Companies with 50 or Less Employees Hit the Hardest
St. Louis – The rising cost of providing health insurance to employees is one of the top financial pressures facing owners of privately-held, small and midsize companies, according to a recent Enterprise Bank & Trust Think Tank survey. Enterprise surveyed 230 business leaders to understand issues, trends and best practices regarding managing the ever-growing cost of health insurance.
For most businesses, health insurance is a top line-item expense, next to payroll, and the only expense they generally don’t have a lot of control over. John Wennemann, Vice President of Human Resources at St. Louis-based Duke Manufacturing, says his company has taken steps to make his insurance program more attractive to employees and candidates. “One of the steps we’ve taken is to offer a narrow network option, with lower premiums, to make it more affordable.”
The Small Business Profitability Conundrum
Beyond actual costs, much of the health insurance challenge stems from the fact that smaller businesses don’t have the buying power of larger ones and lack the time and resources to figure out the puzzle. Investing time in understanding and managing health care costs often gets pushed aside.
In the survey, the top three business concerns related to the cost of providing health insurance are
The impact of the cost of health insurance on the company’s profitability
An increase in premiums would make health insurance for employees unaffordable
The cost of health insurance limits the ability to award bonuses or give raises
What Employees Want: A General Shift
There appears to be a general shift in how health insurance benefits are viewed by employees, the survey revealed. Younger workers are coming into employment with college and credit card debt, so a robust insurance package is not what they are demanding. They are thinking about things like work-life balance, overall quality of life and access to more money and more paid time off.
“The narrative around insurance and health care is changing in front of our eyes,” Thomas McAuliffe, director of health policy at the Missouri Foundation for Health, said. “A rich insurance package is not a big part of the younger generation’s narrative. Throwing more insurance at them is not a motivator for them to come work for you.”
When asked if health insurance was used to attract and retain talent, 63 percent of the companies said no, while 37 percent said yes. In addition, when asked whether employers
have changed their health insurance programs to make them more attractive to candidates,
71 percent said no.
Reducing Costs: Three Big Levers
Benefits Plan Design – There are several ways to reduce premiums. Self-funded insurance can lower premiums for employees and potentially save companies money through reduced operational costs, but this comes with risk of a huge bill if something catastrophic happens to an employee. Thus, it must be weighed carefully by smaller companies who may be less likely to absorb the cost.
Another option is to choose a narrow network insurance plan. This option offers low out-of-pocket costs and monthly premiums in exchange for a smaller provider network.
An increasing popular choice is to move to a High Deductible Health Plan (HDHP) which lowers premiums by increasing deductibles over a traditional plan. A HDHP makes insurance more affordable for both the employee and the company and tends to be popular with companies who have more young, single employees without spouses and children.
An HDHP is required for the final option, a Health Savings Account (HSA). HSA’s are medical savings accounts whereby the money put into the account is not subject to federal income tax. Money is deposited tax-free and can be applied if the funds are used for qualified medical expenses. Despite the benefits, only 42 percent of survey respondents offer employees an HSA.
Preventative Care Incentives – Programs that focus on the wellness and preventative care are growing, with several studies showing more than 50 percent of American businesses offer a wellness program to their employees. These programs include regular checkups, screenings, smoking-cessation programs and health education training.
“We are all likely going to experience a wellness issue at some point in our lives. When this happens, healthy habits can stack the deck in our favor for lowering our risks and aiding in recovery,” says Michelle H. Schmidt, Owner of PACE Nutrition Coaching. “Employers have the ability, through a comprehensive health and wellness program, to contribute notably to their employees’ well-being.”
Although 93 percent of small businesses said that employee well-being is critical to their bottom line, only 22 percent have a wellness program in place.
Cost – Understanding what drives the cost of what a company pays for in medical care is the third big opportunity to lower overall expenditures. Research shows prescription drugs are one of the biggest health care expenses. In the survey, the response “pharmacy coverage is more of an issue than health care coverage” ranked fourth on the list of top business concerns related to health insurance costs. Only 16 percent ranked it in the top three concerns.
