Storytelling about Even with Jon Schlossberg

Welcome to the Use Case Podcast, episode 100. Today, we have storytelling about Even with Jon Schlossberg. During this episode, Jon and I talk about how practitioners make the business case or the use case for purchasing Even.

Jon is an expert in all things payroll and employee experience. His passion for creating a system that supports individuals and families through financial security really comes through during the podcast.

Give the show a listen and please let me know what you think.

Thanks, William

Show length: 31 Minutes


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William 0:27
Ladies and gentlemen, this is William Tincup. And you’re listening to the Use Case Podcast. Today we have Jon on from Even. We’re going to learn all about his firm and the business case or use case for Even. So Jon, let’s just jump right into it. Would you introduce both yourself and introduce the company. Introduce Even to us?

Jon 0:49
Yeah, hi, everyone. My name is Jon Schlossberg, I’m Co-Founder and Executive Chairman of a company called Even that we started about seven years ago now. And the reason we started the company is because we saw so many people being underserved or even taken advantage of by the financial system.

There are so many Americans today who are living paycheck to paycheck, more than 60% actually. And that number has unfortunately only grown in spades since the start of the pandemic, so many families living paycheck to paycheck. And it’s just, it’s really hard to show up to work. And bring your full self or your best self. When, you know, you’re wondering about if you’re going to be able to buy medicine for your kids, or if you’re going to be able to put food on the table sometimes, or if something happens to you. Like you get a flat tire and you want to work, if you’re going to be able to fix that.

And so the thing that we’ve made is a platform of financial tools, which employers offer, like Walmart, for example, or Humana or Pitney Bowes and a bunch of others. A platform of financial tools, which make it much, much easier to escape the paycheck to paycheck cycle, because they give you really good information, then they’ll allow you to take action with that information much more easily. And then start saving money. So we’ll obviously get into the use case there.

William 2:23

Jon 2:24
Yeah, so the point of this, but uh.

William 2:26
So for the practitioners, you’re thinking of this in a way where you’re going to be thinking about Even in a number of ways. First of all, on the recruiting side, for candidates that you want to bring in, you’re going to be thinking, you’re going to be marketing this as a way of, hey not only do we care about, you know, the job that you’re going to do, but we also care so much that we’ve invested in Even, and so we’re going to help you. Wherever you’re at on your journey, we’re going to help you help plot a better course. And so it’s a recruiting tool. It’s also an engagement tool and a retention tool. We would historically look at it as kind of an EAP or resource if you will. But it this is one of those things that y’all have a repertoire of tools depending on what people need, right?

Jon 3:23
That’s right, and actually, it does make it a little bit challenging to sell because we are, as you said, a recruiting tool, an engagement tool, a retention tool. And so we actually do, in our sales process, span across talent acquisition, HR, payroll. Because what this product does, is it really helps people at their like the foundation of their hierarchy of needs, right? Like this product is designed to help you have more money in your bank account. Like I just really like referring to it that way, because it’s really easy to understand the point of it. In nerdy terms, it’s designed to create positive cash flow. So you just have more money than you spend, and it gives you information and tools to do that. But what that just means in normal words is you have more money in your bank account at the end of the day, at the end of the week, at the end of the month. And why that’s valuable to talent, you know, to a talent acquisition leader or an HR leader is it makes the job better.

William 4:21

Jon 4:22
Like when you talk to a VP of recruiting, one of the things that they sort of say behind closed doors is like, look, people tell me I want the job, but I want you to pay me more.

William 4:33
Yeah. Yeah.

Jon 4:35
And that actually makes a lot of sense.

William 4:37
Yeah, fair.

Jon 4:38
If you’re, if you paid people more, they probably would take the job more often. It turns out, though, that paying people more does not magically help them create a better life.

William 4:50
That’s right.

