CHASM Conference 2018 - Financial wellbeing and working age people: Addressing the challenges ahead

On Tuesday 26 June, CHASM held its annual conference on the theme of Financial wellbeing and working age people: Addressing the challenges ahead.  The event brought together an audience of over fifty representatives from the financial services industry, charities, the financial services regulator and the academic community.

Presentations were given by Ian Baines, Head of Pensions at Nationwide; Thomas Joy, HR Consultant, Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS); Margaret May, Honorary CHASM Research Fellow; Jane Tully, External Affairs Director of the Money Advice Trust; Carl Packman, Research and Good Practice manager, Toynbee Hall and Ryan Shorthouse, Founder and Chief Executive of Bright Blue.

The speakers offered insightful information and thought provoking ideas on what employers assisting their employees, or the self-employed, could do to help overcome financial challenges and enhance their financial resilience.  Delegates participated in enthusiastic and interesting discussions surrounding the themes of financial wellbeing interventions, financial education and financial policies for working people.

The conference commenced with an overview of research on employment based welfare in the UK, delivered my Margaret May.  She presented an interesting introduction to the breadth and depth of employer initiatives that have been used to help manage debt and facilitate savings capability.  Margaret also highlighted the eight types of work-based financial wellbeing benefits that companies may provide their employees, including debt counselling, income protection schemes, financial education schemes and low cost credit facilities.

Ian Baines gave an insight into the implementation of the new industry-acclaimed DC pension structure and staff engagement plan at Nationwide.  He described how making changes, such as circulating clear and simple messages about pension choices through many different communication channels, has seen those employees making the maximum personal contribution to their pension scheme rising by 70% in under two years.  

Highlights of the RBS financial wellbeing strategy were shared with the audience by Thomas Joy.  He argued that if we want to see a behavioural change in staff member’s financial habits, then financial wellbeing needs to form part of an organisation’s wider wellbeing programme.  Thomas gave the example of setting up closed social media groups for peer to peer discussions and implementing new health focussed wellbeing activities for example, the 10,000 steps challenge, which in turn encouraged staff to be more receptive to the RBS financial wellbeing initiative.

The emerging challenges of financial wellbeing were addressed by Jane Tully.  She explained the issues that the Money Advice Trust regularly deal with through their National Debtline and Business Debtline services for those in employment, self-employed or in non-conventional forms of employment relationships.  Ryan Shorthouse then discussed the challenges facing those who are self-employed and from low income backgrounds, including income volatility, late payment and a lack of financial advice or training. 

Finally, Carl Packman highlighted Toynbee Hall’s extensive research and co-design work with employers, financial services and support providers, on designing and delivering excellent financial health outcomes in an ever-changing employment environment.   Carl raised the issue of irregular income, as a result of, for example zero hours contracts, making it very difficult for people to pay their bills on time.  He called for policies to be developed and improvements to financial education to be made to raise financial capability and resilience.

Speaker presentations

Ian Baines, Head of Pensions at Nationwide

Thomas Joy, HR Consultant at the Royal Bank of Scotland 

Margaret May & Edward Brunsdon, Honorary Research Fellows at CHASM

Jane Tully, External Affairs Director of the Money Advice Trust

Carl Packham, Toynbee Hall

Ryan Shorthouse, the Founder and Chief Executive of Bright Blue