Morgan Stanley at Work Insights Spotlight Increasing Focus on Workplace Financial Benefits, With Equity Compensation Key

  • Morgan Stanley at Work concluded marquee workplace financial benefits industry event, Thrive, with largest attendance numbers to date

  • Key takeaways show organizations placing greater value on comprehensive financial benefits, including equity solutions

  • Voice of the Participant 2024 survey confirms equity compensation remains key driver of loyalty despite knowledge gaps

Morgan Stanley at Work today announced takeaways from its annual Thrive conference and Voice of the Participant survey, which together demonstrate increasing demand for and adoption of workplace financial benefits among both companies and their employees. Findings show equity plans in particular continue to gain popularity as a strategic method to attract, retain and motivate top talent.

“Putting clients first is one of Morgan Stanley’s core values, and for us that means an ongoing commitment to invest in and deliver our full ecosystem of solutions for comprehensive support at every stage of our clients’ corporate and individual financial journeys.”

Underscoring this trend, the largest-ever 2024 Thrive conference in Phoenix, Arizona, saw record attendance from 1,000+ benefits professionals across public, private, U.S., and Canadian markets. Attendees came from a variety of sectors including Information, Health, Energy, Finance and more. Thought leaders presented topics ranging from financial reporting and automation to non-qualified deferred compensation and donor advised funds, while attendees enjoyed the option to earn continuing education credits at 85% of sessions, witness platform demonstrations, participate in hands-on labs, and access 11 invited industry partner exhibitors.

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The conference also introduced a new charitable giving activity, Thrive Gives Back, where attendees hand-crafted over 200 backpacks and reading supplies for donation to local charity HandsOn Greater Phoenix’s Reading Rocks program, which alongside other initiatives provides assistance to regional children in transitional and foster care.

For Thrive highlights, watch here.

Within this widening ecosystem of benefits solutions, research from Morgan Stanley at Work found more companies are offering some form of equity compensation benefits (76%, up 12% since 2021)1 as employee attitudes continue to evolve. Insights from the 2024 Voice of the Participant study, which expanded to a base of 2.3 million global stock plan participants at both private and public companies, reveal:

  • Equity benefits and education drive employee satisfaction and retention: Stock plan benefits are highly sought-after, with 43% of participants saying equity was a reason they joined their company, and once participating, most (76%) stock plan participants are highly satisfied. What’s more, over half (56%) of stock plan participants cite equity benefits as a reason they continue to work for their company, and seven in 10 say equity benefits are important for recognizing their accomplishments at work—underlining how stock plans can contribute to retention as well as a culture of ownership.
  • Yet U.S. participants seek plan education: 61% of U.S. stock plan participants say they do not understand how to try to maximize the financial benefit from their stock plan, showcasing the need for more comprehensive financial education support. Most U.S. participants say they would be likely to attend sessions on the topics of equity fundamentals (69%), retirement (67%), and advanced investing (64%).2
  • Taxes remain a bottleneck: While employees highly value their equity compensation, many still do not understand more nuanced aspects such as taxes. In fact, 62% of stock plan participants say they do not understand the impact of taxes on their stock plan benefit—which can erode the net value of their holdings.
  • Companies can close gaps and add value through guidance: Fewer than half of stock plan participants (45%) say they know how to reach someone if they have questions, and less than a third (31%) said they have a personal financial plan in place. This indicates an opportunity to invest in greater employee awareness and expand access to education, support, and guidance to help employees connect their equity to personal financial goals.

“We’ve seen a consistent story in the data over the years: Equity benefits can help drive real outcomes both for companies and their employees, and have taken on a starring role in company culture,” said Scott Whatley, Head of Morgan Stanley at Work. “That’s why it’s so important to strike the right balance between digital tools and human guidance, and why we have been working hand in hand with our clients to create bespoke solutions that help deliver education and guidance throughout their participant ranks—rising to meet the unique needs of increasingly diverse and global participant populations.”

Morgan Stanley at Work serves over 24,000 corporate clients and ~12M workplace participants, encompassing over 40% of the S&P 500 and roughly 60% of the Nasdaq 100.As announced at Thrive, the Firm delivered over 1,300 education sessions to more than 125,000 benefits participants around the world in 2023, and is continuing to roll out tech enhancements and updates—such as expanding application programming interface (API) integration with leading real-time compensation benchmarking and planning solutions provider Pave to Equity Edge Online®. The business remains focused on delivering a more unified client experience while also bolstering service levels and staffing for deeper client and participant support.

“As economic headwinds and tailwinds shift, organizations and their employees continue to tell us that workplace financial benefits are both a strategic priority and an effective tool for pursuing goals, driving results, and remaining competitive,” said Brian McDonald, Head of Institutional and Direct Businesses, Morgan Stanley. “Putting clients first is one of Morgan Stanley’s core values, and for us that means an ongoing commitment to invest in and deliver our full ecosystem of solutions for comprehensive support at every stage of our clients’ corporate and individual financial journeys.”

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