Jon 4:51
Do the things that they want to do. Especially today with rising inflation, it’s a really, you have to take the second step, which is helping people keep more of that money. And I don’t think a lot of folks realize just the extent to which their workforces are being taken advantage of today. Now, and it’s okay that we don’t know this. I didn’t know this before I started researching it. Once you realize it, though, is when we really start to see these HR leaders and recruiting leaders, you know, get excited and start taking action with us. Because Americans are wasting billions and billions of dollars annually on these predatory short-term credit products, like overdraft fees, payday loans, late bill fees, credit card interest, and it’s just like carrying your money around in a bucket. Those wages that you’re struggling with your leadership to increase, they’re, you’re pouring those wages into this bucket, and the bucket has like a massive hole in the bottom.

William 5:47

Jon 5:48
And it’s just pouring out. And so one of the things that we do is we help close that bucket. And people keep more of the money that you’re paying them, and then they have more money in their bank account at the end of the day. And when you when you have more money, you can do more of that stuff that you dream about in your head, you feel better about your position in life, and therefore your position at work. And that’s why you see the improvement that we’ve proven at scale with, you know, the largest employer in the country across retention and recruiting, so.

William 6:23
It’s, it’s interesting because you’re reformatting people. Because we, you know, we didn’t in high school, or even in grade school, we weren’t taught, you know, personal finance. Well, a lot of us, I mean, at our homes, well, yeah, we were taught those things. But it’s interesting because you’re getting, you’re reformatting people’s discussion, or at least the framework for people that think you know about debt, about credit, about savings, about student loans. Which just, you know, you’re giving them tools, to then rethink those things, but also think about, I love you, I love your analogy of the hole in the bucket, because you can ask for another 10k, 15k. But if, if, if you’re just burning that in interest fees on your credit cards, you’re never going to have enough. Because you’re just burning it up. And so, so like the teaching people that and really educating them as to, hey, if you’re gonna use credit cards, you know, have it on automatic payment. And don’t pay and don’t ever pay interest fees, you know. Seems simple, but not simple.

Jon 7:34
Well, it’s, it’s the kind of thing that’s really simple, like, I like to say tactically. What I mean by that is like actually doing the thing is easy. But knowing what to do, and how to do it, and then actually like sitting down and doing it, when your life is really crazy, and you’re maybe working this job, and you probably got like a side hustle, and you’ve got multiple kids, and everyone knows that’s a full-time job. And so like sitting down and actually doing it and doing it correctly? That’s a whole nother story.

So you really hit the nail on the head. And that’s why, by the way, one of the issues that we run into when we’re, when we’re talking with these large HR teams, is they’re like, well, is there a financial literacy component here? Because we already have a financial literacy program. And the raw truth that we, you know, try to softly tell them is that you do have a financial literacy program, yes, it just doesn’t work.

William 8:29
Right, right.

Jon 8:30
Because number one, a very small percentage of the population uses it. Compared to this tool, which at Walmart today, is their most popular opt-in benefit by far. Nothing else is even remotely close. Close to 50% of Walmart’s workforce uses Even. And so the fact that they’re using it presents an opportunity for education.

William 8:54

Jon 8:55
Because we create what we call teachable moments. Moments in the app where something happens.

William 9:00
Give me a couple examples of that.

Jon 9:02
Yeah, so so when you have, let’s say, a cash flow problem. You know, you, you, you get a flat tire on your way to work, we have a tool to help you solve that problem we call InstaPay. Which is a form of earned wage accesses that essentially allows you to get money that you’ve already earned but that hasn’t been paid to you yet because it’s not payday.

William 9:28

Jon 9:28
Anytime you want before payday. And so that solves the sort of the emergency, but that’s also an opportunity to help people start an emergency fund. And so when we see that people are coming into InstaPay, there’s a little module in the app right there, which brings them into the savings tool and shows them, hey you can avoid this problem in the future. And so that’s one example of how like when you are actually experiencing the thing that you’re trying to learn, it’s much easier to learn. Just like if you wanted to learn how to fish, you know, you wouldn’t go to like a course about it. You’d go to the river.

