How Choosing a Financial Wellness Partner is Like Dating

By:Jen Martin, Director of Partner Relations

I do not think anyone needs to be convinced that there is a need for increased financial capability in America. Rising credit card debt, massive amounts of student loan debt, the pressure to “keep up with the Jones,” and the lack of emergency savings make the need for financial education obvious.

Toxic stress is a killer. Nothing is more stressful than failing finances. When a person is financially stressed, it will take a toll on their workplace performance, their relationships, their health, and overall quality of life. It makes perfect sense for employers and financial institutions to offer a path to financial health.

At BALANCE, I work with credit unions everyday who are implementing programs, products, and education that will improve the financial capability of their members. Prior to working at BALANCE, I was the retail manager at a large credit union — I oversaw ten branches. Members came to my staff daily seeking solutions to their financial issues. I understand financial stress because I saw it in the faces of real members. I heard it in the stories of real families. I am passionate about helping credit unions build and implement programs that improve financial health.

If you are considering implementing a financial wellness program for your members and/or staff you may feel overwhelmed at where to start. Luckily, my team and I have on-boarded many credit unions and have learned a lot along the way about what they were looking for, what they hope to achieve, and why they chose us.

Here are some tips as you consider a financial wellness partner:

  • What outcomes do you want your program to achieve? What are you measuring?
  • Who is your audience? Entire membership? Youth? Military? Women? Spanish Speaking Community? College Kids? Employees? 
  • What Channels? Are you offering financial counseling one-on-one? Outsourcing that? Training your own employees to be counselors? Will you have a digital channel? Chat? Phone? In-Person
  • What is your budget? It is important to know what you have to spend before you go shopping – it will lessen frustrations. There are very affordable solutions and there are very fancy solutions. Does your budget match the outcomes you desire and the channels you are looking to implement?
  • What is the criteria for vendor partnerships? Is it important that they are non-profit? Is it important that they are SOC2 compliant (member data protection)? Be open to using two vendors to meet all your needs for all audiences and channels.
  • How will you implement it in your credit union? Lending? Operations? Collections? Community Development? Marketing? Social Media?

Once you have a clear picture of what you are looking for, start your research.

Which vendors make your short list? What do you do with the short list of vendors?

To speak frankly, you “date” them. Yes, you read that correctly. Think about what you do when you begin dating someone. You determine if the person has qualities or attributes that meet your desired criteria. You think about what compromises you are willing to make. You determine what you are willing to give to the relationship in return for what you receive. You also think of how this person might get along with your friends or family members.

It is no different when evaluating vendors. Does the representative of that company understand your needs? Do they hear you? Do you enjoy collaborating with them? Does the product meet the majority of your needs? Do you have to compromise some features to stay within budget? Is that compromise okay given the outcomes you are looking to achieve? How will your employees and members feel about this relationship, product, or service? Will they keep my member’s data safe?

Every great partnership starts just like every great love story  — by building a mutual trust.


To know what happens once you say “I do” to a financial health partner, read my follow up blog article: Committing to a Financial Wellness Partner is Like Marriage.

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