Article Financial Services
26 April 2024

Health + Wealth: Reimagining financial prosperity and wellbeing through intelligent digital experiences

Post our London event, Managing Director Simon Hull and Client Partner Mike Miller reflect on the themes, the topics and the talks... and the people who inspired them during our event last week.

We were delighted to host our inaugural Health + Wealth event on the 18th of April in London, bringing together 40 industry leaders, academics and experts in wealth, investments, savings, pensions, health insurance and employee benefits, to explore the transformative power of human centred thinking and why we believe it should be core to business strategy.

We’re seeing a global phenomenon emerging, the application of human centred thinking organisationally, and so the event served as a private forum for business leaders to share, hear about and see real world examples of why it’s so important to be part of this movement.

This shift in the adoption of human centred thinking is fundamentally changing the way that businesses think, strategise, compete and operate at scale. It’s now becoming a business imperative to see Customers or Employees as humans, first and foremost, with individual emotions, needs, goals, aspirations, desires, biases, vulnerabilities, instincts, dreams and fears.

This is being accelerated by many forces in the market such as the Covid-driven “Rise of the Healthcare Consumer”, Gen-Z, the cost of living crisis, regulation and advancements in digital and AI technology. We’ll be publishing a separate article soon, specifically about the catalysts behind the human centred movement.

If you spend five minutes chatting with any UX practitioner, they’ll quickly extol the virtues of doing research to understand and then meet the unique and diverse emotional, psychological and physical needs of people/customers/employees. What a perfect world we would live in if this thinking was applied (or mandated) universally in businesses? While some businesses do have this mindset, the sad reality is that this type of thinking at board level is still relatively in its infancy and far from universally adopted.

What if businesses could not only achieve and exceed their core commercial objectives, but in tandem also improve the wellbeing of customers and employees?

Our speakers provided us with unique perspectives and rich analysis of how understanding and integrating business goals with user needs, emotional and psychological factors, and employee wellbeing, can significantly enhance both individual prosperity and organisational performance.

Dr. Thomas Mathar, Centre for Behavioural Research, Aegon

Money emotions – The emotional aspects of financial decision making

Kicking things off, Dr. Thomas Mathar’s presentation focused on the complex interplay between emotions and psychology with financial behaviours. He talked in depth about his research at AEGON and across his career into understanding how different emotions (both positive and negative) impact people’s propensity to save or to think long term about financial stability.

Tom highlighted that historically, difficulties with saving and wealth generation have been treated by and large as financial challenges. But he and his team, and his business see it differently, he believes that it’s in fact a mental challenge, and that this is something that can be addressed both proactively and preventatively. AEGON’s focus on behavioural finance is supported at the highest level of the business and is core to their strategy.

Just a couple of Tom’s findings included:

  • How emotions impact engagement levels – Customers who regularly think positively about retirement are three times more likely to engage with financial planning apps. This statistic underscores the importance of regular engagement in prompting proactive financial behaviours
  • Too much choice – Tom also explored the impact of choice overload, where too many options can lead to disengagement and stress, undermining financial decision-making. By addressing these psychological barriers, businesses can aim to foster a more supportive environment that enhances both financial and emotional well-being
  • Influence of financial stability – Tom also noted that customers who feel financially stable are twice as likely to use financial planning tools, indicating that perceived financial security significantly influences tool adoption
  • Negative emotions as barriers – A critical part of his findings highlighted the negative impact of anxiety and overwhelm, with anxious customers about half as likely to engage with financial planning apps

To close, Dr. Mathar reinforced the importance of the development of financial tools and services that are empathetic and tailored to the emotional realities of people, suggesting that addressing emotional well-being can significantly enhance user engagement and financial planning effectiveness.

Jane Minto, Staff Experience Strategist and Squad Lead, Flagstone

Balancing the tensions between business and user needs

In our second talk of the evening, Jane emphasised how doing things the right way by your most vulnerable customers can positively impact business growth, and she shared her experiences on the significant business opportunities that arise from focusing on inclusivity and accessibility by default.

At Flagstone, the founders have put their trust in highly skilled designers, researchers, product people, marketers and engineers, to apply their experience of applying modern, human centred principles and inject them at the core of their business, driving measurable success for the company, while delivering good outcomes for customers.

A couple of key points and stats from Jane’s presentation include themes from the continuous ongoing user research that she and her team conduct:

  • Economic impact of exclusion – Jane highlighted the staggering monthly loss in the UK of £935 million faced by financial institutions that fail to accommodate disabled and vulnerable users, showcasing the economic benefit of inclusive design, and the huge missed opportunity that many organisations are ignoring
  • Financial literacy as a market opportunity – She revealed that 73% of the UK population lacks a good level of financial literacy, pointing to a substantial market opportunity for creating accessible and educational financial products
  • The deeply personal nature of finance – 81% of individuals surveyed don’t want to talk about the financial situation and 1 in 4 people worry about finances at least once a day
  • The business of trust – Reputation is everything, customers choose brands that are trusted by many. Do the work to understand how best to serve customers. 74% of people are influenced by whether a financial service has an “excellent reputation”, with 40% saying that Trustpilot reviews help to build trust with a financial provider

Jane advocated strongly for an inclusive design approach that not only meets regulatory standards by championing accessibility and vulnerable customers, but goes beyond to genuinely address the unique needs of users, thereby enhancing both market reach and customer loyalty.

