Walmart's pay-advance app Even used by 200,000 employees

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Walmart’s experiment with offering’s money management and pay-advance app to employees appears to be off to a good start.

The retailer launched the app to employees in December. On Thursday, Walmart and its fintech partner announced that 200,000 Walmart employees are now using it. (The retailer employs 1.5 million people in the U.S.)

“We are very pleased with the early results of our program with Even and continue to see an overwhelming response to it from our associates,” said Daniel Eckert, senior vice president, Walmart Services and Digital Acceleration. “By working together, we are able to offer every Walmart associate more control and a better understanding of how to make the most of their hard-earned money.”

Even’s app is designed to help the 170 million Americans who live paycheck to paycheck manage their money more wisely with budgeting and “okay to spend” tools and Instapay, a way to access money ahead of payday to meet emergencies. An automated saving tool is in the works.

About 75% of associates use the app every week and 46% use it every day. The typical Walmart associate checks the “OK to spend” feature four days a week. Just over half of the Walmart employees use Instapay once a month.

“What’s interesting is you see the same adoption for hourly and salaried associates,” said Jon Schlossberg, Even's CEO.

One might wonder, if an employee uses Instapay early in the month, whether they will have a problem later in the month when other bills come in. But Schlossberg says that the app has built-in safeguards that prevent people from getting themselves into trouble. For example, employees can only draw up to 50% of their pay for the month.

Even gets access to Walmart employees’ bank account and payroll data, as well as their work schedules. It knows the hours they’re scheduled for, how much they’re going to get paid and what bills they have coming up.

“We built machine learning models that figure out what your bills are and they predict how much it’s OK for you to spend,” Schlossberg said.

One could argue that companies like Walmart should pay employees more, so that they’re not living so close to the edge of financial ruin.

But Schlossberg points out that the problem of living paycheck to paycheck exists along much of the income spectrum.

“A Careerbuilder survey that came out a while ago said 78% of workers live paycheck to paycheck,” he said. “That’s an insane number. And it represents people making all the way up to $148,000 a year.”

The real problem, Schlossberg said, is that incomes have remained steady while the costs of housing, education and healthcare have multiplied.

“In America, we have very high interest rates on our student loans, so you saddle yourself up with this debt that cancels out your income growth,” he said.

Walmart pays about 25% of the employees’ monthly subscription fees for Even. Schlossberg wouldn’t say what the subscription fee is, but said it generally costs less than Netflix.

For Walmart, this is about retaining its best people.

“Retention is the last frontier of how to find more margin, because it’s such an expensive problem,” Schlossberg said.

Even is closing a $40 million Series B round of funding led by Keith Rabois of Khosla Ventures with participation from Valar Ventures, Allen & Co., Harrison Metal, SV Angel, Silicon Valley Bank, Bull City Venture Partners and others. It plans to double its workforce and open an East Coast office.

“The reason we’re raising money is because we’ve been overwhelmed with demand from Fortune 500 companies to offer this kind of product,” Schlossberg said. “We need to rapidly grow the team and our infrastructure in order to serve that demand.” He couldn’t name any of these companies, but one is a large bank.

Even plans to add more budgeting and automated saving tools to its product.

“You need to think about the age of the money in your bank account,” Schlossberg said. “If you live paycheck to paycheck, the age of the money in your bank account is often zero days, because the money comes in and immediately goes out.”

The app will eventually get people to age their money longer, so they can start saving not only to have a cushion in case of emergency but to be able to start saving in a 401(k).

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