The Stevie Awards Blog

How to Keep Up With Changing Retirement Needs

Posted by Maggie Gallagher on Sun, Jun 28, 2020 @ 09:56 PM

With the ongoing economic impacts of the Great Recession, astronomical student debt, COVID-19, rising housing costs, and myriad other financial factors, retirement looks a lot different today than it used to. Gone are the days of finding a job, staying with the company for 40 years, and retiring with a handshake and a gold watch. Pensions and 401(k)s are increasingly hard to come by. Plus, with often insurmountably expensive real estate costs, fewer people are entering the realty market. As a result, many people don’t have valuable homes to supplement their retirement nest eggs.

Given these kinds of factors, it’s little surprise that the concept of “retirement” has shifted. In this landscape, one thing is clear: If financial services groups want to continue to stay relevant, they will need to change their approaches, advice, and outlook to match what financial wellness means to millennials and members of Generation Z.

healthy mind john hancock

Rethinking Retirement Age

In a 2018 study by Bankrate.com, millennials responded that they think 61 is the ideal age to retire. Despite this aspiration of early retirement, however, approximately two-thirds of millennials have nothing saved for retirement.

Because of increased debt and decreased financial opportunities, more people than ever are being forced to reevaluate what’s realistic when it comes to retirement. For many, this means bumping out that expected age of retirement. Some don’t even expect to retire at all, instead considering part-time jobs, second careers, or other money-making opportunities as they get into the later years of their lives.

Increased longevity further complicates the issue. Across the globe, people are living longer than ever, which seriously skews issues related to realistic retirement age, health insurance, and life insurance.

Rethinking Financial Wellness

Companies that provide financial planning and other money-management services are often viewed as symbolic of a bygone era. After all, someone who has nothing saved for retirement, doesn’t own a home, and is working on paying down $50,000 in student debt can feel as if these companies aren’t relevant to their financial realities.

That doesn’t need to be the case, though. These companies can still help younger clientele reach their financial goals; they just have to shift how they think about accomplishing this endeavor. John Hancock, which is based in Boston, Massachusetts, United States, is one such company successfully refining its approach. 

“At John Hancock, we know it’s time to look beyond outdated concepts like ‘net assets’ and to build financial solutions that fit into customers’ whole lives—with easily accessible products that reflect their values, their approach to wellness, and their holistic well-being,” says Meghan Fackler, a thought leadership manager at John Hancock. “That’s why we’re redefining retirement, insurance, and investing for the modern generation of consumers to address both their health and wealth.”

To connect with this modern generation of consumers, one key is reframing the idea of financial wellness as the most important kind of wellness. Financial service providers are finding that the younger generation prizes a more holistic approach to well-being, and providing advice that resonates means tailoring to that mind-set.

Twine is an app that provides financial advice and automated money management to empower users to manage multiple savings goals with a partner – it’s a smarter way to collaborate and save for what matters. Twine is for people who might not have their own financial advisor but want to make better financial decisions to reach their goals, regardless of their income or age. The app simplifies saving for major milestones like down payments, weddings, and vacations by allowing users to collaborate and link accounts with others to stay on track. Twine is built, developed and powered entirely by innovative technology while leveraging the financial expertise of John Hancock.

twine john hancock

“We believe good health and financial wellness are essential ingredients to overall well-being, and we want to help motivate people to make healthier
choices—for themselves and their future,” says Fackler.

With this goal in mind, John Hancock has had success especially with one initiative: a partnership with the Vitality Group, which can serve as a template for similar companies looking to connect with younger investors.

“In 2015, we started a new chapter in our 155-year history when we partnered with the Vitality Group to help our clients live longer, healthier lives,” says Feckler. “As the first life insurance company in the United States to offer a wellness-based rewards program, John Hancock life insurance with Vitality gives our customers the financial protection they need while also helping them earn savings on their premiums, shopping gift cards, and travel discounts for their everyday healthy habits, such as going for a walk, eating well, and getting a regular health check.”

John Hancock was recently honored with multiple Stevie® Awards in the 2020 American Business Awards®, earning the company a Grand Stevie® Award. This designation is reserved for the top 10 most-recognized organizations. 

The 2021 American Business Awards are not open for entries yet. The 2020 International Business Awards® are accepting nominations through July 28, 2020.

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Topics: American business awards, Grand Stevie Winner, Grand Stevie Award, financial awards

Enabling the Unbanked and Underbanked with Machine Learning

Posted by Daniel Ferguson on Tue, Mar 17, 2020 @ 11:34 AM

Stevie-winner Braviant Holdings is a financial technology company that uses machine-learning to assess borrowers' credit and help them achieve lower rates.

Over 24 million American households are underbanked, and another eight million are unbanked (FDIC National Survey of Unbanked and Underbanked Households, 2017). While the former have restricted access to financial services (primarily due to bad credit scores), the latter have little or no access at all. As one can imagine, this closes a lot of doors. Many of life’s necessities, such as getting a job or renting an apartment, call for a bank account and a good credit history.

