2018 Financial Health Leaders Podcast Series: Safety Net, LLC

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Originally published on CFSI on April 5, 2018

We’re happy to announce our new 2018 Member-Exclusive Financial Health Leader’s Podcast Series, spotlighting member companies that are measuring financial health.  Listen in as we hear how Rich Fischer, Director of Innovation at Safety Net, LLC, a startup company fully owned by CUNA Mutual is using the CFSI Financial Health Score™ Toolkit, and the key takeaways his team is starting to learn.

Podcast Transcription:

[0:00:11.3] AG: Hi, I’m Andrea Galvez, Director of Network Marketing at CFSI. I’m excited to kick-off the first episode of our Financial Health Leaders Podcast Series with Rich Fischer, who is the Director of Innovation at SafetyNet, LLC. Saftety Net, LLC  is a startup company fully owned by CUNA Mutual Group in Madison, Wisconsin. Its small team is designed to develop and test new solutions with a mission to improve the financial well-being of millions of hard-working people. They do this by developing innovative financial solutions to help individuals manage unexpected cash flow, bill payment and savings challenges.

So Rich, SafetyNet started its measurement efforts in the fall of 2017 and you have been working to measure the financial health of over a thousand people, which is really impressive. Can you share with us how you started the initiative to measure, including how that’s connected to CFSI’s Financial Health Score™?

[0:01:17.5] RF: Absolutely. CFSI had published that they came up with eight questions that could be used to measure the financial health of consumers and I believe that was rolled out at EMERGE last year. We were looking at that and it was exactly what we had asked for was something very simple that we could use to measure that financial success of consumers.

You peered it back now or pared it back now into eight questions, which seemed very reasonable to put in front of customers. I think the first view of this was many more questions. When we saw it was down to a reasonable number of questions, we decided that we wanted to try it with our active customers and we just started in batches of 25 a week. We started sending it out to our customers to see if they would respond and got great response rate on it.

[0:02:11.5] AG: That’s great. You’re sending them out one individually, so there’s like an actual person sending an invitation to do the survey.

[0:02:20.1] RF: We are and we’ve upped it now to about 50 a week. We’re working through our whole customer base and we go direct to each one of our consumers and invite them to a survey to answer the eight questions and its been working really well. We’ve been getting about a 45% response rate. We do reward customers. This was information we really wanted to know about them so we offer a $25 gift card upon completion.

[0:02:48.4] AG: Okay, great. I had learned about that response rate and I was hoping you would share your secret with us, so I think you just did. Is there anything else that you think has contributed to consumers wanting to answer these questions?

[0:03:03.2] RF: Actually I do. The money mattered and it matters for these consumers, but our model because we’re still very, very small, our model is to talk to every one of our customers within one or two days after purchase. So they are used to us interacting with them. They are used to a follow-up call. They actually really like our follow-up call. When we come back and ask them to do a survey, it’s not kind of a cold product survey for them. They’re used to a company whose engaging them and talking to them already and then I think the $25 is just a kicker on top.

[0:03:40.7] AG: Yeah. It’s really a trust that you’ve built and an expectation with them already.

[0:03:45.9] RF: Yeah. I would like to consider it trust, or at least they know they’re not dealing with an online company who is just trying to defraud them. We’ve already made that connection to them that we’re trusted.

[0:03:59.4] AG: Great. Can you share what are you learning so far? I know you’re pretty early in, but you have over a thousand responses. Are you at a place where you’re starting to see trends?

[0:04:12.1] RF: We’re not quite at a thousand yet. We are working our way through all of those customers, but we are getting good insight into our buyers and more importantly the consumers who stay with us in that coping group. And so we’re learning about our customer, which has been another data point for us to understand how effective our marketing is, how effective our products that is to get to consumers who have a need for this. That’s one of the early on learnings.

A late learning which probably in the last – we’re a learning organization so we’re constantly changing what we do. In the last two to three weeks after a meeting with you guys and recognizing that very few companies were sharing the results with their customers of the scoring method we started to share it.

And what that took was putting together a set of resources for each one of the three groups that would help them find tools for whichever category they were in. We started to do that and we’re still in a measurement mode on that. We haven’t had any positive nor negative feedback on sharing the score, but we are still learning from that.

[0:05:29.5] AG: That’s so exciting.

[0:05:30.9] RF: It feels good to do, because I think when we looked at it originally we asked ourselves the question, “Can we share this score with the consumer?” The answer was we want to, but it feels like if we tell them the category we’re in then exact next question should be, “All right, what do I do in this category to take care of myself?” We just didn’t have that together yet.

[0:05:56.0] AG: Well, bravo. That’s a huge undertaking to pull that together and we are definitely very interested, as I’m sure others in the network are , on and how your customers are responding to that, then ultimately if it moves the needle or not, right?

[0:06:11.8] RF: Correct. Absolutely. I mean, that needle to us is a long solve… I’ll answer probably a leading question here… That is a long-term view is that the same customer set will go back to with these same types of questions year two, year three and it’s our hope, our objective that we’re improving the financial health of these individuals over time. That is on our longer-range plan to be able to take a consumer measure them in year one, in year two and in year three and see how their life’s changed.