One opportunity smaller businesses could take advantage of is determining if their employee is eligible for a Patient Assistance Program (PAP). If employees are eligible that means the employer no longer pays for prescriptions but rather the drug manufacturers’ foundations pay.
Another place to look for savings is on medical bills, themselves. Many times, there are errors, and opportunities to renegotiate discounts.
A final consideration is to understand the cost of care and the choices available. For example, a woman seeking an OB-GYN may not realize that the cost of care can differentiate depending on which hospital she uses. The difference can add up to thousands of dollars.
Enterprise has a complete survey report available upon request. To explore other Think Tank topics, visit www.enterprisebank.com/insights.
The 2020 Outbound Email Data Breach Report Finds Growing Email Volumes and Stressed Employees are Causing Rising Breach Risk
Research by Egress reveals organisations suffer outbound email data breaches approximately every 12 working hours
Egress, the leading provider of human layer data security solutions, today released their 2020 Outbound Email Data Breach Report, which highlights the true scale of data security risks related to email use. 93% of IT leaders surveyed said that their organisation had suffered data breaches through outbound email in the last 12 months. On average, the survey found, an email data breach happens approximately every 12 working hours.*
Rising outbound email volumes due to COVID-19-related remote working and the digitisation of manual processes are also contributing to escalating risk. 94% of respondents reported an increase in email traffic since the onset of COVID-19 and 70% believe that working remotely increases the risk of sensitive data being put at risk from outbound email data breaches.
The study, independently conducted by Arlington Research on behalf of Egress, interviewed 538 senior managers responsible for IT security in the UK and US across vertical sectors including financial services, healthcare, banking and legal.
Key insights from respondents include:
· 93% had experienced data breaches via outbound email in the past 12 months
· Organisations reported at least an average of 180 incidents per year when sensitive data was put at risk, equating to approximately one every 12 working hours
· The most common breach types were replying to spear-phishing emails (80%); emails sent to the wrong recipients (80%); incorrect file attachments (80%)
· 62% rely on people-led reporting to identify outbound email data breaches
· 94% of surveyed organisations have seen outbound email volume increase during COVID-19. 68% say they have seen increases of between 26 and 75%
· 70% believe that remote working raises the risk of sensitive data being put at risk from outbound email data breaches
When asked to identify the root cause of their organisation’s most serious breach incident in the past year, the most common factor was “an employee being tired or stressed”. The second most cited factor was “remote working”. In terms of the impact of the most serious breach incident, on an individual-level, employees received a formal warning in 46% of incidents, were fired in 27% and legal action was brought against them in 28%. At an organisational-level, 33% said it had caused financial damage and more than one-quarter said it had led to an investigation by a regulatory body.
Traditional email security tools are not solving this problem
The research also found that 16% of those surveyed had no technology in place to protect data shared by outbound email. Where technology was deployed, its adoption was patchy: 38% have Data Loss Prevention (DLP) tools in place, while 44% have message level encryption and 45% have password protection for sensitive documents. However, the study also found that, in one-third of the most serious breaches suffered, employees had not made use of the technology provided to prevent the breach.
Egress CEO Tony Pepper comments: “Unfortunately, legacy email security tools and the native controls within email environments, such as Outlook for Microsoft 365, are unable to mitigate the outbound email security risks that modern organisations face today. They rely on static rules or user-led decisions and are unable to learn from individual employees’ behaviour patterns. This means they can’t detect any abnormal changes that put data at risk – such as Outlook autocomplete suggesting the wrong recipient and a tired employee adding them to an email.”
“This problem is only going to get worse with increased remote working and higher email volumes creating prime conditions for outbound email data breaches of a type that traditional DLP tools simply cannot handle. Instead, organisations need intelligent technologies, like machine learning, to create a contextual understanding of individual users that spots errors such as wrong recipients, incorrect file attachments or responses to phishing emails, and alerts the user before they make a mistake.”
