Corporations can no longer ignore that their employees are carrying over their financial stress into the workplace, which impacts the bottom line. On this week’s On Work and Revolution podcast, Dani Pascarella shares the one employee benefit that can truly transform their financial wellbeing and life.
Specifically, Debbie & Dani dig into:
✓ The importance of financial wellness for employees and its connection to mental well-being in the workplace
✓ Ways organizations can embed financial wellness into their corporate culture
✓ How to build loyalty and retention by connecting company benefits to employees that need them
About our guest Dani Pascarella
Dani Pascarella is the Founder and CEO of OneEleven, a leading financial wellness app that empowers people to live happier lives while helping employers boost employee engagement and decrease turnover. Prior to founding OneEleven, Dani was an Investment Specialist at JPMorgan where she managed money for ultra high net worth individuals with at least $25 million in investable assets. She holds a B.A. and M.A. in Business from the University of Florida and a M.S. in Journalism from Columbia University. Dani is also a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ and a Contributor at Forbes where she covers the intersection of money and psychology.
Follow Dani on LinkedIn
Open for Full Episode Transcript
Open for Full Episode Transcript
Welcome to On Work and Revolution where we talk about what’s shaking up in the world of work and EdTech. I’m your host, Debbie Goodman, and today we have as our guest, Dani Pascarella. So you know how I love my intros. Dani is founder and CEO of OneEleven, a Financial Wellness platform, which some organizations are, particularly the forward thinking ones, are offering their employees in order to improve their relationship with money, and lead happier, less stressed out lives. Prior to founding OneEleven, Dani was an investment specialist at JP Morgan where she managed money for ultra high net worth individuals. And she became a licensed stockbroker at age 20, is a certified financial planner and she contributes to Forbes magazine on the topic of personal finance. To add to the list of academic qualifications, Dani also holds a BA and MA in international business and an MS in journalism from Columbia, you’ve done a lot of studying Dani. Today, we’re going to be chatting to Dani about OneEleven and how financial wellness for employees should be seen as a key element of mental well being in the workplace. It’s kind of the new mental health benefit or perk, so to speak. So welcome, Dani.
Dani Pascarella 01:27
Oh, Hello, and thank you so much for having me, Debbie. It’s great to be here.
Debbie Goodman 01:31
OK, so firstly, I’d love to know more about OneEleven. Firstly, the name, I mean, it sounds like there’s a story behind that.
Dani Pascarella 01:40
Oh, there most certainly is. So we actually had a different name before. And we went to go and we actually were selling direct to consumer and to millennials. But we wound up getting all this interest from companies that wanted to offer our product to their employees. So we figured a rebrand is in order and we actually surveyed our members to see what this new name should be. And we sent out this pretty extensive survey. And one of the questions was just, you know, how has OneEleven, different at the time, but how have we changed your life? What is the thing that we do for you that makes you keep coming back for more? And one of the answers just our team loved and it really stuck with us and it was my quality of life is just better overall, I’m living a life that’s 11 out of 10. And we were like, that pretty much sums it up. We’re a group, a community of people. And our really big goal, it’s I always like to say it’s about the money, but it’s not about the money. Our goal is to help you live a better life. So we’re a community of people who are working towards creating lives for ourselves that we would rate 11 out of 10. Because that is you know, within our control, and money is a toolkit that can absolutely help us all to get there.
Debbie Goodman 02:55
11 out of 10 I really, really like that. Okay, got it. Perfect. So taking back to the yes, you’re the people that your consumers that were using already using the product right at the beginning, were clearly getting value. Why the switch to working with corporations? And what is essentially the big problem that OneEleven solves?
Dani Pascarella 03:20
Yeah, so if you told me when I started this company that we would be selling to corporations, I would, I probably would not have believed you. This actually happened because our individual customers started bringing us into their office. So we would help them, you know, revamp their financial lives. And they would say, hey, none of my friends understand any of the financial benefits that are offered 401K, employee stock purchase it programs, you know, even health insurance and how that all works. There were more questions and not a lot of good answers. So we kept getting asked, you know, come into my office, can you help? So we would do these talks in offices. And then from there, you know, the benefits teams would say, or the HR team would say, Can you do something else? Can you keep coming back, and we kept getting these repeat requests. So, you know, I figured there’s something here and eventually they wanted to buy our product altogether. So it happened very organically. And it is, you know, it’s so cool that it did because it allows us to help not just people who seek out financial help, but people who may not even know it’s available or exist or that they need it, it gives us a whole new audience that can benefit.
