Wealth Management Firms Ramp Up Focus on Employee Wellness

Julius Buchanan, Managing Editor, Wealth Solutions Report

Advisor Group Launches Employee Wellness Program for Mental, Physical and Financial Health

Advisor Group recently announced the launch of a holistic wellness program targeting employees’ physical, mental and financial health, featuring partnerships with Aetna and virtual behavioral healthcare company Talkspace

According to CEO Jamie Price, the program responds to enhanced needs for physical and mental health after the stresses of the pandemic and recent economic uncertainty.

We’re taking back our health!

“The COVID-19 pandemic had a profound impact on all our mental and physical health, and recent market volatility and economic uncertainty has only exacerbated this toll.” 

Price expressed that the goals of employee health and company performance are interlinked, as the program enables “employees to address all aspects of healthy life so that they are best positioned to continue delivering outstanding service to our network of financial professionals.”

A sound mind in a sound body

The Reverence Capital-backed firm will provide the new wellness program to all of its approximately 2,300 employees, encompassing its FSC Securities, Royal Alliance Associates, SagePoint Financial, Securities America, Triad Advisors and Woodbury Financial Services subsidiaries.

The health and wellness program includes mental health support by Talkspace, which matches individuals with licensed therapists online, a rewards app by Aetna for staying active and healthy and a reimbursement program for fitness event entrance fees and other incentives to athletic participation.

COVID and Cultural Shifts

Cecile V. Munoz, President, U.S. Executive Search & Consulting

Programs to incentivize and support employee wellness aren’t new, but according to Genevieve E. Thayer, Co-Founder of financial advisor coaching firm Beacon Partners, “The COVID pandemic illuminated the importance of prioritizing mental health and wellness programs for employees, as everyone shifted to remote work and living under unique circumstances.” 

Cecile V. Munoz, President of talent acquisition firm U.S. Executive Search & Consulting, agrees, stating, “The pandemic both exacerbated and accelerated the need for wellness programs. They can help fix a disconnect between the cultural zeitgeist and the lack of policies that actually reflect and support it.”

According to Munoz, “The concept of the work-life balance has shifted to a balanced life. The very nature of work changed – how, where and when we work.  If a company recognizes it demands exceptional work from its people, then it too must recognize its responsibility to provide the downtime and recharge people need to continually deliver high-octane work.”

RIA Firm Uses Pandemic to Enhance Employee Wellness

Anne Marie Stonich, Chief Wealth Strategist of Coldstream Wealth Management, says that her firm’s wellness approach changed after the pandemic, explaining that the firm “started using the Strava platform to share pictures and comments, and track points towards wellness goals.”

Coldstream organized weekly team wellness competitions and monthly recognition categories then leveraged the contests for team building. 

Stonich said, “The use of Strava really enhanced our ability to connect virtually, encourage each other and stay or get active!”

Beneficial to Business Performance and Growth

Thayer says employee wellness programs can boost productivity through employees’ personal growth and emotional soundness, explaining that “financial advisors specialize in the financial health and wealth of their clients.  There’s an emotional aspect to that service, and financial advisors should consider a wellness program that addresses and encourages personal growth for everyone.”

In addition to enhanced performance, Thayer points out a less obvious advantage for firms that engage in a holistic health and wellness strategy:  Their experience relates to the employee health experience for financial advisory firms’ clients who are themselves business owners.

Thayer explains, “Implementing wellness programs and experiencing the positive effects of those programs throughout the team are relatable for any business owner, across various industries.”

Additionally, she notes that business owners want to work with financial advisors who understand their challenges “specific to team growth or wellness programs, and positioning themselves as a subject matter expert outside of just the financials is good for business.”  

A Must-Have for Employee Recruiting

Munoz believes that employee wellness will shift from a competitive recruiting edge to a must-have. She says, “Wellness will be a tangible reason of ‘why’ talent joins a firm. It reflects the firm’s true culture and values.”

Comprehensive wellness programs, in her view, should not reside within the human resources department but move into the C-suite for a variety of reasons, including the replenishment of the employees’ critical thinking, empathy and creativity and creating a stronger bond between employee and employer.

Benefits are equally important

Going forward, leadership must “possess the courage to lead with the conviction of why benefits are as necessary to hiring and retaining top talent as competitive compensation,” she says, cautioning that the road will not be smooth as the C-suite at wealth management firms “must now do this in a highly charged and changing mine field of regulatory, policy change, uncertainty, and evolving cultural norms.”

There are, of course, industry skeptics who argue that the shift to employee wellness programs has not happened rapidly enough, nor are current programs sufficient in scope and resources.

Too little, too late?

A consultant specializing in human resources projects for wealth management firms, speaking under condition of anonymity said, “For years, independent wealth management firms of all sizes have been under-investing in employee wellness.”

“Partly, this is due to broader labor market dynamics that have heavily favored employers until the past two years, and in that respect, wealth management firms certainly aren’t alone.  But in large measure, this is also due to much of the sector being margin compressed, and facing an increasingly tougher set of challenges, from more regulations to heavier tech spend.”

“In an environment like that, employee wellness naturally becomes deprioritized, so much of what’s happening right now is simply playing catch up, compared to other industry sectors.”

Where the Rubber Meets the Road

Still, the skeptics notwithstanding, the embrace of employee wellness appears to be yielding dividends for firms and financial advisors alike.

Health is wealth

Coldstream’s Stonich says that employee wellness altered her firm’s mindset and approach to wealth management, noting that a well-developed financial plan relieves one of the primary stressors causing loss of sleep.  

She compares wealth managers to personal trainers, stating that “a wealth manager with a comprehensive planning approach is key to achieving your goals, both personal and financial,” because the wealth management team will “think into issues proactively, measure progress along the way and help address questions as they arise…”

 Coldstream “Bike to Work” group

Stonich emphasizes that wealth management is more than numbers, that “quality of life is equally important. Maintaining good health as we age, using exercise to reduce stress and exploring new hobbies are all key to enjoying your retirement years, and the journey to get there.”

The firm’s “Bike to Work” challenge encourages employees to bike and engage in other exercise as part of their team building and work-life balance culture. “This strength in our team reflects in the collaborative way we serve our clients and continually strive to enhance our clients’ lives.”

Julius Buchanan, Managing Editor at Wealth Solutions Report, can be reached at jbuchanan@wealthsolutionsreport.com

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