For a microsize plan — $2.9 million in assets — at a non-profit organization specializing in microfinance, Britt Huber came up with a big way to educate the young, tech-savvy workforce about retirement savings and financial planning at Kiva Microfunds Inc., San Francisco.
Ms. Huber, vice president of human resources, won an Innovator Award for technology and behavioral finance.
At an onsite workshop for employees, participants used iPads to conduct what she calls their individual “holistic retirement readiness assessment.” That, in turn, enabled them to get customized reports on financial planning and goal-setting — a process that took only about 10 minutes to complete.
The information could be accessed by the plan's adviser, thus shortening the amount of time that employees need to spend with the adviser, she explained.
“This was a natural fit for engaging the people here,” said Ms. Huber. “Our largest population here is engineers. For our 20-somethings, the last thing on their mind is retirement savings. At a non-profit, they don't think about saving for retirement.”
So, Ms. Huber branded the financial education as “retirement readiness” to broaden the appeal as well as to recognize that “many employees still have student loans, or are buying a house.” The average age of employees is 33; the average age of 401(k) plan participants is 38. The plan participation rate is 80%.
Among Kiva's 100 employees, 30 took part in the first iPad workshop. “We're planning to do another one in the next few weeks,” said Ms. Huber. The workshops and software were developed with Dan Ariely, a professor of psychology and behavioral economics at Duke University, and Boulevard R, San Francisco, a creator of retirement plan software.
Innovator Award judges applauded the combination of technology, behavioral science and personalized financial information. “They proved the old adage that big things can come in small packages, especially when innovation is involved,” said one judge.
“I like that the focus is financial wellness that takes into consideration other financial goals in addition to retirement,” another judge said. “The customized road map is effective in helping employees make effective changes.”
Having worked at other young companies where 401(k) participants “were pretty much left on their own,” Ms. Huber said her goal was to encourage employees to start early in thinking about their finances “without me sounding like their mother.”