Liz Davidson is CEO and Founder of Financial Finesse, a Los Angeles based firm, providing millions of Americans with access to unbiased financial guidance through workplace financial wellness solutions.Follow Follow
Storytelling about AIMEE by Financial Finesse with Liz Davidson
Welcome to the Use Case Podcast, episode 147. This week we have storytelling about AIMEE by Financial Finesse with Liz Davidson. During this episode, Liz and I talk about how practitioners make the business case or the use case for purchasing AIMEE.
Liz is CEO and founder of Financial Finesse and an expert in all things financial wellness and employee benefits. In 1999, she initiated the movement to institutionalize financial wellness programs in the workplace. In turn, Liz has influenced legislation around requirements for financial professionals to ensure they work in the best interest of investors.
Adding to her list of credentials, Liz also authored the book, “What Your Financial Advisor Isn’t Telling You: The 10 Essential Truths You Need to Know About Your Money.” Additionally, she speaks regularly at national conferences on issues related to financial wellness.
Her passion to help people from all walks of life become financially secure and independent really comes through during the podcast.
Financial Finesse is considered the “premier provider of financial wellness services.” The organization provides employers with unbiased educational programs to help employees reduce their monetary stress. These programs are customizable to benefits packages, serving over 600 corporate clients.
AIMEE is an acronym for “Artificial Intelligence Motivating Employees Everywhere.” Essentially, this Financial Finesse “team member” will evaluate an employee’s individual situation and propose resources and solutions.
Today, Liz gives us a few examples of how AIMEE has made a positive impact for individuals on their financial journey. Also, who is the buyer, and what kind of budget does AIMEE require? How is AIMEE presented to internal teams as a solution?
There’s more, of course! Give the show a listen and please let me know what you think.
Show length: 30 minutes
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Welcome to RecruitingDaily’s Use Case Podcast, a show dedicated to the storytelling that happens or should happen when practitioners purchase technology. Each episode is designed to inspire new ways and ideas to make your business better. As we speak with the brightest minds and recruitment in HR tech, that’s what we do. Here’s your host, William Tincup.
Ladies and gentlemen this is William Tincup and you are listening to the Use Case Podcast. Today, we have Liz on from Financial Finesse and we’re going to be talking about a product that they have called Aimee. And so we’re just going to jump right into it. Liz, would you do us a favor and do three introductions, yourself, Financial Finesse, and Aimee.
Okay. Do I have time limit here?
No. We’re good.
I’ll do my best. My name is Liz Davidson, I’m founder and CEO of Financial Finesse, and we are the largest independent provider of completely unbiased workplace financial wellness programs. Rolled out as an employee benefit paid for by the employer to really demonstrate their commitment to employees financial wellness. Often as part of larger wellness initiatives that mental, emotional, et cetera, I guess those are the same, but mental, physical, spiritual, et cetera. So that’s really myself and Financial Finesse. Aimee is a new product and it stands for Artificial Intelligence Motivating Employees Everywhere. And what it really does, it flips the world of benefits, communication kind of on its head. Because traditionally, especially large companies, but even increasingly smaller ones, have a whole lot of benefits when you consider core benefits-
… the voluntary benefits. There’s a whole lot of benefits, but not all of them apply or are relevant to employees based on their life stages and some of them are deeply relevant. And the decisions they need to make, for example, life insurance that the factors change when your life changes, when you have a child, you might want to revisit that, right? And that isn’t necessarily how things are communicated. It’s just kind of like we have all this stuff, we try to put it on in one place on an internet, but you have to kind of sort through and figure out what’s relevant to you.
What Aimee does is looks both at your compensation and your benefit and is helping you through an interactive coaching process, make key financial decisions, both to improve your finances from a perspective of using your comp better to save and invest and have an emergency fund. But also from the perspective of leveraging the benefits that you have based on where you are in your life. So everyone’s journey is different and Aimee is really putting the employee front and center, and then kind of back filling the right recommendations financially and with respect to use of benefits, as opposed to saying, we have this. And trying to somehow make the connection from the benefit forward to the employee.
