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Data Paints a Grim Picture of Workforce Financial Fitness. Is Tech the Answer?

Globally, people are not saving enough for an adequate retirement, and a growing number of them face the daunting prospect of outliving their savings. As longevity increases and defined benefit pension systems give way to defined contribution plans, this savings gap is a critical workforce issue and a key to the multigenerational present—and future—of work.

One takeaway from recent Mercer research is that technology provides an excellent pathway to enhance individual savings. The workforce is looking to employers to provide easy-to-use, secure digital tools to “help me help myself” with financial planning. This demand is driven primarily (but not exclusively) by technology-first millennials, the largest segment of the workforce.

Statistics Tell a Clear Story

Eighty-five percent of adults (including 93 percent of 18-34 year-olds) are interested in obtaining access to secure, easy-to-use, jargon-free, online financial tools to help manage their finances. Additionally, two-thirds of adults spanning all age groups are comfortable managing their savings using mobile banking, online tools or smart apps.

These findings show that there is desire to save more. Most people—81 percent—believe they are responsible for ensuring they have enough income in retirement and are willing to do something about it. Eighty-five percent are willing to make changes today to improve their income in retirement, while 40 percent are willing to save more of their disposable income, and nearly a third are prepared to reduce consumption or downsize their lifestyle to improve their standard of living in retirement.

In addition, new research from Thomsons Online Benefits found that benefits that help employees stay physically as well as financially healthy by offering advice on physical and financial well-being, helping them manage child care, or improving their career development will engage employees and provide the best value to employers. The research concludes that these benefits now sit in the digital and global domain and that companies are adopting a technology-enabled approach to their benefits strategy.

Indeed, Thomsons found that over 90 percent of organizations that have the technology that allows them to measure all aspects of their benefits program have made well-being a high-priority initiative, whereas less than 40 percent of organizations that aren’t tech-enabled have done so.

Technological Benefits Are Critical to Employee Success

These data tell us what should be obvious. Technologies empowered by the ever-evolving breakthroughs in AI and other forms of automation can transform the frustration of navigating health care and benefits into something personalized, engaging and educational. People want new ways of working and an employee experience that offers just-in-time, intuitive digital access, personalization, and wellness.

Research shows that people want financial tools that are easy to use—but also secure and jargon-free.

They also want digital tools that will help them do their jobs better, faster and smarter. The Mercer study shows that two-thirds of employees believe that state-of-the-art digital tools are critical to their success.

What Are the Features Employees Want?

The research dug further into what type of financial tools people are interested in and what type of features are important to them. The key message was that people want tools that are easy to use—but also secure and jargon-free.

For 62 percent of people, ease of use ranked in their top three most important features. Being able to store personal data securely was important to 39 percent of people, and 35 percent highlighted the importance of having tools that are simple to understand and jargon-free. People are much less worried about the lack of human contact (only 26 percent have concerns) that comes with digital tools and have little concern around the amount of time taken to use technology (only 15 percent are concerned).

Although most individuals—65 percent—are willing to allow a financial online app to hold their personal data, they do have concerns about the validity and security of the tools they use. Almost half of individuals have concerns about sharing their data, and 38 percent are skeptical about trusting the results and have concerns about their valuable financial data becoming lost or stolen.

Demographic Divides

Mercer’s research also found that age does matter when it comes to stress around financial security and comfort with and acceptance of online tools and advice. Millennials—who fully expect to live longer—face a savings gap compounded by changing jobs more frequently over their lifetimes than previous generations did.

However, and perhaps unexpectedly, millennials have a high level of trust (83 percent) in their employer’s ability to give good financial advice. Also, employers who offer better savings and/or investment benefits have a positive impact among this age group, resulting in higher job satisfaction as well as greater commitment and loyalty to the organization.

More than any other segment in the survey, 71 percent of millennials expect to keep working in later life and wish to maintain their desired quality of life. Conversely, as they are still in the early stages of their careers, they are also the most stressed about finances of all the age groups surveyed. Not surprisingly, as digital natives, they are the most interested in online tools and mobile apps. Millennials are twice as willing as baby boomers to allow an online app to hold their data and manage their finances for them (80 percent compared to 42 percent).

Our health, wealth and careers all play a part in how confident we feel about our finances. The stress of financial insecurity affects all countries, organizations and people—and the time to cultivate financial security is always now, never tomorrow. In a world of rapid change and diverse workforces, technology can help organizations elevate the employee experience. Blending digital tools with the human touch of leadership can only help ensure the financial future for today’s workforce.

Renée McGowan

Chief Executive Officer, Asia, for Mercer

Renée McGowan is chief executive officer, Asia, for Mercer, a leading global consulting firm advising organizations on the health, wealth and career needs of a dynamic and changing workforce. Renée is the executive sponsor for the World Economic Forum’s Retirement Investment Systems Reform Project.

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