William 10:09

Jon 10:10
And you’d put the rod in your hand. And that’s, that’s why we actually find that our method of teaching, this teachable moments method, is much more effective because it’s actually actively building the habits that people don’t have. Because yeah, we removed financial education from our education system entirely. And so if you don’t win the parents lottery, you’re out there on your own. And by the way, like people living paycheck to paycheck, by and large, do a lot of work to manage their finances because they have to.

William 10:49

Jon 10:49
So they learned the hard way time and time again.

William 10:51
Yeah, it’s not like they’re ignoring it.

Jon 10:53
Yeah, exactly. What they don’t have are good tools.

William 10:57
Right? It’s, it’s funny, 100 years ago, when I worked hourly, I realized that I would spend whatever I’d make. So whatever, whatever, you know, whatever net, whatever I got out of the check, that, I would spend the max amount of, whatever it was, I’d spend it all.

Jon 11:15

William 11:16
And I’d learned that about myself very early on, and I said, okay, but, but if, but if I don’t get it, I will spend it. So the companies that I’d worked for at the time, had stock purchasing programs, and things like that. So they had like simple tools, really simple tools. But I noticed that if it didn’t show up in my paycheck, I’d figure it out. But I’d secretly it’s almost like, you know, setting your alarm clock 10 minutes ahead. You know?

Jon 11:47
This is, this is how it works.

William 11:48
You trick yourself into it. Yeah.

Jon 11:50
So I’m a behavioral psychologist by training. And what you just described is, is how it works. Like, if you want to change behavior, you have to trick yourself, basically. You have to set yourself up to succeed, right? Which is why. So, I didn’t say this earlier, but, you know, this platform that we’ve made is very effective at the thing it’s designed to do. We take people who are living in the red, week after week, month after month, they start using Even, and three months later, they have $163 in liquid savings. Which is a meaningful amount of money, when you consider the average wage of an Even member today is $13 an hour.

William 12:29

Jon 12:29
So you go from negative cash flow to positive and then to actually having money in the bank in just three months. That’s a pretty big deal. So this thing works. The reason that it works is because we’re putting people in a position where they sort of can hide the money from themselves like you’re describing. Because the platform is based on research that we did in part and also that many other people in America and many other countries have done over the past few decades, which shows that like, look if you want to help people save money, the number one way to do it is to hide it from them.

William 13:04
Hide it from them.

Jon 13:05
Yeah, exactly. It’s like so simple when you think about it.

William 13:08
I thought I was unique. Jon, you just I’m sorry.

Jon 13:14
It turns out, though, that everyone is like you, and you are like everyone, we’re just gonna spend the money and you see this up and down the income ladder, all the way up to two super-rich people.

William 13:23
Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. It’s never enough. It’s funny, a lot of the companies that I advise go through funding. And you know, one of the things that that happens in funding is, there’s this illusion that you take on 12 million or $40 million, and you’re going to have more money. And I tell marketers that I deal with, I’m like, you will find and you probably already know this, but you’re going to have less money. Right? It’s just it’s a funny kind of phenomenon you raise $120 million, it’s already spent. That’s that money’s already gone. So the idea that you’re gonna be like sitting on a $10 million marketing budget? Yeah, that’s not true.

But I did have a, and this is gonna be kind of a, it won’t be political. But I’m just curious about, you know, the minimum wage and the way that we think about minimum wage. Your hole-in-the-bucket metaphor from earlier. If increasing the minimum wage does if we don’t fix the hole in the bucket. Does that. Does that fix things? I mean, okay, so we raised we know, okay, the

Jon 14:31
answer’s no, yeah, don’t get me wrong. So I have never talked to an HR leader or, or even an executive that at any of them we’re working with really large, like, really legitimate corporations, right, like, right. And I’ve never talked to an executive who privately is like, I don’t want to raise wages. They all want to raise wages, and in fact that they are. Maybe we could say it should go faster than it is. Sure that it’s happening.

The challenge is that it’s not enough, is it, right? Because they can’t raise them for the types of businesses that we, you know, we’re running today, you can’t raise wages for these roles to the point where people are going to have a ton of money leftover, but simply due to how expensive things have gotten over the past three decades. That’s right.