I love this on many levels because this has been a problem in benefits, since benefits started it’s not really a benefit unless someone uses it.
Exactly. It’s ironic, right? But most people aren’t aware of their benefits so they’re not benefiting from the benefits.
Kind of hard to call it a benefit if you’re not using it. All right. So there’s the computer communications layer, I love that it’s proactive and it’s not reactive, it’s not once a year, it’s not posters in the lunchroom. It’s something that can fall in the long, like a concierge. And what I really is that it’s deeply, highly personal. So as you said, “Your journey, my journey,” everyone at different stages, even the same person on different days can have just vastly different needs, and their needs can change and-
… and do change. So I love that it gets to consumption for the company, again, a benefit is only a benefit if it’s actually used. So consumption, adoption and usage, I think I love that so that companies over time can then right size and take off some of those things that they call benefits, but no one was using them. Let’s get those off the tree, pair those limbs off and let some of these other limbs grow that more people are consuming, and maybe even find out other ways to make those limbs better and find other things that people need.
Tell us a couple more stories, if you don’t mind, just some stories of how personal journeys where Aimee can help someone that’s going through something. Just give us a couple examples.
Yeah. I’ll give you a couple and I’ll try to segment them a little bit. I mean, obviously people are infinitely complex and Aimee recognizes that it’s AI driven. One thing I will say we learned pretty early in this business that I think I would say to any benefits’ manager because it’s so easy to get so focused on the day to day is, “People’s favorite subject is themselves, it’s not their retirement plan, it’s not their healthcare plan, it’s themselves and their financial security for themselves and their family.” So Aimee is really looking at it that way, but if you take someone financially stressed, Aimee will figure that out relatively quickly, and immediately intervene with the option to talk to a financial coach. Now we have financial coaches as part of our service offering, so that can be us, or it could be an EAP that has credit counseling.
And so it’s very open architecture if Aimee is assessing, they’re pretty much close to living in their car type scenario. They may need access to immediate social services and that’s the right place to direct them versus if they have a whole lot of credit card debt and need some credit counseling through the employers EAP. You can direct them there, or they can be directed to our coaches who can certainly help with financial stress. But there’s a nuance there between needing an immediate financial resource and needing coaching. So it’s really pinpointing, where are they at? What do they need? And what is the best place to direct them? And then making that as seamless as possible, so if it’s an online resource deep linking, right? So they’re not having to navigate through, they’re going exactly to where they need to go. If it’s a phone number, the phone number is active when you’re using your iPhone, you press it. It is trying to remove any barrier from the process of taking action.
Right? Yeah. Let’s get all the friction, it’s almost a frictionless environment.
Exactly. And then you can imagine on me more, let’s go the other end of the spectrum, which is I’m pretty financially healthy and I have a nice day. But I really am challenged by understanding how to select an advisor. I don’t really know what to do from here to grow and preserve it. I’ve done a good job building it. How do I grow and preserve it? And that’s where financial advisors, and also financial products and services become very important. But what Aimee does in that case is really understands where they’re at. I mean, do they already have a financial advisor? What are they actually doing? Tries to understand where the gaps are and then recommends next steps or benefits that may fill that gap. One thing we also offer with our coaching service since we don’t sell financial products or services is an objective review. And also a service that helps employees vet their advisors because it’s so tempting to just go, “What returns do you get?”
Right. Bottom line.
Yeah. When you’re looking at a relationship that should span ideally for decades, you really need to know this person has integrity. They have know-how and expertise, you can trust them, they understand your specific goal. I mean, there’s a lot more to it, and there’s a lot of red flags that people need to be aware of. Vast majority of financial advisors, vast us majority are above board, it’s not a criminal, Bernie Madoff thing. But if I’m selling insurance, I think insurance is probably permanent, whole life insurance is the solution to every problem, right?
