If you’re a university student or worker in central Texas, there is a good chance you do your banking with UFCU. Austin’s largest locally owned financial institution, the credit union manages $3.7 billion in assets; serves more than 200 regional organizations, including universities, associations, and employers; and employs more than 700 people.

While supporting the financial health of its 336,000 individual Members has long been part of UFCU’s mission, the credit union’s leaders realized that serving their Members best meant focusing on their own employees first.

Establishing a Baseline

The first step? Getting a baseline understanding of their employees’ financial health.

To understand the issues employees were facing, UFCU conducted a survey in 2018 using the Financial Health Network’s FinHealth Score. Three-quarters of its employees took the survey, which showed 69% of respondents were either “Financially Vulnerable” or “Financially Coping,” meaning that they struggled with some or all aspects of their financial health. According to the survey, UFCU’s employees experience challenges with savings, debt, and spending in particular.

These findings guided the initial strategy and design for UFCU’s 2019 introduction of the PlanU program, which included one-on-one sessions with financial health specialists, seminars, an online education program, small group meetings, and a savings challenge. In 2021, the program expanded to include a mobile app. Today, versions of the program remain available to employees and are being piloted with key credit union partners.

Designing With Employees at the Center

While improving financial health was at the center of PlanU, the credit union also was very deliberate in its employee-centric approach to designing and promoting the program. Early on, UFCU made a key decision to frame financial health as something every employee could use – no matter their status or circumstances – dispelling a myth that someone should be an expert in personal finance just because they work at a financial institution.

UFCU also made financial health part of the company culture and encouraged participation in PlanU by integrating the program into its communications about employee benefits. PlanU is specifically mentioned as an employee benefit during recruitment, new employee onboarding, and day-to-day employee programming. UFCU also emphasizes confidentiality and offers participation in the program’s sessions and seminars during regular, paid work hours.

Applying a Toolkit Insight: Design for Engagement

UFCU recognized that concerns about privacy and reluctance to talk about personal finances at work might prevent employees from engaging with the PlanU program. The company’s leaders proactively addressed these concerns by ensuring that every session with a financial health specialist would be completely confidential. To promote the program and increase employees’ comfort with talking about money at work, everyone from senior executives to frontline personnel shared financial health testimonies in leadership, department, and organizational meetings.

Visit the Design for Engagement section of the Toolkit for more guidance on how to promote employee engagement with your financial health initiatives.

UFCU surveyed its employees again in February 2021 and found major improvements in the save, borrow, and spend categories, compared with its initial 2018 survey findings. For example, the number of employees reporting having at least two months’ worth of expenses in liquid savings increased to nearly two-thirds (63%) in 2021, up from less than half (45%) in 2018.

Growing PlanU to Serve Members and Other Employers

Building on the initial success of the internal PlanU program, the credit union has focused on identifying opportunities to grow the program. In 2021, UFCU deployed its PlanU app and online activities in a successful pilot program with credit union Members and is currently piloting the program with another employer in the area, Goodwill Central Texas. The credit union next plans to roll out PlanU to additional employers and universities, while working toward expanding the program to all of its Members.

UFCU is also investing in the technology needed to measure the impact of its program over time. In 2021, the company embedded the Financial Health Network’s Attune platform into PlanU. This has enabled UFCU to survey PlanU participants about their financial health, using a back-end analytics dashboard to review and parse the data and comparing participants’ progress against national and regional benchmarks from the Financial Health Pulse.

After three years of focusing on its financial health strategy, financial health has become not just a concept to UFCU, but an impactful demonstration of its commitment to both employees and Members – the heart of UFCU’s mission.

Employer FinHealth Toolkit

Build better employee financial health strategies with this comprehensive guide for HR professionals.