Debbie Goodman 04:30
Why the alignment though, with mental wellbeing. Help me understand the connection between, it may seem obvious, but because we’re all kind of stressed out about money, but the connection and particularly from a corporation’s point of view because there has been such a spotlight on mental health and mental well being, particularly since COVID. Help me understand the alignment there and whether organizations actually see this as a mental health benefit?
Dani Pascarella 04:58
Oh absolutely. If I had to sum up the top three reasons that companies choose to work with OneEleven, it’s that wellbeing piece first and foremost. It’s DEI and its culture and engagement I’d say are the big three. On the wellbeing front money is actually the biggest mental health issue in America, it’s the number one cause of stress in the entire country. So it’s something that impacts people’s lives in such a profound way. And, you know, that impacts company’s bottom lines, too, because it’s, you know, think about when you’re stressed, right, you’re less productive, there’s absenteeism, there are so many issues that are tied to that, higher health care costs. So there are so many different, you know, impacts of being, you know, having a mental health issue and largely driven by, you know, personal finance issues, that if you were to resolve this, if you were to help employees with their personal financial situation, you in turn, not just help the employer, but you build your culture, you save money, all these extra things that are really good for the company also happen, which is why employers are really, really putting this at the forefront. So at the end of the day, if I have credit card debt, and that’s stressing me out, I can go to counseling, all I want, you know, I can talk to a therapist, like I can really try to manage the anxiety. But at the end of the day, if the credit card debt is stressing me out, and I feel like it’s spiraling, the only thing that’s going to help me is starting to pay it off. And having a plan that I feel good about.
Debbie Goodman 06:27
That totally makes sense. My question now is, there’s absolutely, without a doubt, a need for this kind of offer, the data must show, I imagine there’s a lot of data showing the impact. But when it comes to offering benefits like this in an organization, and I know this from personal experience, offering mental health benefits to my team, it was all very well saying, Hey, guys, I’m offering you access to a therapist, and we’ll keep it confidential, but just put your hand up, and we’ll pay for therapy for you. And for almost nine months, nobody took me up on the offer. Because there was still a stigma attached to it, because people weren’t entirely sure about how confidential, they weren’t sure, you know, how I would treat their request to take me up on the offer of this kind of support. And so there’s the offer, which we know is a perfectly reasonable one, and absolutely can impact individuals, their lives, their well being, their mental health, etc. But do people actually put their hand up and say, Yes, I need this?
Dani Pascarella 07:34
Oh, absolutely. So OneEleven, we consistently, you know, our average participation rate is above 30%, across all of our partners, which we’re very proud of. But I will say that the stigma is very real, it happened. I think that financial wellness is a few years behind mental health. So mental health had this big moment with the pandemic. And you saw before and after there was a clear there’s a really, you know, there’s a really big stigma here. And then there were a few startups that figured out how to reframe the narrative and say, you know, this is a proactive thing that you can do, it’s not remedial, there’s nothing wrong with you, if you go to therapy, you know, and it’s actually a really great healthy thing. And they reframe that narrative so that employees feel comfortable and confident and also clearly outlined privacy and what happens there, where now they’re seeing high participation rates, and we’re seeing those same things in financial wellness. So if you look at the traditional, I need financial help, you have those employee assistance programs and they feel so remedial, you know. You’re I’m desperate, I’m calling into a call center. It’s just such a painful, awful process for the employee. And it makes them feel so bad about themselves to go through that of course, no one wants to do it. These legacy programs are completely missing the mark, which is why OneEleven is so special is we sat down and said what are all the things that can happen in an employee’s journey that would make them not want to do this, and basically solve for that to make it seem like, you know, financial wellness is not just for if you’re struggling, it’s we all need to make the most of our paychecks at the end of the day, we’re all going to work to make a living. So let’s do the best we can with that.
Debbie Goodman 09:10
And so has there been a shift in how organizations or individual leaders in organizations need to start reframing the narrative? I mean, let’s just say general mental health, I know that in order to normalize that many leaders have taken on the the being the spokesperson for mental health and use themselves as examples of how they’ve taken on mental health support therapy, etc. In order to normalize it for their teams. Has there been something similar when it comes to financial wellbeing and support?
