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Webinar highlights: Guidance in uncertain times

Employers 04.29.2020 5 MIN READ


Recently, Ayco executives shared their insights in a webinar about the fast-changing conditions brought about by COVID-19. The discussion ranged from the challenges of working remotely, increased demands on employee benefits, and guidance on financial matters including savings, investments, retirement accounts and refinancing. In this executive summary, we share the highlights of this on-demand webinar. 


Click here to sign up for the full conversation and presentation on-demand. 

Greg Wilson, Head of Institutional Client Businesses at Ayco and Managing Director at Goldman Sachs opened with comments about the situation we find ourselves in, citing unprecedented times, and for employers, unchartered waters. He praised corporate and HR leaders as part of the unsung heroes in Corporate America, along with IT professionals who have been working tirelessly to support employee populations.

He spoke to Ayco’s focus on staying front-and-center with clients on the front lines; sharing insights from what we’re hearing from employees. From broad-based employee populations to the C-suite, Ayco is positioned to help companies make the best decisions and focus on areas of need.

He mentioned that Ayco will be conducting a series of weekly calls to convene on important topics as they evolve.

Andrew Williams, Managing Director, Corporate Communications at Goldman Sachs spoke to the Business Continuity Plan in place at Goldman Sachs and Ayco, and referred to the firm’s commitment to transparency in communications. He directed listeners to the Goldman Sachs COVID-19 updates, where they can read communications about the current situation to GS employees.

Paul Clickman, Senior Vice President & Co-Head, Corporate Development at Ayco addressed how Ayco is working closely with over 400 companies in one capacity or another, and we’re seeing three broad themes.

Industry-specific actions

There are large differences in measures companies are taking, depending on their industry and staffing model.

  • Remote work: Employers are making creative adjustments and accommodations for employees moving to a WFH environment. Employers with call centers are buying laptops, piloting remote access and giving employees monetary support to help set up a home office
  • For hourly staff, some of the larger employers are continuing to pay workers despite the fact that their work locations are closing
  • Sick and PTO time: Most employers are offering 14 days for confirmed cases or those being quarantined. We haven’t seen the PTO extensions yet, but are seeing more related to sick time. Employee PTO banks are being created. Some companies are establishing “care banks,”—essentially employees donate time for those with hardship. Relief funds are also being created
  • Healthcare: Many insurance companies are waiving co-pays for testing fees or reducing copays for scripts, plan specific, provider specific

Highlighted benefit resources

Communication is key. Employees are looking for guidance in these uncertain times. It’s an opportunity to promote specific benefits by communicating to constituent segments. Not communicating can speak volumes as well. This is also an opportunity to promote and take credit as an employer who provides a robust set of benefit and compensation plans for their employees. After all, this is why we have benefits in place to begin with—to provide for the health, safety and well-being of associates, as well as promote both risk protection and wealth accumulation. It will be interesting to see how these benefit plans hold up and which were most effective and highly utilized.

  • Backup childcare: About 20% of Ayco client companies offer childcare or elder care. We’re seeing the addition of crisis care assistance, where if capacity doesn’t allow, there’s an opportunity to hire friends or neighbors to provide care. That’s being offered on a limited basis through certain providers
  • EAP: About 70% of our companies provide an EAP plan, while many programs provide resources beyond the mental and emotional concerns. Some of them do provide child and elder care resources. From what we’ve heard, there hasn’t been a significant increase in volume of EAP usage, but closely monitor that to insure appropriate staffing and remote access to meet the increased need over time
  • Telehealth: About 50% of our client companies offer telehealth. As the healthcare system becomes stressed, this is an option for employees having other medical concerns beyond the coronavirus. Many are adding this for free to help alleviate strain in the healthcare system
  • Short-term disability/FMLA: STD typically kicks in after seven days of sick coverage and can replace 60% to 100% of income. It is only available if there is a medical diagnosis or condition. The emergency bill that Congress passed provided FMLA coverage that typically applies to employers with less than 500 employees and will provide coverage to employees who can’t leverage employer benefits or time off

