Matt is the co-founder and CEO at Origin where he is working to solve employees’ number one source of stress: money. Prior to Origin, Matt was a founder at Indio Technologies, a software platform for commercial insurance which was acquired by Applied Systems in 2019. Matt started his career in Citigroup’s investment bank trading high yield credit in the power and mining industries. He is an alumnus of Johns Hopkins University.Follow Follow
Storytelling about Origin With Matt Watson
Welcome to the Use Case Podcast, episode 155. This week we have storytelling about Origin with Matt Watson. During this episode, Matt and I talk about how practitioners make the business case or the use case for purchasing Origin.
Matt is an expert in all things financial wellness and planning. His passion to help employees understand and manage their compensation and benefits really comes through during the podcast.
Give the show a listen and please let me know what you think.
Show length: 24 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 in recruitment and HR tech. That’s what we do. Here’s your host, William Tincup.
Ladies and gentlemen, this is William Tincup, and you’re listening to the Use Case Podcast. Today, we have Matt on, from Origin, and we’re going to learn about the business case or the use case, sometimes people call it the cost benefit analysis, of why his prospects become customers and what they do. So let’s jump right into it.
Matt, do us a favor, the audience a favor, and introduce both yourself and Origin.
William, thanks so much for having me, excited to be here and share a little bit more about myself and what we do at Origin.
I am one of the co-founders and I’m the CEO here at the company. We have a really simple business. We provide financial planning and financial wellness to employers. We’re offered as an employee benefit through the company, to help employees understand and manage both their compensation, but also the benefits. So really, everything that they’re earning when they come into work.
So historically, financial wellness, or wellness came and then, financial wellness, people started to understand the importance of it. Let’s do a current state of the market, the things that you see, because you get to see the usage of the products and you get to actually see what employees use, and care about and all that other stuff. You’ve got a really interesting vista.
What are people using, out of the financial wellness array of things? What are they actually consuming and using today?
The biggest thing that they use today is the very specialized and specific advice for your own family experience, your own financial situation. This has really come as an evolution in the financial wellness world, over the last call it 10 to 15 years.
The first versions of financial wellness were, often times, free offerings from your 401K administrator, or very low cost offerings, that were generally content based. So maybe documentation around what’s a mortgage and how to pay off student debt, maybe some videos on that as well. The utilization on those products, over the years, has decayed because much of that is available on the internet. We could go onto Google right now, or YouTube, and Google this stuff and we could get pretty smart on those products by reading some really great research and documentation around what these things are.
The opportunity that we saw at Origin was getting specific. So what that means is, all right we understand what a mortgage is, or we understand what a loan is, or equity or 401K, but what do these things mean for me personally? If I just changed jobs, if I maybe got married, if I’m planning to start a family, maybe either there’s been a liquidity event or an IPO at my company or a change in compensation. And, with everyone’s financial situation, if you think about yours for a second, there’s never just one thing when it comes to making a financial decision, there’s usually a number of different components that are going to help us make a decision or trade offs.
And that’s what we do really well, is we help employees understand the entire universe of making a financial decision and how their unique circumstances ultimately flow through into the best decision for them. That is stuff that you can’t read about online, that’s stuff that the chat bots can’t do, and that human component is what employees really engage with in our product.
Love this because it’s highly personalized and it’s bespoke. It’s not a cookie cutter, it’s not something you just hand out to everybody and they all use it the exact same way. So first of all, I love that.
How do you get people to engage with that? Once the CFO, and HR and everybody has said, “Yes, we need to do this. It’s good for the health of our employees, it’s ultimately good for the health of the company. They’re going to be more engaged, we’ll be able to retain them, there’s a lot of great reasons for doing this and making the purchase.” Now, ring the bell, how do you get employees to take advantage of it?
Yeah. There’s a lot to that question and the easiest way to conceptualize it is we really leverage our HR partners to drive awareness to our product because it helps them, it makes their job easier.
But, I think most companies identify that they have a financial wellness challenge when people are coming in and saying, “Hey, how does a 401K? What’s the match? Do we have an HSA? Tell me about that. Do we have an ESPP?” Today, the HR team has to field many of these questions. What we do is we come in and we say to the HR team, “What are the big things at your company that employees are struggling with?” We launch with a big webinar, we talk about that specific item and that drives a ton of just general awareness about us. And often times, a considerable amount of utilization.
