In a previous post, I discussed how we need to evolve our workplace financial security system to include emergency savings and why that starts with values alignment.
And so it makes sense for me to talk about our own values. Sunny Day Fund was born to help more Americans achieve financial security sooner. We’ve shaped our company values around these ideals. Here’s a look at our company values, and how they promote financial well-being for all when applied in a broader context.
Value 1: Mutual Respect Powers Mutual Success
“Mutual respect powers mutual success” is our take on equity and inclusion, and how that’s embedded in our internal and external workflows. When all parties respect the needs and differences of others, it leads to solutions that are beneficial for all.
If we don’t design solutions alongside the intended population that they are for, we position ourselves as their business leaders and we risk creating solutions that aren’t adapted to what people actually need.
When we built Sunny Day Fund, we co-created it alongside the “users” for whom the tools were intended—not just the business owners implementing it, but the employees using it, too.
From those conversations, we learned what people needed from emergency savings accounts, and we built those features into Sunny Day Fund.
Our accounts are FDIC-insured demand deposit accounts, not custodial accounts or retirement savings accounts. Our accounts are easily portable and go with the employee wherever they go. It makes it easier for employees to trust that they will keep control of their funds.
We focus heavily on digital inclusion. We learned in our discovery that not everyone has the latest iPhone or Samsung device, and that apps were often perceived as difficult to engage and maintain. They also limited language flexibility and other forms of accessibility. That’s why we intentionally chose to deliver it as a secure web app that’s responsive to any mobile device, and available in multiple languages.
We are continuously improving the way withdrawals work. One of the big issues with emergency savings is guaranteed easy access to those savings when you need them. With our accounts employees can access their savings quickly, it’s not a matter of weeks or months. But we’re working to become even more immediate: we’re about to offer a card in the near future that enables individuals to strategically take our money only when they need it.
Value 2: Be Flexible On the How, Not the Why
At Sunny Day Fund, we’re open to doing things differently, and we’re flexible on how things get done.
Doing things differently doesn’t mean that we compromise on getting them done, however. We’re flexible and we try different ways to roll out a program–and we measure their success so the decision makers understand what’s working and what’s not. We look at the different ways things have been done before, and we try new solutions too. The only compromise we won’t make is our commitment to getting this solution out there to as many people as possible, with proven impact.
When it comes to policy discussions, we often see attempts to put a square peg through a round hole: for example, trying to push emergency savings onto existing retirement savings pipes. But the way those accounts look, the way the transactions work and the user experience those accounts offer is completely different. That’s one big reason why we think that separating emergency funds from retirement funds is the best way forward.
All of this before the fact that limiting emergency savings to those who already have access to retirement savings automatically cuts the reachable population in half. Regardless, we’re excited for any progress, ready to explore different options and let the results speak for themselves.
Value 3: Transparent Communication -> Trust -> Teamwork -> Results
Transparency drives trust, and trust is the foundation that allows us to collaborate and achieve the impact that we want. At Sunny Day Fund, we strive to be open and transparent in our communications, both internally and with our audience.
We are very consultative with our clients, from the start of the proposal all the way down to the first set of rewards and withdrawals, when value is truly realized. When an employer considers our solution, we are clear about what we offer: we aren’t the cheapest solution on the marketplace because we deliver a high-tech, high-impact solution. By investing in this program for your company and not just another account, you’re getting a higher grade service, but you’re also investing in society.
To shape policy, we also need transparent communication. One area of opportunity would be disaggregating the demographic data of who takes withdrawals and loans from their 401(k), and changes to reporting in the form 5500. This data would enable us to understand likely unintended blindspots, especially across gender and race.
Transparency with our operations and with our data builds trust, but it also allows us to gather the information we need to build solutions that are most helpful for the most people.
Value 4: Get to Yes, Even If Not Now, Next Time
As a company, we believe that perseverance is important. Making employer-sponsored emergency savings part of standard benefits packages is a new idea—in contrast, things like retirement savings and healthcare that we now take for granted have been around for half a century or more.
This also means we empathize with our clients–some of whom we began engaging several years ago, and are only now about to launch. Inertia for an approach like ours is not easy to build and we are deeply grateful to those that in their own right have become passionate about financial well-being in their workforce.
In essence, these stakeholders are not saying “no” to a future decision today. Instead, they’re letting innovation foster, pilots blossom, and then charting a wider path forward from there. Similarly in policy, we must take care not to eliminate future solutions today. Innovation requires variety, a diversity of solutions.
We also know that policy change doesn’t happen overnight. Changing policy also means changing the minds of the policymakers themselves, and focusing on emergency savings requires a real shift in perspective and empathizing with workers of less means.
Value 5: All Competitive Instincts Are Turned Outward, Not Inward
At Sunny Day Fund, we’ve vowed to do things differently, because we believe that we are competing against inertia and the status quo, not other companies or providers. We want to work together with clients, policymakers, and even our competitors to help more Americans build true prosperity. We never focus on fighting for credit or who gets the spotlight.
Collectively focusing on that vision is crucial to the social threads that eventually lead to systemic change and progress.
Align on Values to Power the Future of Emergency Savings
Millions of hardworking Americans are waiting for us to make up our minds and bring them an easy, accessible, and rewarding way to save.
As we move forward, whether as an employer, provider, or policymaker, let us start by building on our existing core value of financial security for all. From there, we can start to align on new values for the new systems we aim to create.
Sid Pailla wrote this post as a two-part reflection piece, the contents represent Sid’s opinions on guiding principles that could be used to craft systems change. For all questions or comments, please contact him directly over LinkedIn or email.