Are employers the key to solving Britain’s financial apathy?

AXA has today kicked off a six-month study to assess the impact financial education in the workplace could have on the financial wealth and health of the nation.

26 May 2010

Posted in Financial results

by Daniel O’Byrne (see media contact)

The unique experiment is in response to findings published by AXA late last year - which found that almost 25 million Brits were suffering from financial anxiety, and 1.4 million taking time off as a result. With average household debt (excluding mortgages) now standing at almost £9,000 and an average of over £30,000 for each individual (including mortgages)1 : money worries continue to be the biggest cause of stress and depression in the UK with stress-related illness costing £3.7 billion a year in lost productivity and healthcare costs.

AXA, who will undertake the six-month study with Story Worldwide - an international content marketing agency with offices in London, New York and Hong Kong - aims to use financial education in the workplace as a way of tackling the UK's chronic attitude to financial money management.

Paul McMahon, managing director, AXA Corporate Benefits, said: "There can be no doubt that the UK consumer faces a complex range of financial issues from high levels of personal debt to lack of planning for retirement. We know that the national annual savings gap now exceeds £27bn with 13million people at work having little, if any retirement provision2. But while we know issues like this exist, there's no agreement on what the solutions should be.

"We have previously asked the Government to take the lead in creating a more financially capable public by offering a set of incentives to both individuals and companiesi. We hope that this experiment will go some way to proving the benefits of allowing individuals to engage with money matters in a working environment which in turn will lead, we believe, to improved productivity, reduced sickness absence, greater employee engagement and enhanced loyalty to the employer."

Half of Story's employees will have access to three distinct methods of financial guidance - one-to-one support with an Independent Financial Adviser, a dedicated adviser telephone support service and some self-help guides, including online resources. Group sessions on generic financial needs will also be completed throughout the six months. The others, who will act as a control group, will be left to their own devices 3. Regular comparisons will be made on how each group are coping both from a wealth and health perspective.

Christina Strupinska, HR Director, Story Worldwide said, "People are at the centre of our business; we care about their well being and do all we can to help our colleagues have a good life/work balance. Often stresses outside the workplace affect people's performance at work as anxiety about their finances is significant. We hope that by offering a financial education programme to our employees, helping them to manage their finances better, they will feel more in control and happier.

"We will be interested to see how this pilot reduces stress and helps our employees to positively engage in the control of their personal money related issues."

The results of the experiment will be published in November 2010.