Casey Stegman, SVP of Strategic Planning and Whitney Queen, President, MentoroCasey Stegman, SVP of Strategic Planning and Whitney Queen, President
The term “financial wellness” has been cropping up with increasing frequency due to the havoc caused by the pandemic. Though COVID-19 started as a health issue, it weaseled itself into people’s wallets, burning gaping holes as the days passed. While the most vulnerable ones got hit the hardest, others succumbed to financially induced stress as uncertainty loomed large over what could happen next. Irrespective of a nation’s economic stature, populations of all countries experienced similar financial challenges, all due to a lack of sound financial literacy.

In the United States alone, many people failed to demonstrate a strong grasp of financial principles, lacking even the most basic knowledge on managing finances and avoiding pitfalls due to overspending. A 2018 FINRA study revealed that over 53 percent of adults felt anxious due to their financial situation, and the rest showed signs of being stressed by over-thinking the subject. Needless to say, the pandemic only contributed to already declining employment rates and worsened the situation.

Though several companies attempted to tackle this by offering financial wellness programs that gave employees the know-how required to become more financially stable, it was to no avail. These programs were inefficient because of their delivery model. Typically, companies took a technology-based approach to render a financial wellness program by providing self-help tools that employees would need to navigate and leverage independently. Their lack of discipline, coupled with their lack of understanding of financial management, meant that only two to five percent of employees took these programs seriously.

“Companies come to us to increase the number of participants,” says Whitney Queen, President, Mentoro, a financial education company providing a turn-key collaborative financial wellness™ solution. “What these programs essentially miss and what we deliver is the human-interaction component. We aim to move the needle by augmenting these programs with one-on-one coaching and education that’s highly customized and specific to an employee’s bespoke needs, background, benefits packages and all of their assets or resources.”

We focus on helping individuals who need our guidance and education. There are no ulterior motives here

Mentoro adopts a highly customer-centric, hands-on approach to first assess the employee population and understand the issues participants are struggling with—be it a student loan, debt/credit issues, or budgeting. Based on the results, they deliver relevant content and services (both in-person or virtually) to the people who need it most in a way that has a high impact. Additionally, their proprietary solution provides participants with the tools they need to be successful. “By partnering with us, clients can see their participation rates surge—by over 50 percent or 10 fold,” says Whitney.

Channeling Expertise to Build a Robust Solution

For potential clients, Mentoro is a leading financial education company that’s been over 15 years in the making. Much like the saying, “Achieving perfection takes time, but with focus and persistence, it is inevitable,” the present-day, battle-hardened perfectionist took its roots as a financial wellness program at Merit Financial Advisors, a financial services firm that seeks to establish, educate, and satisfy the financial goals of individuals in and approaching retirement. Improving their program steadily with the market, the team behind Mentoro decided to venture out as an independent entity in 2018. Their goal was to spread financial literacy in the workplace and educate the working population on healthy money habits and positive behavior change by providing turn-key collaborative financial wellness™ solutions powered by experienced and unbiased mentors. The company designs custom programs tailored to help clients ease monetary stress and equip their employees with the tools required to become financially stable.

“We believe that organizations need to take a parental role in helping get their employees on the right path of financial wellness. As a financial wellness solution provider, we offer bespoke tools to help companies do it with customized, flexible and scalable solutions. As such, it can be rendered to any client, regardless of the industry they serve, their geography, or size,” says Casey Stegman, SVP of Strategic Planning, Mentoro. Furthermore, the company is completely vendor-agnostic and partners with entities ranging from record-keepers, benefits providers, retirement plan advisors, and third-party administrators, leaving no stone unturned in addressing client requirements.

An All-encompassing Customer-Centric Solution

At its core, Mentoro adopts a hands-on, customer-first approach while delivering its solutions. A typical engagement with Mentoro starts with an assessment encompassing a battery of questions that helps understand the client’s and their employee’s problems. Based on the results, their team of financial consultants, plan managers, educators, motivators, and customer success individuals, sit down with the company’s decision-makers and customize a financial wellness program to address the problems or gaps identified. “We view this phase as a strategic planning process. It helps us gain a perspective on the client’s short-term issues and long-term goals, and build a solution that ispersonalized and custom-fit to fulfill those requirements,” says Whitney. Needless to say, Mentoro stays away from taking a one-size-fits-all route and renders services that can have a positive impact on clients and their employees. To add more value, the team at Mentoro handles all the logistics, marketing, and rollout of the program once it’s ready, alleviating HR managers from the burden caused by such tedious tasks.
  • We aim to move the needle by augmenting these programs with one-on-one coaching and education that’s highly customized and specific to an employee’s bespoke needs, background, benefits packages and all of their assets or resources

The next phase is enrollment. Here participants are provided with access to Mentoro’s online portal, an aggregation tool that allows employees to feed their financial data—savings, retirement, or any other investment accounts, mortgages, credit card payments, loans—and update it as and when required. This helps Mentoro’s educators draw an overall financial picture of the participant, understand their spending patterns, and identify ways to help them create a budget, set goals, and achieve them. After this, Mentoro offers a quarterly group education program, covering a wide range of topics—student loans, dealing with credit issues or low credit scores, etcetera—that are relevant to clients and their employees.

The solution could be delivered via webinars, videos, podcasts, conference calls, or even on-site, where Mentoro’s expert group of educators and mentors meet the participants and have a one-on-one discussion. At the end of each year, the company compares the initial assessment results with the employee’s present-day situation to gain a perspective on how far they have come in helping them and showcase the same to the management team. However, under no circumstances does Mentoro share or reveal the participants’ personal information with the client as a sign of respecting their privacy and ensuring confidentiality. “This was our modus-operandi prior to COVID-19. Even after the pandemic struck, the only change we had to make is deliver everything online, which is equally effective,” Stegman adds.

The Advent of COVID-19

Pondering over the impact of COVID-19, Stegman explains that there was a sense of uncertainty among people regarding the sociopolitical unrest that it would have on their lives. People were not sure if they were saving enough, what the government would do with the “care acts” and how they would alleviate the financial pressure in general. Though there is a lot of public information and various tools at their disposal—aimed at guiding them financially—people did not know what to make of it. They had no one to help them interpret or understand those tools and how to optimize it for their situation. And this reality was inevitable. For decades, the financial services industry has focused on providing qualified help or guidance to only the folks with a substantial asset. Ultimately, the ones who needed it the most were left astray. “We focus on helping individuals who need our guidance and education. There are no ulterior motives here. We’re not looking to gather their assets and make money off them. That’s been our mission since the very beginning,” Stegman asserts.

Perhaps such passion for helping those who need it alongside unparalleled levels of expertise in offering effective financial wellness programs has enabled Mentoro to be the leader they are today. Despite the challenges 2020 brought, the company held a position, growing over 20 percent in client acquisition and revenue. According to Stegman, depending on how the situations lighten up, the company expects its growth trajectory to move up by 40 percent.

“What drives our success is our commitment towards solving the retirement and financial stress crisis in America, to not only help people be more educated but instill in them a sense of confidence for their future and guide them with the steps they can take in order to secure it. We want to help create a happier and productive workplace that will be around for a long time with people who are energized, have high morale, and can see what their future can look like,” concludes Whitney.