Education has increased by 600% over that time, health care 400%, housing 200%, transportation 150%, childcare 300%. And over the past year and a half, actually, you’re also starting to see inflation of everyday purchases as well. That’s right. So raising wages is something that does need to happen. Unfortunately, though, life is about how much money you have, and also how much you have to spend. So you really do need to give people tools for that second half, about how much they spent. tools that make it easy to do the right thing, tools that teach you how to do the right thing over time and build those habits. And when you have higher wages and the right tools for spending within your means and not wasting money on these predatory products, that’s when you start to see success.

William 16:11
I love that. Let me ask because we’ve talked a lot about the hourly folks, but you did mention up and down in the income. Do you see differences when you have clients that are dealing with more, I say corporate, but more salaried employees versus hourly? Or is, you know?

Jon 16:29
We do? Yeah. So we, like PayPal is one of our customers, for example. And they are predominantly salaried workforce. Our sweet spot today without question is hourly workforces.

William 16:41

Jon 16:42
Because the tools that are on the platform today are designed for people making an hourly wage and dealing with some of the, sort of the problems that an hourly wage workforce has to deal with, like schedule volatility, for example, and the income volatility that results. the unpredictability of how much money you’re going to have in the future, stuff like that. We do see pretty good usage from salaried parts of the workforce as well.

But I would say that if your workforce is largely salaried like you should probably wait a few years to buy Even for it. Because we’re, you know, we want to be delivering the same level of impact that we’ve delivered at Walmart to all of our customers. And that level of impact, to be clear, is pretty unprecedented like we built the most popular benefit by far that the nation’s largest workforce has. And I just can’t guarantee that you’re going to see that level of adoption and engagement if you have a largely salaried workforce, just as the platform’s tools aren’t there yet.

We do have a roadmap of tools for people who make more money and are salaried, that are, you know, people are still struggling and need help, we just aren’t offering that help just yet. So some of the tools people will use, people will use our savings tools, people will use our budgeting tools if they have a salary. But for the most part, you know, it’s hourly folks who are getting the most value out of the platform today.

William 18:15
So so with that said, with the hourly folks, what’s the number one thing that you know, if you looked at all the tools, or where do they start? Let’s start with that one first. Where do they start? New employee, new to, to Even? What’s the first thing they need to do?

Jon 18:34
Okay, so this is the Secret to Building habits, whether it’s going to the gym or spending less than you make, the secret is doing that thing all the time.

William 18:43

Jon 18:44
Like, if you want to get healthy, you’ve got to go to the gym, let’s say three times a week. You can’t go once a month, unfortunately, doesn’t work like that. So the first thing that we start is, okay, how can we get people to download the app in the first place. So we have an opportunity to get them to come to our gym three times a week.

And we have a very compelling value proposition for folks who are living paycheck to paycheck and have that big hole in their bucket. That’s what we call InstaPay. It’s the way to get paid early or anytime you want. And so if you walked into a break room at, you know, any Walmart store across the country, you’ll see a poster on the wall that says get paid now. And that’s very effective at getting people to download the app.

Once you download the app, though, what people actually, where they start, is not with instant pay. They actually start with this tool that we have that we call your Pay Projection, which allows an hourly worker to see how much money they are likely going to have in their bank account when they get paid next. This is, it’s essentially taking the schedule that was were connected to time attendance, and we’ll take the schedule that they have, and we estimate how much it’s likely to change based on what we see in the volatility of this employer scheduling system. How much gross pay will lead to, and then we calculate the net pay. Or in other words, how much money they can actually have.

And this is incredibly valuable when you’re living paycheck to paycheck, and you make an hourly wage because imagine trying to plan out your finances when you don’t know how much money you’re going to have. And it’s actually remarkably difficult to figure that out on your own. It shouldn’t be but it is. So that tool brings people into the app all the time, because it actually creates a very tight feedback loop between, okay, I work these hours, here’s how my future is going to be better. And so 65% of Even users engaged with the app on any given day, which is actually an engagement rate that’s better than social media. Yeah. And that’s like going to the gym all the time. This is the app that you’re coming to.

