Morgan Stanley strategies to revamp financial wellness benefits to be more LGBTQ inclusive | EBA


Inclusive benefits can be powerful tools in the fight to create a more equitable workplace, but employers may be inadvertently keeping LGBTQ workers from particpating in these programs because of the way the perks are communicated.

Krystal Barker sees this all the time. As the head of financial wellness for Morgan Stanley, she recently helped an employer who was eager to provide financial wellness programs to their employees but was struggling to find a benefits company that didn’t alienate LGBTQ workers in its presentation.

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“They didn’t speak about higher costs of planning for [LGBTQ] families, they didn’t talk about the planning needs for when you’re married versus not married, or if the LGBTQ population has a safe space to go when they retire,” Barker says. “All of these considerations were just ignored and the employees went back to their employer saying, ‘We felt like no one was talking to us.’”

Instead of assuming a benefit is one-size-fits-all, it’s important to look at the different segments of a company’s employee population and make sure a benefits presentation is speaking to each community.

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“It’s so easy to accidentally be alienated,” says Jon Jense, the executive director of product management at Morgan Stanley and a member of the LGBTQ community. “Even just not always saying ‘you and your wife,’ can make an LGBTQ employee feel considered.”

That may be more important now than ever. Like many minority groups, the pandemic disproportionately impacted LGBTQ employees, about 20% of whom say their personal finances were “much worse off” in March of 2020 than they were in 2019, according to a survey from the Human Rights Campaign Foundation. Fifty-three percent of employers offer a financial wellness benefit, according to the Society for Human Resource Management, and getting all employees to engage with these benefits can not only improve well-being, mental health, and retirement preparedness, but support workers as they work toward more near-term goals like home-buying or family planning.

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“People do not see how financial wellness intersects so heavily with diversity, equity and inclusion,” Barker says. “You want to bring in diverse talent, you want to increase productivity, and you want to help create a more inclusive work environment. You can actually do that through a financial wellness program that has a diversity, equity and inclusion lens.”

Ensuring that all employees feel seen and valued is a delicate balancing act, and no employer may ever get this completely right, Barker says. But any step forward is an important signal to help staff feel supported and take advantage of the benefits being offered.

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“Employers need to get educated on speaking to the needs of their employees,” she says. “Most companies have ERGs that employers can speak to and learn about their unique challenges. People are your greatest asset and creating an environment where they can thrive is incredibly important.


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