Q&A with Edelman Financial Engines' Jason Van de Loo
FFP Special Post, June 28, 2023: FFP CEO Jon Dauphiné sat down with Jason Van de Loo, Chief Client Officer at Edelman Financial Engines (EFE) to discuss EFE’s commitment to expanding access to pro bono financial planning. EFE is the leading supporter within FFP’s RIA Impact Partner program, which represents the leading independent firms committed to growing the pro bono movement wihtin the financial advisory space.
Dauphiné (Q): As a company, why does Edelman Financial Engines (EFE) take a leading role in advancing the pro bono movement in financial advice?
Van de Loo (A): One of our core corporate values is We Help People. We help shape the course of lives. Like that of a teacher, a physician or even a therapist, our work with our clients changes the very direction of their lives, and that of the generations that follow. This is a powerful moral imperative and a privilege. We believe in the pro bono movement because we know that when we focus on helping people first – including our clients and the greater community – we are a better firm, employer and corporate citizen.
Q: What opportunities has EFE promoted to its advisors to do pro bono work, and what has been most effective?
A: Since our founding, we have encouraged our planners to make pro bono work a regular part of their practice. FFP helps us amplify this commitment. We first announced our partnership with FFP at our national planner meeting where we invited Jon Dauphine to share with our planners how FFP is rallying the financial advisory profession and how we could engage. Jon shared stories and videos that brought home how great the need is and how our profession can step up. We have also found that it is important to have leaders who are champions of the program. Our leads have been highly effective promoting the opportunities and building momentum among our team. We also keep the FFP program prominent in our communications and on our planner resource site.
Q: Why is it so important for modest- and lower-income families to be able to access objective, fiduciary financial advice?
A: Since our founding, Edelman Financial Engines has held a fundamental belief that everyone deserves to move their financial life forward. We’ve never accepted the premise that objective, fiduciary financial advice is reserved for the wealthy. For modest or lower income families, the stakes are higher and there is less margin for mistakes which makes access to qualified help even more important. And from our three decades of experience, we know that getting financial help can have a meaningful impact. Our research supports this as well. We found that people exposed to financial help were 44% more likely to have a manageable amount of debt and 32% less likely to worry about running out of money in retirement. They also showed more confidence and started forming positive financial habits, ones that pay off over months, years and even decades down the road.
Q: How does EFE’s embrace of pro bono service connect to EFE’s human capital and DEI strategies? Why does giving back to the community in this way matter to the EFE advisor workforce?
A: We are honored to be in communities across the country and in the workplaces of the most notable companies in America supporting our clients through the moments that matter most in their lives. We are committed to building a workforce that represents the people we serve. Through active employee resource groups, leaders at all levels of our firm are intentional about giving back to our local communities, and we’re most enthusiastic about helping to improve financial wellbeing for all.
Our team is continuously seeking ways to provide advice to all individuals, especially those who face exceptional barriers. Our Financial Inclusion, Wellness and Empowerment initiative stands on three pillars –
- Services: We want to ensure we are enabling financial advice access to everyone.
- Research: A better understanding of needs and behaviors enables us to meet people with the appropriate resources and help.
- Partnerships: Collaborating with organizations, like FFP, helps us create innovative solutions and programs with a trickle-down effect.
Q: How do EFE’s advisors (or staff members?) feel about the company taking a visible leadership role in pro bono financial planning?
A: Our team is proud of the work we do to increase access to financial help. Our advisors have the heart of a teacher, and they lead with education first. There is no better feeling than to help set-up a family for financial success. It is why our 1,500 employees come to work each day.
Q: FFP’s RIA Impact Partner program is made up of different RIAs that compete in the marketplace but come together in shared purpose to help lower income families. What positive impact does this have on EFE and on the industry at large?
A: One of the things I’ve always appreciated about the RIA ecosystem is its generosity. There is more than enough opportunity for all of us to grow and succeed, and it’s fulfilling when we come together not to compete, but to collaborate toward a common purpose. Through this work together, we are advancing accessibility and inclusion in the industry. There is a misunderstanding that financial help is only meant for the wealthy. We can shift the narrative, so everyone feels they are worthy of financial help.
Q: What would you say to a firm that was considering becoming an FFP RIA Impact Partner?
A: Jump in. The need is great, and the work is meaningful – not only to the recipient of the help – but also for the advisors. Providing financial peace of mind is powerful, and it can change lives in profound ways for generations.