When Cone Health launched an investment education campaign last year to improve the financial wellness of its employees, it employed a tactic that had long worked in encouraging physical well-being: it offered monetary incentives.
"We incentivized participation through our healthy rewards program so employees could earn cash," said Becca Jones, retirement specialist at Cone Health in Greensboro, N.C.
Employees, she said, would be able to earn points — which in turn would translate into money — by using the financial wellness services the large health-care system makes available to them, including financial workshops, on-site financial advisers and an online university offering courses in financial-related topics, such as auto loans, mortgage refinancing and portfolio analysis called FutureFit University.
"We wanted to make sure that employees had access to good tools, resources and education for financial wellness," Ms. Jones said of the yearlong campaign to raise awareness of Cone's financial wellness benefits. All the financial wellness services are available through Cone Health's record keeper, AIG Retirement Services (formerly known as VALIC), as part of its record-keeping fee.
AIG Retirement Services has supplied Cone Health with on-site financial advisers since 2003. Employees can schedule one-on-one meetings with advisers that can last up to an hour throughout the year.
"We review their investment strategy and we do an overall picture of where they stand with retirement using some cutting-edge software," said David Dupont, a Greensboro, N.C.-based senior financial adviser with AIG Retirement Services.
The primary reason for the meetings is to make sure that employees know Cone Health's "403(b) plan well," Mr. Dupont said. It's also an opportunity to ensure that employees "are tracking to replace the income that they're going to need in retirement," he said.
The financial wellness benefits were folded into the system's overall LiveLifeWell wellness program in 2016. The addition of financial wellness to LiveLifeWell "demonstrated to employees that financial health is an important dimension of health and wellness," Ms. Jones said. "It's not just exercise and healthy eating. Financial health and well-being are just as important to overall wellness."
The financial wellness incentive campaign achieved significant results in boosting participation in Cone Health's $942 million 403(b) plan. Participation climbed to 93.4% from 89.7%. The average deferral rate also increased to 7.9% from 7.3%.
Cone Health is now focusing on a two-year data-driven education and communication strategy it announced to directors and other health system leaders in July. AIG Retirement, in conjunction with Cone Health, is in the process of identifying areas of the health system where plan participation is lower than it should be, according to Mr. Dupont.
"We are seeking out those departments and individuals within the departments to educate them further about the value of saving and investing and capturing the match that's being offered by Cone," Mr. Dupont said.
Cone Health matches employee 403(b) contributions at 50% up to an amount equal to 8% of employee pay.
"We don't want the person who is auto enrolled at 4% and auto escalating at 1% to take four years to maximize the match," Mr. Dupont said. "They're three years leaving money on the table."
One of the objectives of the two-year strategy is to ensure that employees understand how the employer match works. "We want to make sure that they're taking full advantage of the match. Cone wants them to have the match. It's in their budget. They plan for it," Mr. Dupont said.