Organisations still cannot paint a full picture of the risks, relying on people-led reporting to identify email breaches, despite severe repercussions
When an outbound email data breach happens, IT leaders were most likely to find out about it from employees. 20% said they would be alerted by the email recipient, 18% felt another employee would report it, while 24% said the employee who sent the email would disclose their error. However, given the penalties that respondents said were in place for employees who cause a breach, it is not guaranteed that they will be keen to own up, especially if the incident is serious. 46% said that the employee who caused a breach was given a formal warning, while legal action was taken in 28% of cases. In 27% of serious breach cases, respondents said the employee responsible was fired.
Tony Pepper comments: “Relying on tired, stressed employees to notice a mistake and then report themselves or a colleague when a breach happens is unrealistic, especially given the repercussions they will face. With all the factors at play in people-led data breach reporting, we often find organisations are experiencing 10 times the number of incidents than their aware of. It’s imperative that we build a culture where workers are supported and protected against outbound email breach risk with technology that adapts to the pressures they face and stops them from making simple mistakes in the first place. As workers get used to more regular remote working and reliance on email continues to grow, organisations need to step up to safeguard both employees and data from rising breach risk.”
Creating an engaging email marketing campaign that avoids the junk folder
By David Wharram, CEO of Coast Digital
With more than 280 billion emails sent every day, email marketing is a tried and tested marketing method with a multitude of benefits. In addition to resonating with those looking to save on their marketing spend, email marketing generates significant ROI for businesses. Statistics have shown that email marketing significantly outperforms social media when trying to reach customers, while also proving more cost-effective. Additionally, Mckinsey found that email marketing is 40 times more successful at gaining customers than Twitter and Facebook combined.
As business owners digest these facts – low cost, high return – it can be tempting to plan a barrage of untargeted marketing emails to both prospective and existing customers. Yet, this “spray and pray” approach may not generate as many sales leads as you’d hope. In fact, this method often tends to deter prospective customers and impact the relationship with existing clients, resulting in your emails consistently making their way into the junk folder. The key to a successful email marketing campaign is investing in the right tools to plan, automate, track, and analyse your outreach.
Like other marketing channels, email marketing takes effective planning and the right strategy to make it work. Rather than trying to sell a product or service from the outset, you need to engage with the customer and build trust with them first. To do this, you need to consider who the customer is, how to reach them and what information they are likely to want. For example, returning customers will be much more receptive to an email presenting discounts and timed offers. However, new or prospective customers would most likely prefer to familiarise themselves with your businesses first in order to understand how your product or service will benefit them.
Not only do you need to identify different audiences and identify how to engage them, but you should also consider the frequency of communication. Too often, and your emails could appear as spam. Too irregular and there’s a risk the customer might forget about you or turn to a competitor.
A crucial part of planning the overall strategy is considering the ideal outcome. Whether this is to attract new customers, send product or service updates, or retain customers through offers and discounts, the objective will determine the scope of the entire campaign.
The results of a well thought out email marketing strategy can drive brand awareness, boost lead generation and increase revenue. The results of a poorly planned strategy often lead to disgruntled recipients and a high number of unsubscribes.
Keep content relevant, personal and useful
In addition to planning the overall strategy of your campaign, you need to consider the content you will push out to your audience. From our experience, this will largely depend on which goals have been determined during the planning process.
It’s essential to ensure you’re providing something of value. While you want to make sure that your email marketing campaigns generate ROI, you also need to make the recipients feel that they’re not always being sold to. The key to this is by building a level of trust with the audience, which can be achieved by providing relevant advice and insights, or by asking for feedback.
Additionally, audiences are more receptive to content that is personal to them. It’s easy to spot a generic email that has been created to cover all bases for an entire mailing list. Therefore, making the emails more personalised to recipients tends to strengthen the overall campaign.
According to recent research by Econsultancy, personalisation remains a top priority for marketers as 67% of those asked said that was the main focus for improving their campaigns. Also, a study by Salesforce found that 84% of consumers prefer to be treated like a person not a number. That’s why taking the time to make content more relevant to the receiver could make or break the campaign.