Mark Southern, Sales & Marketing Director, WPA Health Insurance

Employee health + happiness = Organisational performance, profits, and reputation

Our penultimate talk was delivered by Mark from WPA, he shared in detail how employee well-being directly impacts business performance. He also provided some very compelling data to back this up, drawing on figures from the Institute for Employment Studies and University of Oxford’s Wellbeing Research Centre, along with the research that WPA have been conducting themselves over many years with customers.

  • Health-related productivity losses – Mark shared that increases in short-term sickness absence rose from 5.8 days to 7.8 days per person per year from 2019 to 2023, illustrating the direct impact of health on productivity
  • The inaccessibility of care – Under half of all GP appointments take place on the same day. 16% of employees have been waiting over 12 weeks for NHS treatment to start and 4 in 10 people say that the delay has affected their work. Waiting lists for patients seeking diagnosis for ADHD or Autism can be up to 4 years. This carries a huge toll
  • Long-term health issues and economic impact – He also highlighted that 2.5 million people are economically inactive due to long-term health issues, underscoring the broader economic implications of poor employee health. Mental Health is now by and large the most significant cause of long term absence, followed by musculoskeletal conditions and other acute cardiovascular illnesses
  • Absenteeism and presenteeism – This comes at a huge cost to industry in the UK of circa £4 Billion in 2024, up from £2.8 Billion in 2023

Mark also stressed the importance of proactive health insurance products and policies that support employee wellness. The NHS, due to underinvestment from government, is struggling to meet demand, and large private health operators are expensive and inaccessible to many. This is a real problem and one that isn’t going away any time soon.

The team at WPA identified that there is a huge audience of employees in businesses who don’t have access to effective healthcare, and the impact of this is evidenced in data, so in response to this, WPA partnered with Waracle to design, build and launch Digital Health, an innovative and very affordable new employee benefit that aims to empower employees to take control of their personal health.

Mark closed with a great visual demonstration of the new product, a mobile app that integrates with wearables, incorporating features and functionality such as symptom tracker, which gives access to guidance and signposting about conditions, remote GP to access a registered doctor 24/7 by phone or video, Physio Access which provides diagnosis, advice and bespoke treatment plans, mental health support which offers telephone based counselling services, and a Health & Wellbeing Hub which provides personalised content, tips and insights on wellness.

Kevin Stewart, Head of Experience Design, Waracle

When software understands the user: Using emerging technologies to scale intelligence

As our final speaker, Kev, who leads our Experience Design strategy at Waracle, shared a compelling narrative, describing how the evolution of AI gives companies the ability to apply Human Centred thinking and personalised experience at scale.

Digital technology has taken us from an age of face-to-face personal interactions (Real-time human intelligence) to an omni-channel model, with a growing number of customer interactions being through digital channels with predefined interaction patterns (Design-time digital intelligence). Advancements in Generative AI now enable the creation of human-like interactions over digital channels at scale (Run-time digital intelligence).

AI enables a very Human-centred approach in real-time by providing the ability to analyse vast amounts of data about a person and use these insights to create hyper-personalised experiences to the individual that adapt and evolve in real-time to meet changing needs. Imagine you could infinitely scale human intelligence, what would you do differently in your business? This is the potential that Gen AI offers.

We don’t for a minute think that AI replaces researchers – what it does however is enable insights gathered by researchers to be augmented with even more data, from multiple sources, building an even richer picture of the user, the customer, the employee, the human, which can be applied to deliver more impact for the business and the end user.

Wrapping up

It’s clear from the experience and research shared that human centred thinking is a business imperative and should be a top priority of leadership teams. Many forward thinking organisations are moving ahead in this area and showing a tangible impact on results and customer outcomes.

By applying what we learn about people and designing intelligent digital experiences that meet their core needs, we believe that the organisations who invest into this human centred way of thinking, can gain a real competitive advantage, while mitigating risk and maintaining compliance with evolving regulations.

A huge thank you to all of our guests for joining us and to our fantastic speakers for sharing such insightful perspectives. Our goal was to inspire and leave you all with a sense of optimism about how this human centred movement is very much within reach for businesses.

We hope you all enjoyed it as much as we did and we look forward to welcoming you to our next one in July, the details of which we’ll be announcing soon.

As we hope was evident from the event, we’re very passionate at Waracle about intelligent digital experiences and their impact on health & wealth, and human centred thinking, with over 15 years as a strategic partner to ambitious operators in this space.

If you’re keen to explore how your business can adopt this mindset, through the delivery of intelligent digital experiences that will delight customers and employees alike, get in touch as we’d love to help.

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Mike Miller
Client Partner
Simon Hull
Simon Hull
Managing Director