Knowledge, skills and confidence: building NatWest’s financial wellbeing strategy
Yet the challenges surrounding financial wellbeing are far from insurmountable. NatWest Group is currently four years into its financial wellbeing strategy, and is constantly evolving its approach to build their colleagues’ knowledge to help them improve their own financial health.
We caught up with Lee Walker, pension and benefit manager at NatWest to talk about their financial wellbeing journey so far.
NatWest’s financial wellbeing journey began in 2017. It already had a well-established and embedded wellbeing strategy in place, however it predominately focused on mental and physical health.
“At this point, we hadn’t really talked to colleagues about their relationship with money, but we were starting to better understand the relationship between money worries and mental and physical health. We knew that improving our colleagues own financial capability could only have a positive effect for our customers,” explained Walker.
The bank also had some challenges that it wanted to address, specifically low retirement savings rates, which it knew wouldn’t change unless it addressed people’s financial wellbeing more broadly.
From the outset, the pensions and benefits team acknowledged that it might take a while to build momentum and engagement around financial wellbeing.
“Talking about money is a bit taboo really and we wanted to change that. We also know that there is a balance that needs to be struck,” said Walker. “As an employer it’s not for us to tell our colleagues what they should and shouldn’t do with their money or be too paternal about financial wellbeing. But we did want to open up opportunities for colleagues that wanted to explore their relationship with money and give them the knowledge, skills and confidence to make changes that they identified were needed.”
It was this ethos that drove the main objective behind the bank’s financial wellbeing strategy: “Our main objective was and still is to support colleagues so that they could, where desired, improve their own financial health,” added Walker. “This has only been strengthened as the bank’s purpose has evolved to focus on the financial capability of our people, our customers and the communities we serve.”
Where to begin?
As with any project, understanding your workforce’s needs and requirements is key to deciding what to implement. Whether that means assessing current benefits analytics, surveying colleagues or looking more broadly at industry benchmarking, having a base line and an understanding of what you want to achieve is essential.
For NatWest, that meant tapping into its colleague panels to get feedback and input, as well as its network of wellbeing champions who, on a monthly basis, help them to understand what matters to their colleagues.
The first task for the financial wellbeing strategy was to concentrate on getting the basics right so that everyone could access the same training and tools.
“Initially we had no financial education content beyond role specific training. So that was the first area of focus,” explained Walker. “In terms of our benefit offering, it was relatively strong. For example, colleagues had access to competitive insurance products to protect them and their loved ones, and lots of ways to save money on a day-to-day basis. So how we wrapped that up with financial education to help colleagues make sense of it was an important priority.”
So far, the team has introduced a variety of initiatives and tools to support colleagues with their financial knowledge. They launched a financial wellbeing guide and tool that helps colleagues assess their own financial health and routes them to tips and further support.
In addition they have since unveiled multiple financial capability seminars, including induction sessions for new joiners, as well as having a strong focus on pension savings.
“We’ve added an annual pension campaign, based on nudge theory, to help colleagues save more in a small but meaningful way,” said Walker. The campaign was so successful that it won ‘best approach to long-term financial wellbeing’ at REBA’s Employee Wellbeing Awards 2020.
In addition, the bank has also introduced access to pension advice and significantly changed how it communicates with people about benefits, and also plans to move to a new benefits platform.
Getting the message to colleagues
Getting colleagues to engage with financial wellbeing is a challenge that all employers face, and it can be particularly difficult when you have a workforce based across multiple locations.
“We know that for many colleagues outside of our head office it can be hard to engage with some of our content. The operating rhythm and nature of their role means they can’t always join our seminars or they don’t get to read about our latest campaign and so miss out on the great stuff that’s available. That’s a constant challenge, so focussing on all aspects of accessibility is important to make sure our content is always available and easy to use.”
Part of that accessibility has focused on adapting their messaging and segmenting their approach to deliver communications that have real impact.
“A good example of this is changing our messaging for those that haven’t selected certain benefits that we know other colleagues love. So instead of standard messaging about the shopping discount card we offer, we’ll target those that haven’t selected it to tell them the benefits and what colleagues like them have saved,” said Walker. “We’ll use personal colleague stories where we can to bring to life the difference that having, for example, critical illness cover has had on families.”
The type of content is not the only consideration. Walker explains that key to learning is giving colleagues the choice to engage with the content in a way that works for them. As such, they offer tools, podcasts, videos, webinars and guides to appeal to different learning styles and capacity.
Financial wellbeing is now a permanent fixture of NatWest’s broader wellbeing strategy. And so to continue its success they have recently introduced specific questions around financial wellbeing into its colleague opinion survey, to ensure its strategy is meeting colleagues’ needs.
In addition they are constantly listening to broader colleague feedback and have received positive responses from colleagues who feel the material is helpful and would like to access more information. Overall, it has found that people are keen to engage and learn about financial wellbeing.
“We can see encouraging signs elsewhere as well,” said Walker. “For example, our pensions savings rates have come on significantly, we have fantastic engagement as part of our annual benefits campaign, and more financial wellbeing is being featured on department-level people plans. It’s clear, in the way that physical and mental health did, financial wellbeing is growing roots and building momentum.”
In terms of how they maintain this momentum, financial wellbeing now has a dedicated ‘space’ in its wellbeing calendar to focus on money. “We’re also looking at ways that we can deliver our content differently and empower teams to run their own sessions to get them talking about money, and we’re also considering some new benefits that might add to our offering more broadly,” adds Walker.
Advice to those starting their financial wellbeing journey
For those just beginning to plan their financial wellbeing strategy, Walker offers some brilliant advice.
“Take some time to picture what you want colleagues to say, feel and do as a result of your strategy in five to 10 years’ time. Being clear on the outcomes you’re striving for in these terms is a powerful way to test if you’re on the right track, and consider if you’re using your energy, budget and resource on the right things.
“Be prepared for it to take some time. Celebrate the small wins, give things a try and be open to things not going as you planned – there’s always some great lessons to be learnt,” she concludes.