A conversation with Emma, our Engagement and Content Lead, who's an expert in financial wellbeing.
From Coach and Learn in our app to communications for new employees, as Engagement and Content Lead Emma is responsible for creating meaningful experiences that help people improve their financial wellbeing. We talked to Emma about her journey from journalism to Humanforce Thrive, with one of Australia's largest employers in between.
I studied International Studies and Journalism at university. I was always interested in making a difference in some way. I entered journalism at what could be described as the wrong time, in so much as newspapers were changing and digital was replacing print. I had a stint at The Guardian which was awesome but quickly learned that jobs in journalism were not necessarily secure.
I thought one day I might like to pay down a mortgage and have other financial aspirations, so it could be good for me to get some different experience using my skills. The upside of entering the industry at that time was that lots of content marketing roles were becoming available.
I realised if I could get a job in-house for a company whose mission I believed in, then that could be a really cool way to make the most of my interests and skill set. I worked across the not-for-profit sector and in the arts before applying for a job in the digital team at CommBank.
About six months into my first role at CommBank I was approached by Rae Davis who is now Head of Impact and Financial Wellbeing at Humanforce Thrive. At the time she was Head of Financial Wellbeing at CommBank and she had a job available for someone to create a content library to help customers understand and improve their financial wellbeing. It sounded like a great project.
I really just sunk my teeth into the whole world of financial wellbeing and interventions that can improve financial wellbeing at scale. At CommBank I also began to see the value of plain English communications to help people understand the world of finance.
When I was part of the Financial Wellbeing team at CommBank there were always a series of projects and experiments that were on the go. Often these were interventions a bank could implement to help a customer’s financial wellbeing.
One of the projects was about mortgage alignment. The idea was if someone could choose the day they repay their mortgage, they could more easily manage their repayments. For example, being able to pay your mortgage the day after you are paid could significantly reduce your financial stress.
The other experiment was income alignment, so you might want to choose when you get paid to better align your income with your bills and expenses. I had worked as a freelance writer before starting at CommBank and knew how tough it could be to have to wait to get paid — to know money is coming in but to not be able to access it.
When Rae told me she was working for a company that was essentially providing that service, I was really curious about where it would go. About three months later Rae reached out to say she was looking for a content + kind of role, so someone to lead and create a whole series of financial education content across the app, as well as use my understanding of financial wellbeing to create reports and sales materials that would support the product and company.
I was excited by the opportunity to try and test these behavioural interventions I’d been reading about, such as the Save more for tomorrow program. I thought it would be great to start implementing these ideas and that in a smaller company I’d be able to get it done in a much shorter time frame.
I think we have a really great team and there’s a good energy.
I enjoy being able to kick goals while working through longer term strategic projects. For example, the Financial Inclusion Action Plan is a long term project that’s really essential. At the same time, being able to launch with a new customer and develop specific communications plans for them is a quicker win.
Some of the time I chat to people using the app through our Coach product. A lot of those who come through for a coaching session are in their early twenties and they may not know the difference between gross and net pay or how to set up a budget. Spending 30 minutes with them helping them work through these questions helps our product planning and is rewarding.
I know when I learned money basics, it made a real difference to my financial life. I also know not everyone gets taught these types of things – and there are predictable behavioural barriers that hold people back. It can be comforting for people to know they aren’t alone in struggling to manage money efficiently — the reality is they’re human! Plus, there are ways to simplify it all.