Innovator Award winner: Barbara Kontje
Made retirement education a top priority for participants
By Robert Steyer | November 12, 2012
With more than 5,000 employees working at home or at clients' offices, distributing retirement education information is a daunting task at American Express Co.
So, Barbara Kontje, director of global retirement and smart saving for the New York-based $3.6 billion 401(k) plan, and her team decided to produce as much virtual education as possible. The challenge, she said, is providing effective information covering retirement and personal finance issues.
For those efforts, Ms. Kontje is one of five winners in the inaugural Innovator Awards, co-sponsored by Pensions & Investments and the Defined Contribution Institutional Investment Association. Amex's virtual financial fair won in the new media category.
“The comprehensive nature is unique and the visuals are very good,” said one judge. “It must have been very complex to implement.”
Another judge remarked that the multiple levels of information available through the virtual fair format “will certainly have a positive impact on retirement outcomes and well-being overall.”
American Express has been running its Smart Saving campaign with onsite financial fairs, education seminars and webinars starting in 2010, so a virtual fair was a logical next step. “We have always done a lot more electronically than by paper,” Ms. Kontje said. “Our people are very used to accessing information through the Internet.”
The virtual fair, launched last month, uses a midway (including tents and rides like a Ferris wheel) to introduce interactive information on four key issues: retirement; family and kids; protection and planning; and day-to-day expenses. “It's bigger than saving for retirement,” Ms. Kontje said. “It's how to manage your money.”
Initially, the virtual fair has reached 1,100 employees. By April, it should be available to all of American Express' 26,000 U.S. employees, she said. n