Description of the programme
It is well recognised that there is a need to enhance the financial resilience of the UK population; the Covid-19 crisis has made this need even more salient. Nest Insight has launched a ‘sidecar savings’ trial to test the effectiveness of an opt-in hybrid workplace savings tool, Jars, which combines short- and long-term savings goals, and which has been made available to a limited number of trial employers. The Covid-19 crisis has both disrupted the launch of Jars among employers and created a new context in which to understand the value and usage of Jars. This report provides early learnings on the tool and how it has been received and used to date.
The study comprised 41 in-depth qualitative interviews conducted by telephone or video call; 7 were with stakeholders, 11 with employers and 23 with employees, including 5 who had signed up for Jars.
The research questions that the study set out to understand were:
With employer organisations:
- The design of the tool.
- Employer engagement around whether to offer Jars.
- The implementation of Jars in different employer settings.
- Employer communication and onboarding.
- The impact of Covid-19.
With employees at participating companies
- Barriers and motivators of take-up.
- The user experience of the rollout.
- How the tool is being used and any impact on financial wellbeing.
- The impact of Covid-19.
With stakeholders (tech partner and savings account partner as well as Nest)
- Stakeholders were included to provide a rounded view of activity to date.
The findings listed in the report are extensive and detailed and include the following:
- Covid-19 has made it harder to roll out Jars.
- Employers support Jars, think the salary deduction mechanism will be effective, and see it primarily as a way of employees building up emergency savings; pension savings are seen as secondary.
- However there are some concerns over whether it will overcome employees’ barriers to saving.
- Concerns about the resource needed to implement the tool are key barriers to employers offering the tool.
- Overall, the crisis has led to a change in mindset by highlighting the importance of having savings. Despite this, there are low levels of engagement with, and knowledge about, savings and pensions.
- The concept of a workplace hybrid savings tool is positively received by employees. However, among non-users, awareness of Jars is low, and those who are aware tend to focus on the savings element of the tool.
- Among users, the convenience of being able to automatically save directly from their salary is a strong driver for signing up and a key benefit they have experienced.
- The initial sign up process is generally felt to be easy and straightforward by both users and non-users.
Overall, the report concludes that Jars appealed primarily because it is seen an easy way to save. But, despite the overwhelmingly positive response to the concept, barriers to take up still persist.
Points to consider
Methodological strengths/weaknesses: Of the 23 employees interviewed, only 5 had signed up for Jars, and of the other 18, only 9 were aware of the tool.
- This was a small-scale qualitative exercise, so not intended to be representative of a wider audience. However the researchers took care to sample from a wide range of employee types so that a full range of experiences was reflected. The Jars users were a convenience sample, as so few were available.
- The authors state that they took care to mitigate against people’s potential reluctance to discuss their finances openly by using one-on-one interviews, and by framing questions sensitively and using skilled interviewers.
- The authors state that due to the research being completed whilst still in the early stages of Jars, and against a backdrop of the Covid-19 crisis, it is not currently possible to answer each of the research questions fully. But they argue that there is much to reflect on in terms of early learnings with regards to the sidecar savings model.
Generalisability/ transferability: Much of the detail is specific to the Jars tool, but there are broader learnings around motivations to save and employee schemes in general.
Relevance: Topical and important given that even before Covid-19, a high proportion of people in the UK had no savings buffer.
- Of most interest to trial partners, employers who are considering how to support their employees with savings and pensions, and to financial product providers, but also of interest to people involved in helping people to build savings buffers, such as government, policy makers and support agencies.