Other benefit plan considerations

Certainly the interest rate environment is a consideration. Many companies have added programs such as student loan refinancing, and for those companies who have Ayco financial coaching as a benefit, we have our Marketplace where there are a variety of resources available for people to deal with credit card debt, consolidation and other financial needs. We’re seeing interest rates go down in the market and there is not a quick correlation. There is however an opportunity to look at refinancing many different types of loans. If you have some of these resources in place, it could be an opportunity to promote those resources for people looking for either cash or relief. We’ve seen some creditors extend temporary holds on payments so that relief is granted directly by the provider.

Nancy DeRusso
, Senior Vice President & Head of Coaching spoke of the common themes and questions that Ayco coaches and advisors are receiving.

Ayco’s Coaching service generally covers all employees and is delivered through a multi-channel model, including group education, digital tools and one-on-one financial coaching. We help this population achieve financial wellness, plan for their goals and optimize their benefits. We take a holistic approach across seven different financial disciplines. We’re seeing an increase in call volume of 60% and are moving toward scheduled calls.

The questions fall into three categories:

  • Calming short-term fear, getting immediate assistance
  • Reinforcement of existing plans, validation
  • Opportunistic questions and planning techniques

Ayco coaches are addressing these common questions:

  • What should I do with the investments in my 401(k)?
  • Should I refinance?
  • How can I protect myself financially?
  • Is this a good time to buy (Stocks, house, etc.)?
  • Will my assets still get me through retirement?
  • What does all this mean to me?

Ayco coaches are offering planning guidance:

  • Review risk tolerance and understand the impact on investing
  • Look at refinancing options (mortgage, student loans, other loans)
  • Research high-yield savings accounts if you are not comfortable investing
  • Review company benefits available to you (child care, insurance, etc.)
  • Understand cash flow needs and what is discretionary vs. fixed
  • Set up an emergency fund
  • Review withholding options to potentially help with cash flow

Our Counseling service is aimed more at an executive level population. The service is more proactive and high touch, covering the same seven financial disciplines. This audience tends to have more complex questions.

The questions fall into three categories:

  • Calming short-term fear, getting immediate assistance
  • Reinforcement of existing plans, validation
  • Opportunistic questions and planning techniques

Ayco advisors are seeing these themes from executives:

  • What are the best investment strategies to cope with and capitalize on market volatility?
  • Should I get out of the market?
  • Is now a good time to utilize back-door Roth conversions?
  • If I want to re-allocate toward equities, should I leverage structured notes with downside protection?

What else are we seeing?

  • The proximity to retirement is really coloring the conversations with clients
  • We’re seeing some pausing on implementation, either on investing more or reallocations
  • Many conversations this time last year revolved around taxes, now it’s about risk measures and investments
  • We also anticipate questions about 401(k) loans and job loss, we’re preparing to hear more in the coming weeks and months

In conclusion, we are here to help our existing clients as well as those who are looking to provide some additional support for their employees. We are fully up and running, with our business continuity plan and all of our coaches and advisors are working remotely from home. This year we ramped up the number of our coaches and are continuing to do so. For existing clients, please reach out to your Relationship Manager if you’re looking for any more specific information.

Click here to sign up for the full conversation and presentation on-demand. 


Webinar speakers

Greg Wilson

Greg Wilson
Head of Institutional Client
Businesses, Ayco
Managing Director, Goldman Sachs

Andrew Williams

Andrew Williams
Managing Director,
Corporate Communications,
Goldman Sachs

Nancy DeRusso

Nancy DeRusso
Senior Vice President &
Head of Coaching, Ayco

Paul Clickman

Paul Clickman
Senior Vice President & Co-Head of Corporate Development, Ayco


For disclosures relating to this article, please click here.