Driving Performance with Student Loan Contributions: Barnum Financial Group Benefit Design Overview

In September 2019, Barnum Financial Group launched a new benefit giving new financial advisors the opportunity to earn student loan contribution benefits. This is a program that Michelle Hite, vice president of human resources at Barnum, says may be the first of its kind for financial advisors, specifically. It’s gaining media attention, including coverage in Employee Benefit Advisor and on NBC Connecticut television.

Barnum is a financial services and planning firm with 115 employees who support 300 career agents, with approximately 1,000 brokers also conducting business through Barnum.

Why Barnum Chose This Specific Benefit

Advisors new to the industry have often just finished college and are building a business. It is important for them to understand how to manage their own finances. “We know that student loans can be a burden for them,” Hite notes.

This situation led to the selection, design, and implementation of their new student loan-related benefit.

Specifics of the Student Loan Contribution Benefits

The program for advisors entails Barnum contributing 12 payments annually of $100 to $200 per advisor over a three-year period, or $3,600 to $7,200 in total. Contributions do not replace the normal monthly payment, but rather help accelerate the term and get the recipients out of debt quicker. Contributions are tied to performance goals.

Behind the Scenes: Development of the Program

There is an increasing demand for what advisors do and it can be a very rewarding career. Hite said that Barnum already offers a “ton of components” to help their advisors succeed, from access to a full-service support team, licensing fees, plus training and professional development program, and more. The benefits offered to them differ from those provided to Barnum employees because the advisors don’t generally start with a base salary. Instead, they are typically commission-based, so Barnum looks for additional incentives to offer them.

Helping people succeed is a priority at Barnum. There is no question that the amount of loans some are carrying is a hardship. The student loan offering first gained momentum when CEO Paul Blanco came to Hite with a news clipping about SoFi. This program presented Barnum with an additional avenue to attract, help, engage, and retain their advisors.

While working on developing the program, Hite investigated the fees that would be involved, the ease of using the system, and the educational component. Barnum decided to partner with SoFi. In her view, the system is cost-effective and also provides advice to the advisors about paying down student loan debt—tips that advisors could potentially use when meeting with clients in similar positions. Hite also found designing and implementing the program easy despite the fact that the company operates in a heavily regulated industry.

One new financial services representative at Barnum, Matt Nelson, shared his excitement about this benefit in the article published by Employee Benefit News. He is a May 2019 graduate of Elon University in North Carolina, graduating with student loan debt.

“I hope to start a family one day and thinking about balancing paying off the loan with everything else can be pretty overwhelming,” Nelson said to the publication. “The sooner I can pay off the debt the better.” He added that he considers this benefit program “another incentive to generate production,” which can help a new advisor to become cash-flow positive more quickly.

Barnum’s talent acquisition team is already using some relief from student loans as a recruitment tool at on-campus career fairs when talking to potential advisors. “People are intrigued by it and see it as an additional benefit,” Hite said.

How SoFi Can Help

Being innovative can help to attract more innovative employees, and partnering with SoFi at Work is allowing Barnum to offer this innovative student loan contribution benefit. If you’re an HR professional interested in offering a similar program to your employees, please contact us at [email protected].
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External Websites: The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third-party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.


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