William 21:09
What I love about this, Jon is your, you know, as a behavioral psychologist, you understand, it’s micro changes. You’re not changing, you’re not changing things, you know, overnight, you’re each little time that they go in there, and they have some type of emergency thing and you can pull them into savings, they start thinking more about savings, it’s almost like they’re, it’s subconsciously, then getting them to think, you know, we didn’t really need to actually put some more money into our emergency fund. You know, it’s, I love that. Because again, you’re not, you’re not beating them over the head. There’s no guilt. There’s none of that, you know, emotional, you know, stuff that gets layered in there with humans. This is just an app trying to help help you. Help you get better help you, you know, it’s, I love it. I love it.

I do have two questions. One you’ve run into over the years, I’m I know that you’ve run into some people, without naming names, that have been reluctant to release something like this to their employees. What, what, what’s that been like for you? I mean, what conversationally, how’s that been? And, and,

Jon 22:21
I get it, actually. I get, I mean, I do, I get it. I think a lot of folks feel like, you know, like, is this really my place? To help, to be like, telling my employees.

William 22:36
To actually help your employees?

Jon 22:39
Well, you probably heard I hesitated when I started to say help because then it makes it seem like I’m trying to guilt people into, like. I kind of am doing that, to be honest. But like think about it this way. Like, is it really the employers place to be like providing healthcare for their employees? Like, does that make sense? Probably makes less sense to me than,

William 23:02
Corporate giving. Put it on the list. Is it, is it really?

Jon 23:06
Yeah. That, there’s a lot of things that don’t make sense. But to be honest, this one does actually make sense. Because look like the only reason people need money in order to come to your job is because everything costs money.

William 23:22
Turns out.

Jon 23:24
And you as an employer, the reason, in theory anyway, that employers provide health care, for example, is that you as an employer have power, you have leverage, you have economies of scale, that you can use to pass savings on to your employees. This is what benefits are like anyway, like when you actually sit down and think about it. It’s like a trying, you’re turning $1 of compensation that you’re putting in the employers’ pockets, I’m sorry, the employees’ pockets. But you’re only spending 50 cents for it because of your economies of scale. That’s why you do benefits. Like this.

William 24:02
Some would also say the retention on the other end of is that if you have great benefits, again, only great. If you have great benefits, then you might have a tool to both recruit and retain. But, but again, you’re right. If you have 200,000 employees, you can go to Aetna and do different things with Aetna than I can as a private citizen.

Jon 24:24
So yeah, that’s exactly right. And so the way that I’ll really break this down for an executive that is hesitant to offer something like this is just go after the pragmatism angle.

William 24:35

Jon 24:36
It’s like do you have a problem recruiting people? Yes, I do. I have a big problem with that. Okay, do you understand what will make your jobs differentiated in the eyes of the labor that you’re trying to recruit? Well, they want to get paid more. But the only reason that matters is because they need money to do stuff. So what if you could help them have more money to do stuff without necessarily having to pay them more? Like when you think about it sort of from that angle and don’t frame it as helping people, you get rid of this like this feeling of being paternalistic, which to be fair, like, actually, I do think it’s reasonable. I also think like, you could say that about anything an employer says like, so.

William 25:22
Yeah. Set hours. That’s paternalistic.

Jon 25:25
Honestly, that’s just an excuse. Yeah, yeah, exactly. Come on, as you can, you can make the argument about literally anything. And meanwhile, your people are struggling.

William 25:34

Jon 25:35
And you’re in a position with the power you have to help, so.

William 25:39
If you can help, you should help. But yeah, right. Okay, the last thing before we roll out, and people will just be curious, so we may as well kind of ask that question. How do y’all make money? Where do y’all, what’s y’all? And again, I don’t need the dollars and cents part of it. It’s just financial model wise, like where do y’all, what what’s your philosophy around that?