Dani Pascarella 09:44
Normalizing it is key and I would say the more the HR team works with us on embedding financial wellness into the culture, making it seem like this is something that’s as every day for employees as getting paid or signing up for or 401k. The more the people teams that we work with partner with us on the communications on hosting programming throughout the year, the higher participation gets because it is that familiarity. It’s feeling comfortable, it’s getting that buy in from both sides. It’s so, so critical.
Debbie Goodman 10:17
And is OneEleven seen as an education product or as an employee benefit, so to speak? Where does it sit in the like, so, you know, are you speaking to the chief learning officer, or are you speaking to the head of HR when it comes to this particular offering?
Dani Pascarella 10:34
Yeah, so we’ve worked with both actually. I will say the more common route is to go through the head of HR and the benefits team in larger organizations. And that’s because of ROI. One of the biggest push backs, I get, you know, I’ll get a really passionate leader of a people team that says, I know this is a problem for my employees. They’re asking me when, you know, if I can get paid earlier, if I can get advances on my paycheck, and all kinds of things. But how do I get the buy in from leadership, from our CFO to offer something like this. So we actually created we actually have CFOs on our board, which is very handy. And we created an ROI analysis that we actually do for all of our partners that helps them understand, you know, you’re not, this is not just an expense or a cost that you’re spending on for your employees, we can actually make your company money by offering this. You will, there will be savings associated. And one of the places where there is a lot of low hanging fruit and opportunities to save money, it’s you know, it’s within the benefits that already exist that are being underutilized, that, you know, you look at something like health care where people don’t understand they’re often on the wrong plan. And they’re, you know, their spend is way higher than it needs to be. And they just need someone to help them to understand what their options are. So they can make a better decision. And that’s where we come in. And we’re actually able to partner with these benefits teams on increasing that utilization of the entire Total Rewards program and benefits and you know, also save costs in a lot of places too.
Debbie Goodman 12:03
Okay, so this is not just an add on, this is a look at the entire package, so to speak, that’s being offered. I think that a lot of companies, particularly during the pandemic, really were, so many were, very concerned about their employees, justifiably so. And we’re kind of throwing anything that they could find at the problem, in order to try and address burnout in order to try and address the stress and the fatigue and the exhaustion that many people were experiencing. And I think where we found ourselves now is a little bit of a haphazard collection of mismatched and expensive, in some cases, rewards. So you would come in and look at the whole thing and say, Okay, where are we going to get max benefit, and also educate employees on the basics. I mean, I’ve had to navigate the US healthcare benefits system coming from South Africa, myself, and honestly, I really need your program just to learn about 401k’s and healthcare benefits, because for that, you need a PhD in order to decipher that.
Dani Pascarella 13:05
It’s not you, you’re not alone. It’s just not intuitive. And we’re also busy with our lives and our jobs. It’s like who has the time to go look at the lengthy document that they give you and try to understand all of this and apply it to your situation. So you know that’s exactly right. And where we can come in and help and basically be the concierge service for all of those benefits that HR works so hard on like, if you look at spend per employee, it’s a high percentage goes towards benefits. But if you survey the typical employee, they have no idea what they’ve you know, what’s available for them, or how to make the most of it. And in reality, that’s something that HR spend so much time and effort and thought on. And it could really impact their bottom line. We see it every day. It’s like why are you not taking advantage of these programs, it drastically changes your whole financial situation today, tomorrow and 10 years from now. So that’s where we’re able to come in, is just really amplifying all the efforts of HR, and helping connect those benefits to the employees who need them, which builds that loyalty. It helps with retention and all the really important things that leadership cares about.
Debbie Goodman 14:14
Are you seeing any change in behavior from organizations that are starting to feel the stress of changed market conditions who are feeling very recessionary who are very loath to spend anything more on anything and are either cutting back on all kinds of benefits might be seeing this as an add on that’s not necessary. Are you seeing any changes right now?
Dani Pascarella 14:42
Yeah, so certainly anytime there’s a change in the economy, there absolutely changes. And that really differentiates the types of companies we partner with versus the ones that we don’t. I think there are some companies that view investments in employees as we’re going to get ROI on this. We’re spending because we know that our reputation and being an employer of choice is critical. That retention is so important and recessions, you know, recessions are tough economic times are temporary, the way we look to the employee, our employees and potential future candidates is critical. So those companies are actually not only adding OneEleven, many of them, even if they have layoffs, they add us in their severance packages to make sure that those alumni guys are the alumni that are leaving the company with that goodwill, and they can land on two feet instead of you know, feeling like they’re kind of, you know, not, you know, not happy with their situation.
