Tell us about WorkLife? What was it set up to achieve? WorkLife was set up to provide employers with an easy to access employee benefits solution. Smaller companies have struggled to access good quality workplace benefits, and they have ended up with watered down solutions due to cost constraints.
We believe utilising a benefits platform, where the process can be largely automated, as ours is, can really bring costs down.
We offer a low cost fixed price solution, which includes a range of core benefits built in. We also provide employers with the opportunity to add additional benefits at any time.
How did you decide on the £2 per employee per month fee? How does that compare to the industry average? The average cost across the industry is somewhere between £3-£6 per employee, but we believe – thanks to automation – it can be done for less, and we are happy with our own pricing point. It means employers have more to spend on the actual benefits and have no big initial financial commitment.
You launched WorkLife at no cost for new customers that sign up this year – what was the thinking behind that? When we launched in June this year, amid the pandemic, we recognised the environment we were entering, so we wanted to make our solution as accessible as possible. We think it’s important employers are able to establish workplace benefits – especially those that support wellbeing, regardless of what else is going on – so we opted to offer the platform free for the remainder of the year.
How has the current pandemic changed working habits at WorkLife? For most of us at WorkLife the impact has been negligible because we were already set up to work from home several days a week. We always said we would work for a number of months remotely when the lockdown was announced, and then from September we are going to do a rota system in the office so people are eased back in a few days a week.
What does the relationship with parent OpenMoney give the business? OpenMoney was established to help everyone gain access to financial advice and education and being able to provide this in the workplace via a platform made sense. It means that alongside OpenMoney we have a USP to offer a total employer solution including regulated financial advice. In certain markets – particularly the SME market – there isn’t anything like that available elsewhere.
Once lockdown is over, what do you think will change and what will stay the same? While we are doing a return to work in September on a rota basis, we are flexible about it, and we think that makes it easier for our employees. Indeed, it’s been great to see that we have had no detrimental impact on our business from the lockdown, and if people want to work from home in future they will be able to.
What positives have you taken from the whole lockdown experience? We think we will carry on with our flexible model, and we think that’s especially important now as there is a real requirement from colleagues and future employees to have flexible working. It also opens up our business to the whole country when it comes to finding new employees.
What does the employee benefits industry in the UK get right, and what needs improving? There has been a real shift to understanding what people want and what makes them tick, beyond a mere product. It’s much more about engaging with employees now and asking them what they want. People want solutions, not products, and that is coming through.
My personal view on this is to look at what challenges employees face – be it financial, health, or mental wellbeing, for example – and then look at what solutions there are to support and improve their lives.
The other positive in recent years is the improved flexibility. Benefits have become more like a subscription now in terms of how you access them – you can switch them on and off, and that flexibility is great as it means if people’s circumstances change, they can still access the right benefits for them.
At a wider level, the growing understanding we have as a society of stress management, resilience training and the like are also important signs of progress from employers recognising what they can do to really help their employees.
However, the industry is still too slow to react in some cases. Lots of companies are still trapped in the past, focusing on pensions only, for example. Change can be onerous and drawn out.
If you could give a younger version of yourself one piece of financial advice what would it be? Don’t get a credit card.
What would you do if you were head of the FCA for the day? My big bug bear is car insurance. Premiums go up every year for no reason. The model makes no sense to me – it’s not built on customer retention.
I also think the financial advice market is plain wrong. Access to advice is based on whether you can pay or not, and that can’t be right, so I would tackle that by using legislation to help make it free.
What is the one column or website that you read every day? FT Adviser
What would you do if you received a windfall of £10,000? I would put it in a cash ISA and wait for the travel restrictions to end and then go on holiday.