If you’re looking at corporate financial wellness programs as a growth channel for your RIA, you aren’t alone.

Precedence Research expects the U.S. market for financial wellness programs to nearly double in 10 years, from $20.75 billion in 2023 to $39.27 billion in 2033. Employers find themselves on the hook to look after the financial health of workers who frankly have few other places to turn. Financial professionals are happy to meet the demand, and grow their own businesses, but a wellness program isn’t a plug-and-play “easy button.” Incumbents like Ayco and Cerity Partners possess sophisticated platforms with a several-year head start on most independent advisors.

RIAs can absolutely thrive in this space. I believe financial wellness programs will become major growth engines for independent advisors, but only if we build them right.

Your Wellness Program Needs To Work For Everyone
A financial wellness program needs to be as valuable for an employer’s entry-level workers as it is for the executives at the top. Easy to say, hard to do.

Your offering needs to scale in sophistication. Obviously, an executive will have different financial concerns than junior employees. Equal value does not mean an identical offering. An AI-assisted planning platform with budgeting tools can make a world of difference for folks just starting on their financial journey, but they’ll underwhelm an executive who expects personalized service and a dedicated human advisor.

The less obvious component to a financial wellness program that works for everyone is a program that everyone will understand. The total addressable market is huge, but employers are not monoliths. Different industries have different work cultures that you need to understand and integrate with. Even different businesses within the same niche may require tailored approaches. Are you familiar with their culture? Do you understand the lingo? Is it OK to contact workers directly, or do you need to route your outreaches through HR or other channels? You’ll need institutional knowledge and strong relationships to answer these questions to any employer’s satisfaction.

You Need To Show That It’s Working
Satisfaction is something you’ll need to quantify in your offering. Good employers want to do right by their workers because they see the results of unaddressed financial strain: missed work days, lower productivity, higher turnover. The EBRI/Greenwald Research 2023 Workplace Wellness Survey found 83% of U.S. workers are worried about their finances, and that stress finds ways to follow them to the workplace.

Your employer clients measure their problems, so you have to measure the difference made by your financial wellness program. Does your platform allow you to quantify your efforts? According to the EBRI/Greenwald Research survey, employers most often grade their wellness programs on worker productivity, satisfaction, utilization, and employee retention. Those aren’t the only ways to demonstrate better outcomes. Think in terms of money saved, debt paid down, homes purchased. Demonstrate that you’re indispensable.

Your Advisors Need To Love It, Too
The flip side is that your financial wellness program needs to be an indispensable growth channel to your advisors. The hope is to impress employees well enough that they will engage with your firm for more services, or continue their client relationships after they move to another employer. The reality is that your advisors may grow to resent a wellness program that does nothing but feed them a conveyor belt of high-maintenance prospects who can’t grow the advisor’s business.

This might be the trickiest part of the equation. In my experience, you need tiers of service supported by centralized planning teams and other ancillary offerings. Your centralized resources need to be seamless enough that entry- and middle-tier employees don’t feel like they are getting B-grade service. At the same time, they need to be effective enough to give capacity to the advisors who would get those high-touch, growth-driving clients.

At a minimum, you need a degree of scale, a deep understanding of your market and a heavy investment in a tech platform to intelligently route your talent where it will make the most impact. But I’ve seen firsthand what a financial wellness program looks like when it fires on all cylinders, both as a resource for better outcomes and a driver of new business for RIAs.

Casey Bates is managing director of strategy & growth at Concurrent.