So you need to kind of understand what type of advisor you need based on what your circumstances, so that you’re not getting steered in the direction just by virtue of their knowledge base and how they’re paid.
What’s cool about Aimee is you don’t have to restart the conversation. This is something Aimee knows, and again knows you in a deep way of your circumstances, where you’re at and knows all the things probably even knows where you want to go. And Aimee is learning, beauty of AI and obviously the hope and benefits of AI is that Aimee is learning not just about you and your situation, but also people like you.
So there’s also… Aimee is learning from Ted in his situation, also learning from Alice and her situation. And then there’re recommendations that can be made of learns that we’ve learned in other places, which again, I think is beautiful.
Absolutely. And there’s a whole lot of nuance to that. We also have our… We’ve been in this industry delivering unbiased financial coaching for 22 years. And so we have all this data from those coaching calls and from our team of certified financial planners on what specific interventions work in what scenarios, so that’s been tremendously helpful in programming Aimee. Absent data, I think we have a lot of false assumptions that-
… okay. This will be the best way to direct have someone and motivate them, but there’s a lot of stuff that’s counterintuitive. We’re human and-
… we’re not all rational. There’s a lot of emotion and behavioral finance layered into this that is very important.
Yeah. And again, it’s learning and it’s going to learn that about you as well. So let me ask, these are all kind of connected questions. But who is the buyer? So we’ll say just talk about that, who’s the buyer of Aimee? What budget does it come from generally speaking? And how do you all get categorized, in general, both with Financial Finesse, but also more specifically with Aimee? If it’s something different, I’m just curious as to how practitioners place you and where they place you on their map.
Yeah. So there’re different buyers, but most commonly it’s benefits. And with large companies, it would likely be the head or director of global benefits. Sometimes it’s HR.
And when it’s HR, they’re looking at typically a very holistic hands-on-program to address because financial stress impacts productivity, recruitment, and retention, and all sorts of things. So sometimes it is such a problem in their culture, that’s where HR often comes in and is looking at it through that, “Let’s transform the culture.” More typically it’s benefits saying we’re not really getting an ROI in what we’re providing. And we need to demonstrate to our employees how much we care and how supportive we are of making sure they have a good journey with us. That we’re invested in their wellbeing and we’re showing that’s part of who we are as an employer.
So that’s typically who reaches out to us and who buys. We are categorized as financial wellness, essentially. It is an interesting category because it’s very broad, we coin the term and we’ve taken a leadership role in defining it. A lot of firms in the world out there today are pitching payday loans under the guise of financial wellness.
So there’s a lot that we are doing to really educate the industry on what is real financial wellness that really is in the long-term, best interest of employees versus things that might band-aid a situation. But ultimately make them worse or things that are really financial products and services that are sold at high commission rates or whatever, but aren’t really furthering people’s overall financial wellbeing.
And really it’s financial coaching at its core, Aimee really is a virtual financial coach. And then we have so certified financial planners that are overlaid into the system, so they’re working progressively with employees using Aimee to help them continue to progress. And provide that accountability and that motivation, and tips that maybe Aimee hasn’t served up because he has no way of knowing they’re going through a divorce, that kind of thing. And then webcasts, ongoing group webcasts that are highly engaging, where you get kind of crowds of people together around a very specific issue with very specific action steps, and the ability to go back to Aimee to complete those action steps.
It’s interesting because when you bring in HR and they think about it holistically, I could see them thinking of this as a way to both attract, engage, retain, total rewards. I can see them thinking of it much broader than just financial wellness. And financial wellness again, you’re right, it’s the breadth and depth of a couple oceans of different things and different meetings. But if it’s done well, this actually impacts people’s lives inside work, of course and also out of work. So it bags a couple of questions, one is, and you’ve probably been asked this question at least a gillion times. But how do they justify internally? How do they build the business case, the ROI, cost-benefit analysis? Whatever the phrases that they use. How do they then kind of sell it internally to all the folks that need to be sold internally?
