The demand for financial wellness programs by employees is leading to a new avenue of work for advisors, including full-time positions at major corporations.
“As employers explore the tools and resources they would like to provide to employees, they find there’s a need for one-on-one advice,” said Megan Yost, head of participant engagement with State Street Global Advisors (SSGA) in Boston. “Everyone’s looking for that, and so obviously there’s a space and place for financial advisors.”
Some 60% of employees want their employers to offer one-on-one financial planning assistance, but only 13% of employers currently provide one-on-one financial advising, according to a State Street Global Advisors Retirement Survey, which was discussed at a press luncheon in Manhattan yesterday.
“There’s a point at which some employers are finding guidance but not advice and they are looking to financial advisors to provide that advice,” Yost told Financial Advisor.
In Australia, financial advisors are already filling staff positions to provide guidance and advice to employees.
“Some of the larger paternalistic employers have taken it upon themselves to actually have staff within their organization that do nothing but give financial advice,” said Nigel Aston, head of European defined contribution for SSGA in London. “These individuals are employed by the company itself rather than outsourcing to a third-party advisor. It is common practice in Australia, and like anywhere, organizations need to make sure that regulatory fiduciary risk is managed well.”
However, in the U.S. employers hiring financial advisors to work on staff may be cost prohibitive in some cases.
“The problem with providing financial advice is that if it’s an actual person it’s expensive,” Aston told Financial Advisor. “Anything that involves a human being giving the advice would be more costly than automation.”
Of those employees seeking automated tools from their employers, 57% desire an online tool that aggregates financial information to help manage household finances, 52% want workshops and tools on budgeting and saving and 50% want workshops and tools on building healthier spending habits.
But regardless of how sophisticated or automated employer financial wellness programs become, experts say there will always be a need for financial advisors whether they are hired independently, as full-time employees or as third-party vendors.