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What makes this scenario even more unfortunate is that the unbanked and underbanked often land in these unfavorable financial conditions due to circumstances beyond their control. After all, not everyone with a low credit score is a habitual defaulter. For instance, many have low credit scores because of the 2008 financial crisis. Similarly, all those without bank accounts are not willfully refusing to get one. Many get their applications rejected because they have thin credit files or are migrants who don’t possess all the necessary documents.

Luckily, the fintech industry is now putting big data, machine learning (ML), and augmented analytics to work for these two neglected financial demographics, and the results are promising.

Banking the Unbanked

Online banking and lending services have made it convenient to access and maintain bank accounts, even for those in remote and rural areas. However, despite these advances, around 1.7 billion adults remain unbanked worldwide. Several fintech solutions are working toward making it easier for these individuals to create and to benefit from bank accounts of their own, though. The most notable among these is Onfido, an identity verification company based in London, United Kingdom.

Onfido does not follow the typical identity verification process. They pair highly advanced ML-based document checks with facial verification to compare user-furnished identity documents with their selfies. This makes it easier for individuals to prove their identities and open new bank accounts. This is particularly important for those with thin credit files whom banks are reluctant to trust and migrants who do not possess all the documents required for in-person verification..

Beyond Credit History and Scores

Fintech products are revolutionizing the way credit is assessed, and they are now paving the way for fairer access to financial services.

Zest AI, an artificial intelligence (AI) software platform for credit, based in Los Angeles, California, United States, helps lenders make faster and more accurate decisions on borrowers who are traditionally considered risky. It does so by using and analyzing thousands of data points to better assess predicted risk. Their clients have achieved, on average, a 15 percent increase in approval rates and reduced losses by almost 30 percent.

UltraFICO, a credit scoring system based on augmented analytics, was launched by FICO, a data analytics company based in San Jose, California, United States. It serves as yet another good example. While still in the works, it promises to be a huge step up from the antiquated FICO score system that prevents millions of people from receiving credit because of incomplete credit histories. UltraFICO will create more complete credit histories by using data from FICO, Experian, Finicity, different finance houses, and banks.

Braviant_holdings_logoStevie-winner Braviant Holdings, a fintech company based in Chicago, Illinois, United States, also offers financial solutions that help non-prime consumers graduate to lower rates as they work toward prime credit. They do so by building machine-learning decision models that look beyond a traditional credit score to more accurately assess the prospective borrower’s true ability and willingness to repay.

“Mainstream financial institutions cater to the needs of U.S. consumers with proven credit history, but more than 50 million adults labeled ‘underbanked’ are forced to look outside the traditional banking system to meet their needs,” says Stephanie Klein, CEO of Braviant Holdings. “Braviant offers tech-enabled credit products to help these deserving consumers access the credit they need today and work toward better rates in the future.”

Braviant Holdings recently won a Gold Stevie Award for Company of the Year in the Financial Services category at The 17th Annual American Business Awards®, 2019.

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Topics: The American Business Awards, American business awards, company of the year, financial awards

How to Retain Your Best Employees Without Breaking the Bank

Posted by Daniel Ferguson on Thu, Jan 16, 2020 @ 09:00 AM

Companies that consistently rank high on the lists of best places to work often have great work cultures, deep-rooted values, and fantastic employee benefits. They go above and beyond state and federally-mandated benefits and offer their employees generous retirement plans, flexible work hours, tuition reimbursements, ample parental leave, and many other tangible and intangible perks. These companies attract and retain the best talent because they truly care for their employees’ well-being.

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What Do Employees Really Want?

While the long list of benefits top companies provide are great, they might not be feasible for most smaller businesses. In these scenarios, companies should identify the “good-to-have” benefits and then investigate what their employees really need and what issues weigh heaviest on their minds.

According to the PwC Employee Financial Wellness Survey, 2019, financial matters cause employees the most stress—more than all other life stressors (health concerns, relationships, job issues, and more) combined. A staggering 30 percent lie awake at night worrying about money, and 23 percent are less productive at work because of financial worries, according to a US employee benefit trends study.

Also, even though the numbers have improved slightly since last year, almost 40 percent of US households still don’t have enough savings to cover an unexpected $400 expense (Report on the Economic Well-Being of US Households).

Investing in employees’ financial health, therefore, is one of the best ways companies can show they care.

Offer Innovative and Affordable Financial Benefits

With the amount of financial stress they are under, one would think employees would opt for pay raises over perks. Surprisingly, though, almost 80 percent of employees chose perks over pay raises in an employee confidence survey by Glassdoor.

Employer-matching 401K, health insurance, financial planning, and student loan repayment are all excellent financial benefits, but corporations (or even small businesses) can also implement several innovative and unique financial benefits alongside these more traditional options.

