Financial wellness, when done right, can make you a partner in your employees’ financial security. Nothing will replace the gold watch, the monthly pension checks, and fully-funded retiree medical that used to mark retirement and secured employee loyalty for decades. But financial wellness is the next best thing, and it can be deployed for a very, very small fraction of the amount it used to cost companies to guarantee employees’ financial security.

It is the glue that drives how employees feel about and use their compensation and benefits to achieve their financial goals. It’s also a major indicator of your culture and commitment to your employees. The financial wellness benefit you decide to offer to your employees helps define what kind of company you really are underneath the marketing messages and what you really stand for and believe in.

Granted, after twenty years in the financial wellness business, I have a bit of a bias — both emotionally as the founder of a financial wellness company and pioneer of the movement but also experientially. We have the privilege of working with some of the largest and most well-regarded employers in the country who truly invest in their people. I’ve seen financial wellness tested with the best, most committed, most resourced companies so I know what’s possible when financial programs are designed and deployed the right way.

Now, based on the success these large employers have had with financial wellness programs, financial wellness is becoming much more common. 81% of employers recently surveyed by AON Hewitt indicating “it’s the right thing to do for their employees.” As a result, our Financial Wellness Think Tank is increasingly asked to analyze the effectiveness of various programs and approaches, doing commissioned work for organizations looking to better define how to implement an effective financial wellness program.

This post boils down years of research collaborating with companies, actuarial consulting firms, and industry thought-leaders into three universal criteria that HR and benefits managers should use to vet financial wellness offerings. Based on your employees’ needs, your culture, and your strategic HR and benefits objectives, you will likely need to add to these questions to make sure any financial vendor you select is well-equipped to handle your specific needs. But regardless of what those are, these are the first three questions every employer considering financial wellness should ask prospective vendors in order to fully protect their employees and set their programs up for success:

1) What is your business model?  Please share all the ways your firm makes money, including any financial arrangements with financial services companies. Please also indicate if your firm is owned in part or in whole by a financial services company.

This is absolutely critical for two reasons. First, most companies holding themselves out as financial wellness providers sell financial products and services or are owned or affiliated with companies that do (meaning they direct employees to specific products or services under the guise of providing a “personal financial wellness assessment” or “financial coaching session”). You do NOT want your employees used as a sales channel for insurance, annuities, mutual funds, or any other products and services. As their employer and the fiduciary of their retirement plan, you have a moral and legal obligation to make sure that any financial guidance offered to their employees is in their best interest.

Read the rest of Liz Davidson’s article at Forbes