Debbie Goodman 15:37
That’s so great from an employer branding point of view. If you think about it.
Dani Pascarella 15:43
Yeah, the best employers are doing that. There are certainly some that are like, we’re cost cutting, we’re getting rid of benefits. And we see that but you know, those are more companies where their strategy is not to be an employer of choice, they’re not looking at benefits in a way where there’s going to be ROI, they view anything at, you know, any kind of extra spend on employees as a cost. And it’s a strategy, it works for some companies, it’s just not, you know, like the employers of choice that we choose to partner with.
Debbie Goodman 16:13
I guess, you know, companies will be self selecting one way or the other. And you’ve already got the sort of pinnacle of the ones who recognize this as not just a benefit to add to a rewards package, but a massive return on investment. And then particularly now, it’s almost like counterintuitive. Like right now, when markets are tight, when inflation is high, when everybody’s paycheck is being extended to the hilt, when debt is increasing. I mean, it’s like all of the conditions are pointing to we need to empower ourselves to get educated on how to manage our monthly spend, and everything else associated with that. I was wondering this, you know, people at all levels of the financial hierarchy have their own stresses. And I know you used to be in your former career where you were a financial wealth manager for high net worth individuals. Do very wealthy people, the rich ones, the super rich ones also have these kinds of stresses, or is it just like they don’t really need to worry about such things?
Dani Pascarella 17:16
That’s an excellent question. So I think the way we look at stress varies, and there are different levels. When we look at the super wealthy, it’s, it’s not so much stress in my day to day, it’s, I want to do the best I can at optimizing this. So we’re looking at you know very much I’m coming from a place of, you know, this is in order, I feel good about it, but let’s make sure it stays that way. And that’s where, and then that you can actually have at all income levels. So we have, you know, members at OneEleven, employees on the platform that they’re not earning a lot, but things are very much under control and trending in the right direction for them where they want to be. And that’s what we aim for at OneEleven. When you have stress, if we ask ourselves, you know, why does this stress happen, it’s, I don’t feel in control of my situation. It’s not where I want it to be. That can happen at all income levels, but it’s really the most devastating for the individual and for the company, when you’re looking at, you know, the early stages in the financial journey. So I have a lot of debt, I have no emergency fund, I have, you know, I’m really in the early innings of finances, and any, if anything shifts in the wrong direction, I am completely off kilter. And we’re seeing this now. We’re seeing people who have been laid off, and they have no emergency fund and they have debt. And they’re getting, you know, not a lot of severance. But you know, some of the situations and conversations our coaches have been having are, you know, I need to find a job in the next week or two, or else I might, you know, I won’t be able to pay my rent. And that’s where the stress is huge when it’s, you know, when it impacts your needs, when basic needs can’t be met because of your financial situation. And we live in a world where four out of five Americans are, you know, are paycheck to paycheck, according to a lot of surveys. So that’s where we can be the most, you know, the most impactful.
Debbie Goodman 19:11
You alluded to a coach, tell me a little more about how the whole thing works. I mean, are you sitting in a classroom? Are you doing online courses? How does one go about the process of learning and accumulating the knowledge and empowerment to get to that point have control over one’s financial situation? Because that sounds like a really great ideal. I want that too.
Dani Pascarella 19:35
As you mentioned the beginning like I spent a long time as a financial planner. So you know, I’ve managed peoples’ income, managed money for people at all income levels, and I’ve actually seen what it takes to eliminate the stress to change financial behavior. So when we went to build our product that was a lens I was going through is how do we help people get from where they are now to where they want to be. Fundamentally different from legacy platforms, which is like, here’s an e-course, it’s kind of like you said, is it a course is it information? I always like to say, Google has been around for a very long time, if you want information, great stuff on Google, YouTube, go learn about finance. But at the end of the day, the statistics on how people are doing with their own finances has not gotten better, despite the information out there. So at OneEleven, we aim to solve that problem. And we do this with our really just unique, proven approach. First, we have a mobile app. Our view is, this is how people run their lives, its mobile app. So we need to be able to manage our day to day money within the app on the go in chunks of two minutes at a time, anything more than that you lose people, it’s people’s attention. The second thing is we offer a dedicated wealth coach to every single employee, it’s the same person that every time, they’re available through an app chat, they can get on a zoom and have a conversation they can get on a phone call. So they have this just financial buddy in their corner, that’s you know, that’s there to help them manage that stress, talk things out, make the right moves. And that is critical for behavior change, we’ve actually found through our data that with just an app, people drop off. That just it’s so hard to do hard things that are already causing stress. But the coach is like the secret sauce with the app where that one two punch of here’s all the tech tools. And here we are to support you, that makes a difference. And that’s why you know, 91% of employees that utilize OneEleven feel a very fast and profound reduction in financial stress.