Jon 26:02
Yeah, thank you for asking this question because this is sort of like my baby. In fact, that the first thing that I worked on when I started the company was not like the app or, you know, the go-to-market strategy, but it was the business model. Because the reason that so many Americans are taken advantage of by financial services today is because those, those banks or the financial services companies, they make money in a way that profits from people’s struggle, right?

For example, if I’m a bank offering overdraft fees, like, I’m not making overdraft fees from people who have lots of money in their bank, I’m only making it from people who, who are living paycheck to paycheck, and I have no incentive, therefore, to help those people not live paycheck to paycheck, because I’m profiting when they when they’re struggling. I don’t want to be that.

William 26:51

Jon 26:51
I would view it as a massive failure if we build a really successful business, that profit from people struggle. So our model is per eligible employee per month as a platform fee, flat fee.

William 27:07

Jon 27:08
And that’s a very common model for benefits. But that includes things, that platform flat fee includes things that traditionally a financial services company would charge transaction fees for.

William 27:21
Right. Right. Right. You’re doing an unlimited usage model, to where you’re incentivizing people, hey, use it. Use it, and if you want to, you know, put money into your emergency savings account, we’re not going to charge you $1.50 for that.

Jon 27:38

William 27:39
Which, which a traditional bank would charge you at every, at every point? I’m always fascinated that banks charge wiring fees for incoming wires. So yeah, just so I get this straight, someone else has sent you money, and you did nothing. And yet, bank it, right? It’s like you’re just charging $25 for receiving money. That’s uh, I don’t understand that, but anyhow.

Jon 28:06
And the reason why they do it, to be fair, is because their system was built in the 1950s when it actually did cost a significant amount of money to receive.

William 28:14
Fair enough. Fair enough.

Jon 28:15
Because like you physically had to mail it.

William 28:16
Yeah, there was a John or a Janet that had to do some stuff. That’s fair.

Jon 28:21
Right. But our system is was built in, like, you know, 2016. So we don’t have to do that.

William 28:29
Well, and it’s better, I think, to your point, this is how people buy benefits. This is, this is a well-worn path, that finance and HR understand how to buy this. And they, and they, I’m sure they love. You know, finance hates variable costs, so I’m sure they love that there’s something that’s fixed that they can model.

Jon 28:51
And it makes the use case much easier, actually, the business case much easier. Because you can say, okay, this is the exact dollar amount that we’re always going to pay. What dollar amount did we save and improve retention alone?

William 29:02
That’s right.

Jon 29:02
Walmart is actually, you know, they really don’t like spending money if they’re not getting an ROI. That’s, that’s their reputation and is well deserved. They actually found something like a 12 to 15 to one ROI from this program.

William 29:16
And it’s easy, it’s easy to roll out. I mean, at that point, it’s easy to think about because you’re it because business-critical software that you transcend a little bit out of the category. You kind of become like Salesforce or QuickBooks or something like that, to where it’s just how you run your company.

Jon 29:35
I certainly hope that’s the case. We, we’re, we’ve gotten over the hump now. I think it was very difficult to sell this thing early on.

William 29:43
Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah.

Jon 29:45
We managed to scrape together some early adopters. But we are seeing, especially now that this is a product that makes a lot more sense to people post-pandemic. We’re finding it a lot easier to sell it because of how many really big, well-known, well-respected brands we have using it already. And I think the market is ready for it.

William 30:06
100%. Well, retention is about to be the next big thing for HR to contend with, is that talent that’s been hunkered down for, you know, a year and a half or so, is there’s gonna be huge flights and, and so HR is going to have a real problem not just in recruiting talent, but also in keeping the talent that they have. So they, they’re going to need all the benefits and, and things like Even that can help them retain people as humanly possible. So you’re well-positioned. But Jon, thank you for the time today. Absolutely had, had a, had a ball. I love what y’all are doing. I absolutely love what you’re doing. So thank you so much for coming on the show.

Jon 30:49
Of course. Thanks, William.

William 30:50
Alrighty, and thanks for everyone listening to the Use Case Podcast. Until next time.

The Use Case Podcast

William Tincup

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.


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