And then, from there, companies, the HR team will put, often times, our access in their email signature when these questions come in about these items. Rather than having to send them away or saying, “You have to speak with a financial professional,” they direct them to our platform and say, “Hey, we have an awesome resource for you that can dive very deeply into the question that you have here.”
I think it’s really, at its core, the reason why we drive engagement is because the people team are saying, “Yes, finally. I don’t have to send people away or tell them to speak to a financial professional, I can take this off my plate while providing a really great resource for the employee that’s actually going to help them out.”
Love that. I want to get to platform in just a second. But, let me ask a quick question about credit. What’s the responsible, from the company’s perspective, of helping their employees either understand credit or understand their own credit, or build credit, et cetera? What do you see there?
I know it’s important with savings and life events, college, mortgage, cars, all of that stuff, I get all that. But, credit’s kind of nebulous. It’s there, and it’s obviously important, but I haven’t really been able to reconcile the company’s part in either interacting with that or not.
I think that, really, the reason why our company exists today is because there has been recognition on the behalf of employers that the employees problems are actually the company’s problems.
So you’ve seen that across the entire industry. That’s why you have multi-billion dollar mental health companies, you have multi-billion dollar fertility companies, childcare companies, continuing education. Why is that? 25 years ago the employer would say, “Hey, you’re not at the office, deal with it on your own.” In the last call it five to 10 years, companies have said, “Okay, well this is changing. The problems that our people bring to work ultimately become our problems. If we want to retain this people and if we want to recruit the best people, we need to help them solve these problems.”
And then, in the last 18 months, this has been accelerated significantly, because people are now not in the office at all so it’s a very obvious issue. We want to help employees solve problems so they can bring their best selves to work.
I think credit’s a good example of one that can be challenging for people. It really prevents them from accessing the traditional financial services industry at all. So even if you have a great financial game plan, if you’re unfamiliar with the strategies to build good credit and the importance of keeping good credit, you’re locked out of doing the things that are going to get you to the next level. That’s almost the table stakes component of financial planning, is getting that set before you can start building the house on top of it if you don’t have that foundation.
I think it comes back to credit and many of these other rudimentary financial issues are big time problems for people and the statistics support that. So financial stress is the largest source of stress for adults in the United States, it’s greater than job, health and relationship stress combined. People who report mental health issues, 90% of them indicate that money made it worse. These are big, big time problems for people and so employers are now recognizing that, “Okay, if we want to solve the core issues for employees, a lot of it comes back to money.” That’s where we’re seeing the demand and the uptake.
Your initial question was what’s the responsibility. The responsibility, it’s ultimately good business for them at the end of the day, because they’re going to have a happier employer base. If you look at any company or talk to any executive at a company, the people are everything. Without the people, there is no company. That ethos has been really adopted, across the board. At least, at top performing companies.
I love this because when I talk personal finance, typically you either learn it at home or you might learn it in a couple other places. But, in eighth grade, they don’t teach personal finance. Y’all are bringing an acumen and a financial literacy that I really like. That again, it’s easy to enter as an employee and understand these things that actually can be complicated. But, they’re not complicated once someone explains them and really walks you through them. I love the financial literacy and raising the bar for everybody, which I love.
Let’s talk a little bit about the platform. Let’s start with the most basic thing. When you first show Origin to folks, what do they fall in love with?
The holistic nature of what we do is definitely the most important part of our product. The first thing that I was talking about when you had me on here was the fact that you can’t make financial decisions in a silo.
If we’re talking about buying a home, okay that’s awesome. You make $100,000 a year, there’s going to be a calculator that will show you roughly what amount of home you can afford based on that income. But, there’s a lot more that goes into that question. Do we expect your salary to change? Do you manage finances with a partner? Do you have any debt? Do you expect to have debt? When do you want to retire? What do your spending habits look like? All of these things come into the question of answering really the primary question.