Evaluate and evolve
Once your initial outreach has been complete, you need to take the time to reflect on your efforts. One aspect of the planning process should include setting clear metrics and KPIs so that you can be clear on whether these were met or not. There are several metrics that businesses should consider when it comes to the success of their campaign – including clickthrough rate, conversion rate, bounce rate and email forwarding rate. Each KPI will depend on the overall goal. Companies need to invest in the right tools and resources to evaluate email marketing campaigns, especially if this is new territory. Measuring the success of your outreach will enable you to determine what worked well, what needs refining or what needs to be completely overhauled. What’s more, if the initial campaign didn’t generate the outcome you were hoping, don’t be deterred from using email marketing altogether and instead use it as an opportunity to learn and improve.
Email marketing remains one of the most effective methods to engage with your audience on an ongoing basis. However, far too many businesses try to run before they walk and could be spamming their customers with irrelevant, uninteresting content. To ensure your outreach is successful, you need to effectively plan your outreach – considering your audience and delivering helpful and engaging content to them will help your emails avoid the dreaded junk folder.
How to communicate when the world is in crisis
By Callum Jackson Account Executive at communications agency Cicero/AMO
Across sectors both private and public, the coronavirus crisis has brought with it a list of overused yet unavoidable tropes. Phrases such as ‘rapidly changing times’, ‘the new normal’ and the king of COVID clichés ‘unprecedented’ have been deployed by communications experts of all ilks to engage audiences, linking their products and businesses to the pandemic however they can. In fact, amongst online news articles from January to September this year, ‘unprecedented’ received about six times more column space than over the same period in 2019. The financial services sector is far from immune – a quick scan of the 21.9 million Google results which the search term “unprecedented banking covid” throws up reveals a distinct preference for the platitudinal over the insightful.
But as often as this is said, it bears repeating: communication plays a central role in all of our lives and all of our businesses. In the banking and financial services sector, one PR misstep can mean the difference between an investment round succeeding or failing, between a challenger being awarded its coveted banking licence or having its reputation demolished, between a fintech app appearing on every other smart phone in the country or dying an obscure death.
While communication is vital, however, it is not a straightforward science or art at the best of times. Below are some key approaches for comms professionals to consider taking when communicating during a crisis.
- Start with the bank in the mirror
In all sub-sectors of the comms industry, from in-house external comms to agency PR and everything in between, inauthenticity stands out like a sore thumb, and badly thought-through messaging or imagery can reek of it. Take Pepsi’s heavily pilloried 2017 ad campaign featuring Kendall Jenner, the imagery of which attempted to position the soft drink – and the business producing it – as a saviour of divided and oppressed communities. Accused of seeking to capitalise on the Black Lives Matter movement, Pepsi rightly pulled the commercial and apologised for missing the mark entirely. Interrogating what your business stands for, what it does well, what its goals are and, most importantly, what it is not in the business of (in the case of Pepsi, saving the world) is essential to communicating with your stakeholders authentically. This has been conventional wisdom amongst banking and finance grandees for a while. In 2015, Tesco Bank’s then CEO Benny Higgins noted, “Authenticity [is critical] – we all have strengths and weaknesses but being authentic gives a consistent notion of what your leadership is about.” By all means, talk about doing good but make sure it’s good you’re actually doing.
- Read the room
Being aware of your audiences’ needs is two-fold. First, it is about identifying the topics that consumers of news (be they your customers, your suppliers or the general public) want and need to hear about, and secondly, it’s about being sensitive to audiences’ anxieties and preoccupations. Our current environment is characterised by companies asking staff to take pay cuts, having furloughed others at 80% of their salary, all while social distancing or staying home. During these – yes, unprecedented… – anxiety-inducing times, money saving advice, working from home tips, and information on the best cost-saving financial products are subjects of interest and necessity to journalists and readers. Listicles of the best luxury summer getaways are not. Think about what your business or client is doing that might directly help those who are worst affected and use that as a springboard for your communications messaging.
