigns to save.
After six months, the UFCU found that program participants reduced their total debt by $ 5,697, opened 39 new credit and investment products, and took steps to repair their credit and organize their finances. “It is not one of our goals to sell products or advice. In fact, we require advisors to remain impartial and recommend many alternatives, act and use us for refinancing and other products, ”Andry said.
According to Cindy Shogry-Raimer, vice president and director of community development at Greylock, the “why” behind running a financial health program through a credit union goes beyond improving the lives of members and employees.
“Our vision is to allow our community to thrive, and financial wellbeing is an important indicator of that, but it also determines our strategic plan, the products we develop, the services we offer, the educational subjects we have to offer , and even strategic partnerships with the community, “she said.
Greylock also works with the Financial Health Network to conduct surveys among participants in the financial health program as a measurement tool, but coaching is a key focus for the credit union to help improve members’ financial well-being. The coaching process begins by collecting the member’s story to capture the narrative about what is going on with them financially, the goals they want to set, and the things they need to fix, Shogry-Raimer said. The stories are then shared with the staff, senior management, and the board of directors of the credit union.
“Sharing the stories with the staff really inspired them and I would say over the past two years we have been self-recruiting, they either talk to myself or the team and are so excited about the work we are In doing so, they want to become coaches, ”she said, adding that Greylock has 27 Certified Credit Union Financial Counselors and the number is growing.
Greylock measures member progress by looking at, for example, whether they have $ 400 in savings on an emergency expense, how many overdrafts they have had, how their stock account balances have changed, and whether their creditworthiness has improved. Shogry-Raimer found that 64% of the coached members increased their creditworthiness.
The credit union also saw its full community impact as of 2020, including saving 4,000 jobs, issuing 91 ITIN loans, granting nearly 4,000 deferments, and granting emergency loans of $ 2.5 million. Shogry-Raimer encouraged other credit unions to track – and show off – similar metrics. “Do some shameless self-promotion,” she said. “Post this community impact report on your website. You will need it when you apply for grants, and it can be a great report for people who want to work for you. Members and companies also enjoy working with financial institutions that are active in the community. “