What our platform does is an exceptional job of aggregating all of the data that we need to answer these questions holistically for an employee. That is what separates our technology from the other folks in the space, is that when an employee comes in, they can answer a ton of questions or really evaluate scenarios on their own, using our software. And if they want to take that a step further, they’re connected to a certified financial planner who now has all that data themselves. So if we get on the phone, I don’t have to spend an hour trying to understand the situation as the certified financial planner, I already see all these things on my screen, I’ve got you on the phone, we have the question. And now, we can dive right in, and understand, and plan and strategize. That is really important to the employee.
Now, on the other hand, if we think about our HR buyer, there’s companies out there that help with student loan repayment, or earned wage access, or 401K advisory or investments. Look, benefits are one piece of a very significant pie that the people team is managing. Often times, what we’re seeing is consolidation of benefits. What are the platforms that can knock out the entire category for us? That was something that we learned very early on, was that companies said, “Yeah, student loan management is great but we have 10% of our employees are facing that challenge today. We want something for 100% of our employees.”
That was something that we learned over two years ago when we started the company, was when we solve this problem for the employer, it has to be holistic so that we can come in and say, “Look, your younger folks who are trying to create a budget for the first time, and maybe rent an apartment for the first time, and they’re getting health insurance for the first time, we can help them. We can help the people in the middle, who are getting married and starting a family, huge financial considerations there as you start to graduate from early 20s and your mid 20s. And then, for the folks later in their career, looking at retirement and strategizing around what government support is there, and how they’re going to maintain a budget as they get into the later years of their life.” Solving that problem for the employer was critical.
So, this is dumb question alert. Years ago, I studied Mount Everest and how people approached Mount Everest. Once you dig into it, it’s actually quite fascinating. It’s a series of base camps, so you’re not really climbing Mount Everest, you’re going from one base camp to the next base camp. And then, from that one to the next one, et cetera.
Is finance, in the way that y’all look at it, and really what I’m getting at is do you make recommendations for them if they’ve gotten to a certain place? Let’s say they paid off their house. Okay, so then, again it’s bespoke, it’s personalized. Is there a next thing that they should be thinking about and doing, and there’s another base camp that they should be hiking towards?
Absolutely. I might borrow that, I love that.
It’s yours now.
I think it’s a good point. I think if you thought about climbing Everest and you thought you had to go from the bottom to the top, not many people would start, right?
Oh, no. No.
No, that’s terrifying.
Totally. I think that money’s the same way. If you’re looking at the destination and you’re sitting there today and just saying, “Jesus, how am I going to accomplish that?” That is one of the pitfalls of traditional finance planning is that it’s such a big piece of meat that you’ve got to bite off that most people just say, “You know what, I’ll figure it out as it comes.”
That’s a shame, because when you look at the compounding effects of just starting to do the little things, and starting to put a strategy in place, the compounding effects of that are very significant by the time you get into the later stages of your career. That’s one of the product strategies that we have is let’s meet with these employees, let’s answer their most pressing questions. And then, let’s give them three things to do that are totally doable, that they can track, that they can accomplish. And as they do that, there’s always another three that they can go back and see what’s next.
If you hit them with 15 out of the gate, it’s too much.
I’d rather do email. Yeah.
Yeah, exactly. I think that the last point that I would make on this is that a financial plan is a living, breathing strategy. It changes, life changes, things happen. It’s not a static strategy, it’s constantly changing just like your strategy would change as you climb Mount Everest when the weather changes. That is a really nice component of what we do is people are coming back constantly, with these life updates, with these changes and there’s always another strategy that we can help them with to take the next steps. And ultimately, overcome what is often times anxiety or stress around these things.
Oh, 100%. Daunting.
Yeah. It’s been a huge thing that we hear from customers is, “You alleviated stress.” There’s the hard ROI which is this is a better financial outcome for you. But, as significant is just this concept of, “I was worried and I wasn’t even approaching it because I didn’t know where to start.”
So you get that low level stress and, “That’s gone, because now I have this strategy.” Even if some people openly don’t do it, they know now what they would need to do and that’s really helpful for people.
Yeah. It’s again bringing that literacy up to a certain point and making it palatable, because it’s just these two things, or three things. It’s just these three things, go do these three things and then, let’s check in. Let’s see where we’re at. And again, you’re moving them to a place, which I like.