Debbie Goodman 21:36
Oh, that’s like your financial therapist.
Dani Pascarella 21:39
Exactly. Our coaches train just as much in psychology as they do in financial concepts. Because if you look at why people don’t make progress, or aren’t where they want to be, it’s never the access to information that’s like, in today’s day and age, it’s not it. It’s more I don’t have the support system I need, to stick with it to do what’s necessary to get to where I want to go.
Debbie Goodman 21:59
Yeah. Wow, that is an amazing support tool. Well, I hope that if any, well, we know that there are plenty of HR people listening to this, but also entrepreneurs, leaders, founders, who are thinking about how to support their employees and their staff through this very tricky time in the economy in particular, but lifelong, really, this is such an amazing offering. I hope your phone is just going to be, well your inbox is going to be exploding this year for all the right reasons. I’ve got one last question, Dani, what’s shaking up in your world in 2023? What’s happening that’s different this year from others, that you’re either feeling optimistic or nervous about, as we are already on the train, the 2023 train?
Dani Pascarella 22:54
Yes. So for us, we are seeing an unprecedented level of demand, which we were a little nervous about, you know, just like you said before, what will changes in the economy do? You know we’re a startup, the last recession was very long ago. So you know, we don’t have those data points. And what we’re seeing now is unprecedented demand caring for employees, which is great for us. And it’s very powerful to see so many large organizations realize what’s important in the current environment and do something about it. But that being said, it’s a very scary time to be an individual employee, I think, especially when we look at, you know, younger millennials, and now Gen Z, who just like, you know, they’ve never been working in the US economy where we’ve had these kinds of shocks and, you know, downturns in the economy and things like that. I mean, we fell a little bit for a moment in the pandemic, but then there was so much, you know, stimulus that it was, it was kind of all okay pretty quickly, for many people. But here, it’s just, it’s the first true like, we don’t, you know, we really don’t have the support systems and those safety nets that, you know, that we need to make sure that we’re going to be okay. And that’s so I think that’s, you know, kind of a, it’s been a little jarring to see. We see a very big difference with generations who have kind of been there done that seen it before, and the next generation of talent. So the big thing for us is just to, you know, to be there and help as many people as we can.
Debbie Goodman 24:21
Well, I’m very glad to hear that there is I mean, I’m not glad to hear that the market conditions are such that there is such demand, but you know, you’re benefiting from the demand. And the thing is that it’s not just for now. Now is possibly the catalyst for more and more organizations to take up this as a part of their holistic wellness offering for employees. So if this is the catalyst, hopefully this sustains into the future. We should really be learning about the stuff at school. It’s bizarre to me that this isn’t part of the absolutely essential curriculum at school so that we, we graduate knowing how to manage our finances? And hopefully, is that even a consideration for you taking this into school systems?
Dani Pascarella 25:07
Yeah, it’s funny you asked. We actually work with a few. A select few universities now that have come to us to offer OneEeleven, which has been very, very exciting. So that’s, that’s a growing part of our business. And in my view, the earlier you can get to someone when they’re actually managing their own finances, the easier it’s going to be for them to develop healthy habits. So we love that and encourage it.
Debbie Goodman 25:31
Well, that sounds very exciting. I will make a plan to talk to my teenage daughters about tax at some point. Thank you so much for joining us, Dani. This has been a fascinating discussion and all the best for an amazing 2023 with lots of help for people who need it.
Dani Pascarella 25:49
Thank you so much, Debbie and you as well. Thanks for having me.
Debbie Goodman 25:54
Thanks for hanging around all the way to the end. It would mean the world if you would rate and review On Work and Revolution on your favorite listening app. It helps people know that the show is worth listening to. And so I will really appreciate that. Thank you so much.
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