- Look ahead
In late 2019, few of us could have foreseen the sheer magnitude of a potential pandemic, nor indeed its short-term and residual effects on the economy, society, and individual financial institutions. However, as professionals in charge not only of spreading the good news but also of putting out reputational fires, it is the duty of financial services PRs to game various scenarios – sorted by likelihood and impact – pre-empting possible outcomes and preparing for the negative fallout as well as the positive opportunities a situation might present. Looking ahead to identify these ‘opportunities’ is not per se a cynical attempt to boost business reputations or commercial outcomes. It can and should involve looking ahead to ascertain the potential silver linings, gifts in disguise, and diamonds in the rough that come along with a crisis. One unforeseen consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic has been a reminder of the warmth, appreciation and even love we feel towards the frontline workers of the NHS. If yours is the company that finances the manufacture of their uniforms, insures the production of their machinery, or invests on behalf of the factory that makes their PPE, you should be proud of that and should let others be proud too. All this requires
foresight, however – the ability to identify both the risks and opportunities of a dire situation.
- Adapt your offering
Shouting from the rooftops about something you do well, especially when it has a net good impact on the world, is nothing to be ashamed of. In fact, a surprising number of businesses are actually quite bad at telling us what’s good about them – particularly those that need to the most: banks. Cue the PR professional. But that quality of self-promotion – not in the sneering, braggartly sort of way; but rather the recognition that telling your story is how people get to know you – only stands up when what you’re promoting really is good, both morally and commercially speaking. If you are planning a campaign showing that your customer, The Big Bad Oil & Gas Company Ltd., is doing wonders for the planet, it had better be investing heavily in wind and solar, offsetting its carbon output and cleaning up natural areas affected by its commercial activities, and not just paying lip service to environmental conscientiousness. And if your customer or your own business isn’t doing those things, it is time to re-evaluate the corporate strategy. Too many heads of comms are cautious of recommending product and operational changes that require significant investment for fear of CEOs’ eyes rolling back into their heads with ‘dollar shock’. But if you want to be known for doing something good, you had better do it well.
- Take advantage of digital
It comes as no surprise that shares in videoconferencing services such as Zoom (NASDAQ: ZM) just about doubled between late January and mid-April (up to $142.80 from $70.44). As demand for online services increases due to prolonged social distancing and isolation measures, so too does the need for journalists, and therefore PRs, to produce quality digital content that speaks the language of technology. Rather than asking how your logo will change or about the latest appointment to your board, media and the audiences that read them are increasingly asking, ‘How does your company’s offering help us do business, manage our money, or lead better lives by harnessing smart data, open finance, AI, etc.?’ Or more generally, ‘How can I do all the things I’m used to doing and need to do without leaving my house?’ Most banks provide online banking, most insurers allow digital policy purchases and claims, most lenders enable virtual applications or use digital ID to confirm affordability and suitability. If your business is lagging behind, it’s time to catch up.
- Put a relevant twist on business as usual
“Well, our business doesn’t do anything to do with viruses,” is a natural reaction to a crisis that no one saw coming and that stands to affect the global economy in a meaningful way for years to come. But, as well as being natural, it is also limiting. Thinking creatively about the ways our product offerings and operations do, in some way, affect the outcome of a crisis does not have to extend to preventing the spread of a disease or accelerating the creation of a vaccine. It may be that your lending platform can offer mortgage holidays for those financially impacted by the pandemic or that the insurer you work for can interpret policies leniently and with compassion – especially important in light of the FCA’s recent finding on business interruption insurance. Showing your worth in a crisis does not require you to be a central cog in the machine, nor does it require you to dominate the narrative in order to have cut-through. Do your bit, however small, and then tell us about it.
Being alive to developments in politics, society, culture, science and business, and remaining nimble and ready to adapt to those developments sensitively are the cornerstones of good communications. The ancient Greeks knew this before we did; it was no storytelling accident that Olympus’ divine messenger, Hermes, wore winged sandals. The metaphor may be ham-fisted, but the sentiment is sound: sensitivity, fleet-footedness and boldness are the communicator’s greatest weapons. Don’t be a Pepsi, be a Hermes.
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