Jellyvision creates interactive software that helps people make decisions on topics like finances, health and employee benefits. Lannert discusses how artificial intelligence can help employees streamline and improve their benefits selection and make the most of every dollar spent on their plans.
We wanted to go where there was fertile ground and where people were doing something complicated and boring, but important, online. We would make software that talks them through it. We learned persuasion is really, really important, because it’s not just about getting you to pay attention and be entertained but convincing you to make better decisions. That led us to ALEX.
It’s about your goals and asking what is your contribution to your 401(k) and what is your match or what is the likelihood you will burn through your health savings account (HSA) or do you have emergency savings.
Based on an employee’s responses, ALEX says what is available, what it will cost, and lets them work out different scenarios like what the price would be for extra doctor visits or trips to the ER. It gets into demystifying the jargon and allows them to understand when fees occur and how they work so people can make decisions with much more confidence.
Humor is also a very important component. Science has proven you can’t be stressed and learn at the same time, so our comedy has purpose. You have to be able to reduce the levels of stress so people have a greater capacity to learn.
When we invented ALEX, we tried to model off conversations people had when they threw up their hands and needed help and called a sister or an uncle or someone who worked in benefits. Instead of calling an expert and saying, “You know about these products. What’s right for me,” people ask family or friends, “You know me. What’s the right product?” We try to bring that phone call to the advisor who knows you and cares about you and wants you to be in the best position.
Our product averages about four marriage proposals a year. People get to the end of it and it asks if you have any comments, and they write in asking if ALEX is single. They say things like, “I wish my hubby listened to me like this.” There are so many positive reactions where people feel helped and served and supported. That’s a squishy thing to say and we usually talk more about things like ROI, but there is a big squish factor when you are trying to engage employees.
That’s one of the things we talk to employers about, and it’s not just self-serving. Their benefits may not be changing, but employees’ lives change all of the time. So, if there’s a way to get them to take a minute—think versus just auto-defaulting into what they had before—they will better invest in tax-advantaged vehicles and will plan-shift in ways that make financial sense. They will also take advantage of voluntary benefits that create that circle of protection they need to get through the year.
According to Allegis, 83% of HSA eligible dollars don’t get run through the HSA. And you could say, “Great, people are saving; they are maxing it out and leaving money there and investing,” but that’s not the case. There is just rampant confusion around it, how it works and when you invest.
Right now, 60% of employees don’t have $600 in savings, but they have deductibles in the thousands of dollars. That’s why there’s medical bankruptcies and stress. It’s hard to say generally that people who have savings are better employees, but we kind of know that. But if you can drive participation in HSAs and high-deductible health plans, you can provide material ROI, and that’s what employers are looking for.
Adobe tells us, for instance, they saved just under $5 million in reduced tax liability because of ALEX. Real money is being driven by this stuff. And more participation equals savings. For every dollar an employee puts into these plans, it helps employers reduce their tax liability by seven cents. When you drive 165% more deferrals, you are really reducing payroll tax liability for employers.