One year down, with a whole new one on the horizon. That means it’s time to dust off the ol’ crystal ball and share some predictions for wellness in the year to come. In 2018, financial wellness continued to make headlines and following suit, the industry took strong steps toward creating solutions that actually power progress — not only for plan participants and sponsors, but for advisors and for firms.
While last year we spent time defining financial wellness, 2019 brings a clearer picture and stronger understanding of the popular topic. No longer is it required to explain that financial wellness is not a simple plan add-on or a check-the-box solution. Instead, having a comprehensive, integrated, technology-backed wellness program offering is a plan defender, a business winner, a growth opportunity, and a revenue generator.
As we finish out this year and head into 2019, here is a look at what the industry can expect to see this year:
1. Advisors Finally Evolve Their Tech
Last year we predicted that participants would want a modern, simple user experience that gives them not only a comprehensive view of their financial situation, but also a guided, personalized path to reach their goals and stay accountable. In 2018, advisors and firms were still hesitant to invest in technology to power those experiences, but now they can’t afford to wait. According to a recent Forrester study, customer experience metrics at wealth management firms have remained flat for the third year in a row — but a fourth is not in the cards. People won’t accept below-average tech anymore. Features like account aggregation, personalized content delivery, and accountability triggers are key elements in any successful financial wellness program. 2019 is the year firms listen, invest, and put like solutions in market.
2. Firms Launch Pilots as MVPs
To build on the idea above, unique, well-planned financial wellness programs take time to plan and launch. Further, it’s no secret that large enterprises take time to put new programs in market. That’s why in 2019, we can expect to see pilots hit the market sooner than later. Large enterprises may not move quickly but they recognize the need for speed when it comes to wellness. They’re up against a time crunch—so while the planning of much larger, more custom programs are already underway, they need a solution in place now. Expect to see a flurry of MVP pilot programs in the year to come. The key will be defining metrics for success. Is it more than just the worried well showing up for a webinar, or are participants gaining confidence in their ability to manage their financial situation?
3. Financial Wellness Programs Get More Comprehensive and Effect Real Change
Solutions that address a single issue, such as student loan debt or credit scores, are valuable, but miss the bigger picture. Because the definition of financial wellness is comprehensive and personalized, a solution to address it needs to be too. An assessment to understand a participant’s current situation and future goals, with an action plan to help them reach those goals, all wrapped in an engaging digital package has the power to effect change. In 2019, expect programs that incorporate not only the advisor-to-participant touchpoints of the past or recent digital-only portals, but also include connected, human-guided, technology scaled financial wellness programs that make change simple, easy to follow, and effective.
4. We See Wider Recognition of the Role Financial Coaches Play in Helping Participants Reach Their Goals
Financial advisors and planners are highly trained across a variety of complex situations. Many participants, however, need help with basic financial tasks such as budgeting, or with addressing negative beliefs and attitudes around money—something most financial advisors receive little training in and may be uncomfortable doing. Financial coaches can handle the more basic issues, freeing the advisor to do what they do best, and become more common.
In 2019, not only will we see wider recognition of financial coaches and their pivotal role in financial health programs, but we will also see firms hiring more and more of them. Keep an eye out for position titles like Head of Coaching, Financial Coach, and Financial Health Mentor in the year to come.
5. Advisors Generate Revenue from Financial Wellness Programs - And It’s More Than They Expect
Financial advisors realize that wellness programs do more than retain existing 401k plans and attract new ones, as more plan sponsors seek to find comprehensive and authentic wellness solutions. But their issue, for better or worse, has been, “But what’s in it for me?” 2019 brings that answer with the transparency the technology allows. Comprehensive digital solutions will allow advisors to identify opportunities for offering additional services to individual participants who stand to benefit from wealth management, financial planning, or risk management. From rollovers to products and more, advisors stand to unveil entirely new revenue streams that historically have been left on the table due to the opacity of the industry. In short, transparency fueled by digital financial wellness has the power to help participants and plan sponsors, of course—but also to generate totally new income for advisors.
2019 is set up to be a breakdown year for the financial wellness technology industry. Advisors are primed and ready to take a strategic and well-thought leap of faith by investing in pilots now and fully configured experiences in the near future. With healthcare costs on the rise and employee turnover and stress at record highs, plan sponsors need comprehensive digital plus human powered programs more than ever. Participants are actively asking for help and expect the experience to be as simple as 1-click check-out. And everyone wants to make or save money at every step of the process.
We’ve spent recent decades trying to solve large, inextricably linked problems with single-issue solutions that only address a part of it. It seems that finally, the industry has come to terms with the fact that short term bandaids do not equal sustainable solutions. In 2019, we all get our hands dirty to build smart programs from the ground up, backed by configurable wellness technology, strategic rollouts, and sound success metrics.