Christen Marsenison, Chief Strategy &
Development Officer, EnvisagePA: How can you use technology to get a holistic view of a plan participant?
CHRISTEN MARSENISON: Using technology to see holistically into a participant’s life allows you to bring together banking information; credit and debt information; potentially mortgage information; and retirement information. In order to service participants more in the future, we have to do it holistically. We have to know all of the factors applied to retirement as opposed to just the retirement participation or auto enroll and auto escalate.
PA: How can you connect those dots?
MARSENISON: Envisage has the ability to connect those dots, to work together in a partnership and that’s kind of what we’re pushing for. That holistic view across networking and bringing those networks together, allowing the network to form and then give you the information that you need as a service provider anywhere in that space to bring all the data points together to help with participant engagement, participant wellness, financial wellness, future planning, retirement and even healthcare costs at some point.
PA: How do you take those concepts and apply them to generations? We know Baby Boomers, for example, have changed every aspect of their lifespan that they’ve been through. Now, Gen Xers less so, but Millennials are poised to do that as well. How do you evaluate technology and use technology to communicate with Millennials and Gen Xers as you move forward?
MARSENISON: One of the things we’re seeing is the effect of the more holistic requirements, for Millennials. As Baby Boomers retire and the money gets pulled out, you need for a greater income level or people participating. One the things we’re seeing as a provider of products in that wellness space are holistic views. I think it’s important to look at the way that Millennials use technology. Email just doesn’t exist. We’ve all done behavioral studies for Millennials. We understand how they work. We’ve seen the data. We’ve seen the reports. Now that we have assessed how they behave, we’re looking at how to engage that behavior in different ways, and technology is certainly one of those ways. The social acceptance or the social approvals that the Millennials function under, Yelp.com for example, is certainly one that everyone responds to. Even Gen Xers and Baby Boomers at some level will look at those types of things. So I think as an industry how do we engage them? How do we develop a Yelp? How do we develop the technologies that engage Millennials at a different level in many ways, through apps or through technologies or through social gaming? There are certainly a lot of different things we can look at.
PA: How does Envisage connect that into their retirement plan space? How do advisers connect with Envisage, or recordkeepers? What’s your role?
MARSENISON: Envisage is a back office quiet contributor. We integrate systems very well. It’s what our forte is. We can integrate recordkeeping platforms. We can integrate client relationships with management platforms. We take data from large quantities and tailor it down based on what it is you’re looking to see. We also have some application utilizing technology where the technology sees data in ways the naked eye does not.
The facts and the data to support the need for financial wellness are coming from third parties and from record keepers. But the real demand is coming from employees and the fact that there are barriers to them participating in the plan. The barriers need to be removed if we really want them to be successful and retire. So, I think the facts come from the industry but the demand is coming from participants. Plan sponsors are recognizing that there is a need there.
As a third-party provider, we’re pulling data together for you, as the advisers, so that advisers can present that holistic view. There is no way to do that without technology, quite honestly connecting systems for you. You can always have manual entry systems where I go and put my data in there but the validity of my data is only as good as I pay attention. So, what if we can pull that data for you, and we can present that for you in a unified standard, so that you know that in every conversation when you walk in, you know the participant, as a holistic person. It certainly changes that conversation.
PA: So how does all this knowledge about Millennials and their usage of technology intersect with advisers, and specifically this growing movement towards robo-advice?
MARSENISON: I think the adviser touch-points have to be timed correctly. We have to make sure that the interaction is in the right manner and is at the right time. We are seeing with Millennials wanting to do their own research, but there’s a time and a place when that research becomes, ‘Now I need an expert to help me.’ Originally, there was a belief that Millennials wanted nothing to do with human interaction but the data shows that is not true. They absolutely need that human interaction because there is a point in time when they’ve stopped learning, or they’re willing to admit that they don’t know, what the next step is. That’s the critical piece, the interaction level.
In the last two years robo-advice technology has proven to be a good thing. Robo-advising is great, to a point, and then there is a touch-point that requires an adviser to help facilitate the next step in any participant’s engagement. So, when do you interact, when do you advise, when do you engage them at the right time, at the right place? Does that mean you work 24/7, 365 days a year? No, but it does mean that you have to start looking at wellness programs that allow you to communicate with these people. In the event that someone is considering adding compensation or adding contributions, what does that conversation look like and when do you engage that person? How do you engage that person at the right time when they’ve just gone through paying $50,000 in some kind of credit card debt, and they’re probably not interested in hearing about a contribution?
It’s engaging that technology in the right places, understanding financial implications of existing health conditions, looking at how they are engaging in those health conditions or what are they doing to make their actual physical health better, allows distressed differentials with the financials. So, I think critical, most times what we’re hearing is the timing and the placement of the interaction with the individuals.
PA: Can you generally apply to retirement plans as well? Millennials are willing to engage in their retirement plan if and when it’s done so in the right time and place?
MARSENISON: There’s lots of chat type technologies that allow an adviser to engage on the plan level when and if that instance arrives.
I would say the suggestion would be to look at the completeness of the wellness program. Is it holistic, does it help you make the conversations easier and more direct regardless of who the participant you’re talking to, whether it’s a Boomer all the way through the Gen Xers, to a Millennial, to whatever the next generation is. I think that’s the number one.
Millennials will engage, but when they do, they want an instant and immediate reaction. How do we do that? We do that through technology and that can make an adviser act 24/7, should they choose to engage in that technology, and I think that’s the key.