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Launching the 401(k) for Small Business

Understanding The Savings Gap

While investing in retirement savings is known to be one of the best ways to benefit from the wealth of the US economy, one in four Americans do not have retirement plans in place ©. Penelope’s founder — observing how her own immigrant parents successfully ran several small businesses yet did not have a reserve put away for later years — set out to create a simple retirement savings platform with accessibility at its core. The vision for Penelope was to help more people tap into the wealth that has generally been reserved for those with white-collar privilege, and to leverage technology to build a retirement savings platform that allows anyone in the US to affordably interact with savings.

© While 68% of employed Americans have access to employer-sponsored retirement plans, just 41% of workers contribute to one.

Strategy That Serves Small Businesses

Combo worked very closely with the Penelope team to flesh out its brand and business strategy. Understanding that, historically, large financial service corporations have not been set up to serve smaller businesses, Penelope was positioning itself as an alternative to these standard retirement plans that were often cost-prohibitive to smaller employers and their employees. Data also showed a significant correlation between young, small- to medium-sized businesses and BIPOC communities, which meant that Penelope was in effect offering a savings solution to sectors of society that the finance industry needed to better serve. While the prevailing rationale sees little revenue to be gained by providing a 401(k) plan, for example, to a company with less than 500 employees, Penelope’s business model was designed as an explicit departure from that stance, centering small businesses as a core part of its philosophy, and thus helping more of America thrive financially.

Understanding The Role Of Generational Wealth

Combo strategists gained important insights about the importance of generational wealth and its role as a significant determinant of the wealth divide in the US. Brand messaging strategies explored various ways of using this larger idea as a way to get people to understand not only the practical benefits of a retirement plan but also the lasting contribution to future generations. In this way, the Penelope brand identity was enriched with a narrative that spoke explicitly to the small business sensibilities of aspiration, community-mindedness and building something from the ground up.

The disparity in wealth between white and Black households was over $330 billion, with 60% coming from inheritances.
The Economic State of Black Americans Report, 2021

Building The Penelope Brand And Product

Together, Combo designers and strategists produced an extensive brand guidelines document. It included a research-led and insight-driven brand framework as well as a detailed tone of voice section on how to apply the voice for each brand pillar and across the dual audiences of employer and employee. Stemming from the deep strategy work, Combo designers created the visual identity, including graphic assets and iconography, typographic treatment and a photographic point of view. From these guidelines Combo designers also created the digital product interface.

A Fintech Makes It Easy For Small Businesses To Offer 401(k) Retirement Benefits.

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