Work benefits

Interview: Heap and CommonBond Executives on Startups Offering Student Loan Repayment Benefits

Since its founding in 2013, San Francisco-based analytics company Heap has been offering clients a more accessible, understandable look at their data. And since CommonBond rolled out the pilot version of its student loan repayment program in June 2017, Heap has been working with CommonBond for Business, to help its employees manage their outstanding student debt. CommonBond does the same for its own employees, offering them a suite of benefits designed to address student debt from a variety of angles. In fact, the idea for CommonBond for Business stemmed from the company's own student loan repayment benefit.

Both companies are part of the tech industry, which means that both had similar considerations and concerns when launching their benefits programs. CommonBond spoke with Ada Del Rosso, head of finance at Heap, and Keryn Koch, VP of people at CommonBond, to discuss the rollout of their student loan benefits platforms and the effects that they have had on the companies' employees.

CommonBond: When did you start working with CommonBond for Business, and what student loan benefits do you offer?

Ada Del Rosso: We started working with CommonBond a year ago and we offer reimbursement toward our employee[s'] student loan[s].

Keryn Koch: Originally, we just offered monthly payments toward our employees' student loan debt, but when CommonBond for Business was established, we transferred everyone over. We sent out a welcome email inviting everyone and explaining the benefits, trying to keep everything as simple as possible. We also sent around instructions for everyone already receiving a payment on how to receive the new benefits.

CB: What were you looking to accomplish in rolling out this benefit program at your organization?

AD: We wanted to show our employees that we understand their needs and want to help in any way we can.

KK: Our goal was to help our employees bring their best selves to work through reducing anxiety around finances. For the company, I wanted to help attract and retain talent, given how competitive the market can be in the tech world.

CB: What were the biggest challenges you faced in implementing a student loan benefit package, and how did you overcome them?

AD: There was no real challenge—employees were excited about the new benefit and it was pretty seamless to integrate. 

KK: Our biggest challenge initially was that not everyone could take advantage of the benefits—just employees with student loan debt. That said, we determined that most of the employees without debt were already taking advantage of our 401k matching program, but employees who couldn't afford to do so due to their debt now had a new path to financial wellness.

CB: What feedback have you received from employees about this program?

AD: Most people are excited to hear about it. Most of our new hires sign up for it right away.

KK: They appreciate the fact that CommonBond is trying to help them in their personal lives.

CB: What advice would you have for other human resources executives regarding student loan benefits?

AD: I think this benefit made [Heap's suite of benefits] really unique[. I] would highly encourage it.

KK: Find a way to understand how much student debt your employees have. I recommend doing an organizational assessment to better determine just how much impact such a program will have.

Ada Del Rosso has been the head of finance at Heap for one year and is also currently getting her MBA at Berkeley. Previously, she was at Apttus for three years managing financial planning and analysis.

Keryn Koch is VP of people at CommonBond, where she is responsible for leading the organization to deliver best-in-class people operations. Prior to joining CommonBond, Keryn was the director of HR and led the Talent Management function for Yodle. She started her career at Barclays Investment Bank.

For information on how implementing a student loan benefit program at your company can help employees, check out CommonBond's white paper, "The Missing Benefit in Financial Wellness."

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