So we have done a whole lot of ROI work and actually in conjunction with the society of actuaries, we have a model that they awarded first place in a kind of a niche area, but a competition for ROI of financial wellness programs. So we’ve correlated reductions in financial stress through the use of financial wellness services to everything from lower unplanned absenteeism, greater retention, increases in vehicles like HSAs. Where there’s a direct ROI because there’s a tax advantage to the employer for every dollar that goes into an HSA. They get the 7.65% FICA tax break. So we’ve looked at all of that and that it’s pretty compelling. We have millions and millions of data points, we’ve done this for 22 years across many of the largest fortune 1000 companies that really have taken time to cross-reference usage, which will give in terms of employee IDs and what they’ve done.
They can then cross-reference with their HRIS systems to see how have those people been impacted or how have they changed their behavior with benefits and other areas versus those that haven’t used the program. What I will say is a major driver now is this great resignation that everyone is talking about, and it seems to be hitting across the board from blue collar employees, all the way into knowledge workers. I think we all kind of reevaluated our lives to some extent post COVID. And so people are really looking for employers that are truly invested in them, where they can feel a sense of connection and wellbeing. And they can feel that this employer is a partner in my financial security and is directly connected to the reason I was able to achieve my financial goals.
I mean, that there’s nothing really more safer to people than their families, right? And the ability to provide that for your family in a time of uncertainty, because you have an employer that cares and is giving you resources to be aware of what you have and maximize it. And the difference, obviously over… Even going up to the matching your 401k to going up beyond that over time and how that compounds. Or when you really are using your HSA wisely and it becomes not only a very tax advantage vehicle, but an investment vehicle. Or being able to find an attorney through your EAP, otherwise you would be scrambling, if God forbid you have a divorce or any sort of lawsuit you need to pursue. It’s all understanding your maternity leave policies.
People are very reactive, there’s so much around having a baby that impacts not just your work, life and-
… That’s right.
But actually the decisions you should be making proactively, all the way from figuring out maternity leave and policies there to figuring out how do you set up the life insurance the right way. Maybe start a 529 plan, as the child grows, how do you teach them about money? So there’s a lot of family planning type utility here. And once an employer is really connected, not just to the employee but to the spouse and children or even significant others, it creates a sense of community that’s pretty sticky.
Awesome. So three questions left. One is, if someone hasn’t been down this path, a practitioner that listens to the show that hasn’t been down this path and again, without getting to dollars and cents type stuff, but how do they think about budgeting for financial finance, but also for Aimee in particular?
I think it’s looking at the ROI… First of all, I think it’s looking at the strategic goals. We often go in and we’re really uncovering, why do you want to do this? And then doing an ROI analysis based on that, to create a business case, to show in dollars and sense, what would be the expected return? Obviously there is a lot that’s intangible. Morale, you can’t really directly correlate that to what that cost savings is. So you focus more on the tangibles, but then you get them thinking about the intangibles, because I think everyone knows happier employees are more engaged, more productive, more loyal, and there’s that ripple effect in different industries. It means different things, sometimes it’s even a safety issue, right? If you have a really unengaged workforce and a financially stressed workforce in a hospital setting, do you want that person operating on you, kind of thing?
Other time it’s more of, this is who we are as a brand and an employer, and we want to maintain that in this competitive market. And we are starting to see best places to work, actually we do work with the organization, a great place to work that sort of is a certification for those that go through an application process to become a best place to work. But they’re looking at financial wellness more, they’re looking more at not just what benefits do you provide, but what wellness programs do you provide and how are you helping employees make those decisions. So there’s also that [crosstalk 00:23:52]
You’re looking at the impact.
That’s intangible. What is it worth to be on a prestigious best place to work list? I don’t know.