[0:06:48.3] AG: We hope that you find that too, right?

[0:06:51.5] RF: Absolutely.

[0:06:53.0] AG: I think what we’re all here for. I want to go back a little bit. You mentioned that you are a learning organization and I’m really interested in how you are moving. We’re seeing you move along the financial health journey that we set out, so you’re doing a diagnosis of your customers, but then you’re using that data to develop products and tools. Can you share the steps you’re taking to improve the products for each of your segments?

[0:07:22.1] RF: Well, we’re chasing a mission, very similar mission to CFSI to improve the financial health of millions of people. In that, there are elements of cash flow protection, so money coming in and money going out into terms of a consumer’s need. We’re really trying to learn from the consumer what their needs are on that front so that we can develop sets of products or sets of products and partnerships that really work to improve a consumer’s financial health.

This activity here is measuring that so that we have a long-term measure of financial health from the consumer point of view. Then we use that to both improve the set of products, but to look back at our mission and say are we having an impact? Are the dollars we’re spending both in development of new products and in learning from consumers having a positive impact on that mission statement? We use it both ways.

From a marketing point of view, understanding your customer clearly always important. We’re so new that we don’t know yet within those groups which one we should be working to help, but what we can see is the ones that are staying longer are those in a coping bucket. That helps us think about the long-term nature of our products that they’re in there and they are taking steps to help themselves.

[0:08:50.5] AG: Can you share a little bit about your strategy for the long-term and innovating on your own product, or if something comes up are you open to partnering or creating and combining tools? Can you share a little bit about your strategy?

[0:09:07.4] RF: Sure. I’ll say it along the lines of two ways. We’re completely open to partnerships who share a similar mission and we are working towards high-value consumer products. The combination of those two things can sometimes be head-to-head against each other. If we put something together with four or five business partners, now for those partners to be engaged and help these consumers everybody needs to take a small cut financially and that makes it hard to deliver the kind of value to that consumer.

We’re leery on too many partners around partners who say, “Yes, I’m in. What’s my paycheck?”  and we’re really in this learning mode blessed with being able to partner with organizations who are tied to that mission and who want to learn about ways to build products that help people in this spot.

[0:10:01.0] AG: Yeah. I think that one of the things when I was reading about the way that you’re approaching this and the very, I think somewhat unique situation you’re in and that you have the time and the space to really focus on the customer, which is sometimes a luxury. I’m wondering what recommendations you would have to other members who are listening who think, “Oh, I don’t have – I do have to worry about you know the next quarterly report and I am interested in making my P&L work.” What recommendations do you have for them?

[0:10:38.4] RF: Well, we look at our P&L every month as well. While we’re blessed, we know we have to build a business model that makes sense long-term. I understand people that have to look at or businesses that have to look at quarterly statements. Every time I get that we do as well, I think what I would say is even in that environment, spending a fair amount of time listening to that customer is critically important.

I think the way I want to say that and it’s learning that we all had. We thought we had the perfect initial product to start testing with consumers. We could go out and talk to consumers every day and we could convince them that this thing was absolutely perfect for them, but they weren’t buyers. They would tell us they would buy, but they weren’t buyers.

I think it really is learning to listen to that consumer and to listen to their needs as opposed to building a product that fits what we think will work for them because any amount of market research you do on that front is always going to be tainted by what you want to hear. We found that very early on as well, and it took us backing up and listening to that consumer. I think that can be done in the framework of a quarterly statement review as well. It’s just using your time with the customer to the best advantage you can.

[0:12:07.8] AG: I think that’s so great. Something that we’re working on here at CFSI with our leaders this year is really building the business case and how you can create KPIs and other metrics that go into your overall business review that are tied to improvements in financial health. I think that’s essentially what you’re saying is that it can be both.

[0:12:33.3] RF: Absolutely.

[0:12:34.4] AG: Very cool. Well, we are running about out of time. I want to give you the opportunity for any last thoughts or recommendations, or things that you would want to know if you are just starting this process if you’re just listening in.

[0:12:53.3] RF: If I’m just starting this process, it is about being tied to a mission that you can wake up every morning and look at and say, “I feel good and comfortable about going after that today.” Then it’s about taking the bruises along the way, because not every consumer will think about your solution, your idea the same way you do, and it’s really easy to jump in and convince them of why your way is right.

The really hard, but challenging and rewarding thing to do is to sit back and listen to them, maybe tear apart an idea, but to hear how putting that idea back together in a different way that works for that consumer can help a lot of people.

[0:13:35.7] AG: Very cool. Rich, thank you so much for taking the time to speak with us today. More importantly, for all of the work and the thinking that you’ve done and the results that you’re working for your customers, which is why we’re all into this. I want to congratulate you on being a 2018 Financial Health Leader, and it’s really clear the measurement that you’re doing in order to do that. Thank you for all your hard work.

[0:14:02.0] RF: You are welcome. It’s great to partner with you guys.


[0:14:04.9] ANNOUNCER: Want to learn more about CFSIs financial health leaders? Visit your member exclusive online resources or contact your relationship manager. Thanks for listening.