Interview with Richard Stovell, Maji’s Head of Financial Wellbeing
Richard Stovell, Maji’s Head of Financial Wellbeing, is an employee benefits veteran with 25 years of experience under his belt. So, when we got the chance to interview him about the importance of financial wellbeing for employees, we couldn’t pass it up!
Rich’s career started in healthcare, and he later found a natural pivot into the emerging field of financial wellbeing in the workplace. Rich was involved in pioneering several digital flexible benefits offerings. He was also instrumental in building various financial wellbeing propositions from the ground up.
Throughout his career, Rich has listened carefully to what the market was telling him it needed: increased employee engagement; a way of providing meaningful insights; a means of linking benefits to the needs of the users; and a way of understanding employees better through user-generated data.
In this interview, Rich gives us his valuable insights into financial health and wellbeing – a goldmine for anyone interested in financial wellbeing policy, strategy, and employee benefits.
Hi, Rich! What attracted you to financial wellbeing in the first place?
Financial wellbeing was a very new concept when I first got involved. However, I found it really fulfilling to sell a benefit that can have such a positive impact on an individual and make a tangible difference to their life.
Interestingly, financial wellbeing is in the same place mental wellbeing was when it was first brought into the benefit space. There was a taboo or stigma around talking about mental health in the workplace. Now mental wellbeing is a common conversation topic around the water cooler. Financial wellbeing is going through the same journey but still has some way to go. I love being at the start of the journey: it’s fascinating, especially when you factor in the amazing tech developments in the space.
One example that stood out to me in the past was a real lightbulb moment. A woman we were working with admitted that she had less than £100 in her emergency savings fund. Through engaging with a financial wellbeing tech benefit, she realised that she was paying out over £50 per month in various subscriptions she didn’t know were still there. That allowed her to gradually build a buffer fund for those ‘just in case’ moments.
I felt like I’d just shaped her daily life in a positive way.
From your experience, what are some of the biggest challenges when it comes to employee benefits?
The first thing that jumps to mind is lack of data!
Employers always want new ideas and initiatives. Whether they’re working with an Employee Benefits Consultant (EBC), or developing an employee benefits strategy in-house, they need data to know what’s needed. You can’t argue with the data; real-life metrics should underpin what’s on offer.
The next is pension engagement, which has always been a problem. The workplace pension is usually a major benefit, but many people don’t understand or appreciate it. One of the main reasons the big players out there have got financial wellbeing platforms in place is to allow users to engage more with their pensions and have better prospects in retirement.
Lastly, there is always the challenge of uptake of benefits. Anything that drives more employees to their existing benefits platforms and benefits offerings is invaluable.
What are the trends in the employee benefits space and where do you see it heading?
People are now looking for data-led solutions and surveys are so 1990s! They also aren’t very effective. Pure, tech-driven, data-led strategies are so much more powerful and far less likely to be skewed. With modern tech, data is also gathered automatically without any effort on the user side. It can then be analysed in really intelligent ways.
However, data for data’s sake is one thing, but the ability to analyse and present it in the right way so you can clearly see trends is vital. Employee benefits leaders need to see data in a clear and concise way that can demonstrate ROI, engagement and where improvements can be made.
What role does tech play in employee benefits?
A huge benefit with tech is it can improve user experience and engagement. The challenge there is that the tech has to be focused completely on the individual user. We want to use tech to provide a personalised journey for the user, making it an intuitive, easy to use and frictionless pathway to action.
Then you need to take it one step further and show the user what they should do next at every step and nudge them towards positive action. The best way to do that is to approach everything from the end user’s perspective.
Obviously, the advent of GDPR presents a massive challenge and makes data-sharing very difficult. Therefore, benefits tech solutions should ideally not need lots of user data upfront for the tech to function.
What attracted you to Maji?
Financial wellbeing is a fascinating subject and fundamentally, if you get it right, you can massively improve people’s lives. The thing I love about the leadership team at Maji is they are very responsive to my feedback. I have never felt so listened to!
Also, the speed at which things can be developed off the back of my feedback is eye-watering compared to the experience I’ve had in the past. At Maji, development takes weeks, not months or years. Maji is such a culture of can-do attitude, and they’ve got a really impressive innovation roadmap.
I also love the feedback I get from prospects. Things like: ‘Maji is next generation financial wellbeing’, ‘I had no idea anything like this was available’, ‘this is a game changer’, and ‘this is gold dust for any HR teams that want to help their employees’.
Thank you, Rich! For more insights on financial wellbeing and employee benefits, check out Maji on LinkedIn.