Morgan Stanley revamps financial wellness program

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Morgan Stanley’s wealth management unit upgraded its financial wellness program on Tuesday, in a move designed to help employees meet their financial goals.

About 53% of U.S. workers reported being stressed about their personal finances, according to a 2017 employee financial wellness survey conducted by accounting and consulting firm PwC. Around 48% of those employees considered financial stress to be a major work distraction. Morgan Stanley’s revamped benefit platform aims to increase employee productivity by helping them make smart financial decisions.

Prior to the upgrade, Morgan Stanley’s financial wellness programs were only available to client executives, whose workforce can now enjoy the benefit. The program, called Morgan Stanley Financial Wellness, currently serves 42 mid- to large-sized companies. Morgan Stanley anticipates its other corporate customers will be interested in the program as well.

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The Morgan Stanley headquarters building in New York's Times Square is seen Wednesday, June 22, 2005. Morgan Stanley, which is searching for a new chief executive officer to replace Philip Purcell, said quarterly profit fell 24 percent because of a drop in trading revenue and increased legal expenses. Photographer: Adam Rountree/ Bloomberg News.

“Financial stress among employees is a key contributor to reduced productivity, lower effectiveness and higher attrition,” Brian McDonald, head of corporate solutions, said in a news release.

Users will be able to navigate a digital library of more than 80 financial advice articles and videos, covering topics such as retirement, investing, college planning, estate planning and taxes. To assess an individual’s financial situation, the online portal offers a 12-question financial wellness survey that can identify areas of improvement.

“I wish I could offer everyone our assessment. It really helps employees build a strong financial life for themselves and their future,” says Edward O’Connor, head of Morgan Stanley financial wellness and corporate retirement. “From those we can access a lot of financial information that can tell us if the employee needs help servicing student loans, saving for retirement or simply keeping a budget.”

O’Connor said the survey results can help Morgan Stanley craft customized webinars or on-site seminars for their clients’ employees. If the survey results indicate the majority of a company’s employees struggle with budgeting, for example, Morgan Stanley can design an in-depth presentation on the subject. However, personalized instruction does come at an additional — albeit negotiable — charge.

Morgan Stanley declined to discuss the price for this service.

“I see budget seminars being really popular among our customers because 48% of people don’t even have $400 in their savings account,” says O’Connor. “People are not saving enough. We’re in a position to help educate and form a plan for success.”

After engaging with the digital platforms — and perhaps participating in a workplace seminar — employees may decide they want an even more individualized service. The digital platform gives employees the option to schedule a one-on-one meeting with a Morgan Stanley financial adviser. There’s no fee for the consultation, but employees will need to pay out of pocket for individual services from Morgan Stanley.

“If the employee chooses they want to talk to an individual consultant, they can click and schedule a meeting,” adds O’Connor. “If the individual wants to trust us with their money, we can create an individual plan.”

Morgan Stanley’s current benefit customers have been upgraded to the new plan.

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