Niagara Casinos’ multi-pronged approach and leveraging of company resources to promote financial literacy among employees contributed to its award for financial wellness at Benefits Canada’s 2018 Workplace Benefits Awards in Toronto on Oct. 11.

The organization’s financial wellness program includes an employee intranet, which is available at work and from employee’s home computers. The network features graphics with quick tips, as well as interesting articles, reminders, events or changes to benefits.

In addition, Niagara Casinos offers seminars with topics such as saving for children’s education, learning about wills and estates, retirement and investing with confidence. “We try to get them hands on,” says Carey Uyeda, compensation and benefits manager at Niagara Casinos. “We’ll have the person giving the seminar, but then we’ll also have financial advisors onsite to be able to provide that second step.”

Read: Four steps to building a successful financial wellness program

As well, the company creates wellness hubs in the form of display windows with quarterly updated materials related to the most recent promotion, such as financial stress and credit card debt.

For its defined contribution pension plan, the company uses a direct mail campaign to help guide employees who seem to have strayed from logical investment choices. For example, the company identified a 55-year-old plan member with a portfolio with more than 80 per cent equities. Another was invested in a target-date fund with an ultimate date well beyond an appropriate retirement timeline. The materials are intended to show employees how to review their plan and to understand the impacts of their investment decisions, according to the award entry.

Further, the company regularly reviews the funds it offers with the aim of moving towards better performance and lower fees. Recently, it implemented a company-wide re-enrolment as it added target-date funds to the investment menu and made them the default option. 

Read: Do TDF’s traditional glide paths still make sense in Canada’s retirement landscape? 

To do this, it held mandatory re-enrolment sessions where employees used tablets to complete an online review of their investments, personal information and beneficiary designation. If they wished, employees could also change their investment options during the review. A financial advisor was available at each of the company’s locations for six months before re-enrolment so employees could ask specific questions and benefit from financial advice.

As another saving mechanism, Niagara Casinos provided employees with the option to join a group tax-free savings account. Using a similar enrolment campaign, the company gave a $50 bonus to everyone who completed an online review of their pension and encouraged them to take advantage of the TFSA option to save even more money. The company also raised its pension contributions by one percentage point, up to seven per cent.

It developed a special brochure for employees closing in on retirement, since 41 per cent of Niagara Casinos’ pension-eligible employees are aged 50 or over. The brochure, which is updated annually, provides information on retirement income, lifestyle, government benefits, health and wellness and retirement resources. 

Read: Just one-fifth of employers have formal strategy around employee financial wellness

As well, the company hosted a Money Week, which featured debt solutions, financial support programs, investment and retirement options, how to understand a pension statement, planning in couples and as a single person, as well as bringing in an educational specialist from Service Canada to answer questions about the Canada Pension Plan, old-age security benefits and guaranteed income supplement.

Leveraging the information it was able to gather about employees from Money Week, Niagara Casinos held a soiree for those aged 60 and older. Guests were greeted with a custom mocktail, enjoyed a three-course dinner, mingled with co-workers, shared their plans for retirement and listened to expert speakers on topics such as wealth, health and the mind and body.

With so many diverse efforts, the company was careful to track results. Following the direct mail-outs, for example, 44 members took action to realign their investment selections within 60 days; some 127 employees viewed the web portal and 12 made active decisions to change their investments; a fifth of the workforce signed up for a group TFSA; and more than 800 workers attended Money Week, with 100 scheduling one-on-one meetings with a financial advisor to review their pension and investment selections.

Read: ROI of financial wellness programs difficult to quantify: report

While Niagara Casinos is proud of its messaging to older workers, it’s now shifting its focus to its younger demographic. This involves demonstrating the fact that saving just a small amount by cutting back on small expenditures, like a daily coffee, could result in major savings down the road. To show its effectiveness, the company hosted a café afternoon, providing free snacks and coffee while showing the amount of money saved over a period of time by making coffee at home.

An important facet of the strategy is that everything is set up so employees can take immediate action rather than having to follow up, says Uyeda. “We’ll try to get them to sign up right away and not have to go away and think about it so there’s that second step. We try to make it so that whatever we’re asking of them we have that in front of them, rather than their having to say ‘Oh where did I put that form?'”

Read the full list of 2018 Workplace Benefits Awards winners here. And stay tuned in the coming days to learn more about each of the winners.

Copyright © 2020 Transcontinental Media G.P. Originally published on

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