Two questions left for me. One is the movement that you’ve seen. Again, y’all do a great job on the literacy side and getting people to understand complex, and breaking it down and making it easier to understand. And, putting people on action plans. This movement in payroll, in terms of daily pay or being able to check out at the end of your shift, not just for Uber drivers, but you’ve seen a movement in the professional, the corporate world where accountants are getting to the end of their day and saying, “Yeah, I’d like to tab out,” and get paid. Part of me is terrified that …
First of all, it sounds great and I’d love to have my money that day, totally understand why. But, part of me is terrified that they’re going to go waste the money or spend the money not in the best ways possible. What’s your take on just that movement in payroll?
I think it’s a really good thing, for two reasons.
One is that, just conceptually, the individual’s earned it. Is it the employer’s job to gate how they spend their money? I think that that’s a difficult question to answer. But, the one thing that I think is certainly very good about earned wage access and daily pay is the fact that it prevents people from going to alternative solutions, like pay day loans.
Credit, yeah. Predatory.
Right. Those are tough because it comes back to the core of this is a lot of people don’t understand the implications of the loans that they’re taking out.
If you can have an impact on that, I think that that’s fantastic.
I think to your point, they’re probably is increased prevalence of spending it more quickly, in some instances. But, that has to be balanced against the reduction of predatory loans.
If we can reduce predatory loans by a significant amount but there’s a slight increase in ad hoc consumptions, those will balance to some extent, but I do think that eliminating the evil of multi-hundred percent APR loans is a really good thing. And hopefully, with a benefit like Origin, people can receive the guidance on how they’re spending and just understand the implications of spending.
But overall, I feel that it’s a strong positive.
Yeah. And again, it’s employee centric. So if you want your pay, great, you can get your pay. And again, as you learn what to do with that money and you get smarter about it, you don’t have to use those predatory … Anything we can do to get out of that business would be great.
All right, so last question, it’s always a fun question because it’s both easy and complex. It’s your favorite customer story, and without names, of course. Because you started a company, you started with a premise, a thesis and obviously, you’ve slept since then. Customers use Origin and they use it in all kinds of different ways. And all of a sudden, you wake up and somebody’s done something really innovative and you’re like, “Huh, didn’t quite think of that. I should have, but didn’t think about that.” And then, you’re going to have hundreds of these to pull from, but you can even look at just last week if you need to, to make it easier for yourself. But, your favorite customer story.
That’s a great question. I think that when you start these companies, and many times people look at the statistics, they’re very distant. 60% people say money is their largest source of stress, people who are stressed by money are twice as likely to leave their jobs. There’s distant between that and then literally seeing the actual response from the employee. When you see the response from the employee, I think it drives home for me, and for all of our employees and for our customers, this is real deal stuff. You’re really having an impact on people.
There’s 1000 examples running through my mind right now. But, I think there’s really two sides of what we do. One is alleviating immediate stress, hardcore stress. That’s usually around debt, like how do you get out of it and how do you put the strategy in place. But then, the other side is how do I set myself to do better, so invest more intelligently or clear, and budget more effectively to save. Those stories are awesome, but I think the ones that really hit home for me are around debt reduction.
One comes to mind where an individual had I think upwards of $50,000 on credit cards and just was bleeding out interest to the credit card company. We came in and we put together a pretty complicated strategy for that individual to pay that off using a variety of way less expensive resources. Home equity line, a proper loan from a bank. We saved that individual many thousands of dollars. The response from that individual, I think nine months later, to his financial planner was, “You’ve literally changed my life.”
To see that, that’s why we come into work and do what we do, to help alleviate that stress. And quite tangibly say, “We made this person’s life notably better. They wake up in the morning and feel better because of something that we did,” that’s what makes it really rewarding to build a company like Origin and the impact that we can have across hundreds of thousands of millions of people is very exciting.
I love it. Matt, thank you, thanks for carving out the time, I know you’re busy. I appreciate you carving out the time for the Use Case Podcast, I love what you’re doing at Origin. And, just thanks.
Thank you, it was great. I’ve got my new Mount Everest strategy, I love that.
It’s yours, done.
I love it. Love it. Thank you so much for having me on, this was wonderful.
Absolutely. And, thanks for everyone listening 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.