One good example is Gusto, a human resources management platform based in San Francisco, California, United States, which allows employees to access the money they’ve already earned for emergencies, without having to wait until payday.

cookie_jar_logo-1Another example of an innovative yet affordable financial benefit is Stevie-winner Cookie Jar by SafetyNet, a financial services company based in Madison, Wisconsin, United States. Cookie Jar combines the simplicity of kitchen-table finances with the sophistication of an employer-matched benefits program by rounding employees’ checking account transactions and credit card purchases to the nearest dollar and then saving the spare change in special accounts. These savings can be automatically matched by the employer, and they can be accessed by the employee whenever an emergency arises.

“Cookie Jar is designed for average workers who need to save but don’t feel they have the financial flexibility to do so,” says Vreni Pigorsch, senior media strategist at Cookie Jar. “A salary and a retirement plan are no longer enough to sustain employees, and employers are taking note. Instead, pet insurances; liquid savings programs, such as Cookie Jar; and other accessible financial tools are being incorporated into employee benefit plans. Employees become happier and more focused at work, and employers are able to attract and to retain great talent by setting their benefit structure apart from their competition.”

Cookie Jar won a Silver Stevie® Award in Product Management & New Product Awards in the Financial Services category at the 2019 American Business Awards.

Interested in winning a Stevie Award in 2020?

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Topics: The American Business Awards, American business awards, product management, financial awards

Community Involvement Rewards Everyone

Posted by Daniel Ferguson on Wed, Dec 04, 2019 @ 09:00 AM

It’s essential in today’s world to try to be part of something bigger than yourself, and this applies not only to individuals but to institutions. If your specialty is helping clients solve financial issues, for example, then you are particularly well placed to help out by problem-solving in the wider community.

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Many big companies have organized programs that encourage their employees to consider volunteering, and they facilitate these acts of service by giving their employees time to do so. Businesses find this experience of giving back continues outside of work hours as well, which creates an ongoing, committed relationship with the given charity or nonprofit. The relationship of the company to the community at large then often becomes an integral part of the corporate culture.

Volunteering Helps Company Culture

Some businesses tend start their volunteer work on a small scale. For example, some companies employ industry education, which helps other professionals excel in their respective fields. This sense of social responsibility often fosters a desire to do even more, which can lead staff members to give their time regularly to local charities.

Stevie-winner Wolters Kluwer Lien Solutions, which is based in Houston, Texas, United States, is one business that describes their experience of volunteering as enlightening and something that has given them fulfillment and made their company feel like a real family with a shared purpose.

A Perfect Match

Wolters-Kluwer_logoThe Lighthouse, a charity that is a member of the United Way of Greater Houston, Texas, United States, helps over seven thousand blind and partially sighted people every year by giving members the tools they need to live independently. When Wolters Kluwer Lien Solutions was looking for a place to volunteer, they came across this local charity, and it seemed like a perfect match. Both were looking for a long-term, meaningful relationship, and that has undoubtedly come to fruition.

Since 1939 the Lighthouse has provided social activities for the blind and visually impaired in the Houston, Texas, United States, area, and they love to welcome volunteers. By providing several volunteers to assist with craft sessions and reading activities during the working day, Wolters Kluwer Lien Solutions proves an excellent fit with the Lighthouse. The partnership ensures the charity can provide sessions in the daytime, which is when their clients need them most.

Giving Back to the Community

Meeting new people and getting a unique perspective into the local community through the staff, volunteers, and service users at the Lighthouse is just one example of how Wolters Kluwer Lien Solutions is committed to supporting its staff members’ communities. The work doesn’t stop with the Lighthouse, though. Employees have also volunteered at a wide range of other nonprofit organizations, such as Children of Military Members in Tampa, Florida, United States; the Nevada Children’s Hospital in Las Vegas, Nevada, United States; and the Tulane Health System in New Orleans, Louisiana, United States.

Raja Sengupta, executive vice-president and general manager at Wolters Kluwer Lien Solutions, is proud of how his team embraces the volunteering mind-set.

“The employees are keen to deepen their relationships with the communities in which they live and to take part in projects where they can get to know and help others,” says Sengupta.

This can-do attitude earned Wolters Kluwer Lien Solutions several Stevie Awards in 2019. For its iLien Motor Vehicle solution, the company earned a Silver Stevie®️ Award in the Financial Services category, as well as a Gold Stevie Award in the Legal Information Solution category at the American Business Awards®️.

Wolters Kluwer received three Silver Stevies for Female Executive of the Year - Business Services - More Than 2,500 Employees on behalf of Jennifer Cronin, VP of Customer Service; Female Executive of the Year - Business Services - 11 to 2,500 Employees on behalf of Alyza Tarmohamed, General Manager; and Most Innovative Woman of the Year - Technology on behalf of Karen Abramson, CEO at the 2019 Stevie Awards for Women in Business.

Interested in winning a Stevie Award in 2020?

Request the entry kit here.

Topics: The American Business Awards, Stevie Awards Women in Business, 2019 Stevie Awards for Women in Business, financial awards