A unique model for regional, employer-based collaboration to increase the usage of basic financial services has emerged recently in Minnesota, with relevant lessons for companies, communities, and advocates nationwide. The Financially Fit Minnesota (FFM) example offers a replicable model for regional collaboration and employer delivery of financial services; a set of successful strategies for increasing participation rates in workplace financial services; and a starting place for exploring further innovations. This model is potentially a complement or alternative to municipal- and state-level Bank On Cities initiatives, such as Bank On San Francisco, which focus specifically on connecting unbanked consumers with depository accounts.

A group of more than twenty major Minnesota employers joined forces to create FFM in early 2008. Their goal is to improve their region’s overall economic stability by ensuring that employees take full advantage of the financial benefits offered to them in the workplace, and by helping employers to act on the understanding that direct deposit and retirement plans are beneficial for both employees’ lives and the corporate bottom line.

FFM has chosen to focus specifically on direct deposit and retirement savings programs in order to leverage its assets as a collaborative initiative of major regional employers. Depository account ownership and adequate retirement savings are essential components of U.S. consumers’ economic stability, and the workplace remains an important delivery channel for basic financial services. Even in the challenging economic climate of 2008 and 2009, participating employers have successfully improved participation rates in both direct deposit and 401(k) plans for targeted employee populations.