It’s a conversation, a different podcast, we’ll definitely talk about that because I think it’s worth its weight and gold, especially if you do it. If you not just win the award, but if you actually back that up and care about your employees. So two things and you can take them in either order. One is, is about the demo of Aimee. And when your folks show it to people for the first time and they see Aimee, what do they love? And the second question or in any order, your favorite customer story of Aimee without naming names, of course.
So favorite customer from an end-user perspective or from an HR-
… Client perspective.
Both get us to there. Yeah.
Okay. So let me take a step back. What do people love? They love that it’s about them and that it is organic and that they’re having what feels like a conversation. They love that they can quit that conversation at any time and get… I mean, honestly it’s not rigid.
So then they can get at least baseline. What does Aimee think so far, right? Because there are people that love to endlessly answer questions, I think we all probably know some of those people because they want the almost precise outcome. And then there are those people that are like, “Okay, I just want to get started on something,” and so they love that. They love the fact, the instant gratification, which really is truly scientific, it’s a release of dopamine in the brain. When I can check off that I have a plan to pay off my debt, because Aimee has taken me through what I need to do and I’ve got it set up.
So I’m paying more to my highest interest rate credit card and figuring out how much more to pay is sustainable for me. And I can check off, I have a plan, my score is going to go up. Now it’s going to take time for me to get fully out of debt, and I think that’s where people fail. It’s like, “Okay, it might be exciting to have the plan and do the first few payments, but how do I stay on track?” Well, Aimee is giving you that immediate credit for doing it. And then we’ll be checking in to see if you are staying on track and giving you further credit. So it’s almost like bringing the future into the present to some extent of feeling a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction. And that’s what sustains the progress because we all know if you’re not getting results, it’s very hard to stay motivated, doing something that requires some sacrifice.
So they love that they can see their score go up quickly and they can immediately have access to tools, resources. They love to improve their score, they love the benefits integration because usually it’s a wow, even for the people in benefits to go, “Oh my God, I may be managing my health benefits, but I didn’t know we had this really generous tuition reimbursement benefit or I didn’t know how generous it was or whatever it may be, right? I didn’t know we had a foundation that helps employees in need.” I mean, there’s so many things that even people on the benefits level might not be aware of because it’s not their area of benefits.
So in terms of success stories, it’s hard to pinpoint one. It’s the, “Thank you,” notes that we get from employees that have used Aimee typically in combination with a financial coach. And I mean we got one just yesterday where a woman was able to retire five years earlier than she expected, simply by making some changes to be more efficient with how she was allocating her money. Investing a little bit more aggressively saving a little bit more. Stopping doing certain things that were not really enhancing her life, but were costing money, and it’s transformative. I mean, her concern was her life expectancy, family history wise is kind of up in the air. And that those five years are five more years with her grandkids or five more years of living life on her terms rather than.
It’s a nice mix of best practices of what you see out there in [inaudible 00:28:53] information knowledge, and also some behavioral change. And giving some people insight into how they got there and how to get to the next place. Whatever the next place is, and again it’s like a fee fingerprint, Aimee can then make something that’s very specific to them. Liz, I love it. I absolutely love it, I love what Aimee’s doing. I love that you all brought it to market and continue to innovate. So thank you so much for coming on the Use Case Podcast.
Thank you for having me.
Absolutely. And thanks for everyone that listens to the Use Case Podcast, until next time.
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William is the President & Editor-at-Large of RecruitingDaily. At the intersection of HR and technology, he’s a writer, speaker, advisor, consultant, investor, storyteller & teacher. He's been writing about HR and Recruiting related issues for longer than he cares to disclose. William serves on the Board of Advisors / Board of Directors for 20+ HR technology startups. William is a graduate of the University of Alabama at Birmingham with a BA in Art History. He also earned an MA in American Indian Studies from the University of Arizona and an MBA from Case Western Reserve University.