PLANADVISER: What is you mission statement?
Retirement Benefits Group: Our mandate, the very foundation on which we are built, is simple. People always come first. More than just a philosophy, our people-first approach drives everything we do. For us, it’s about knowing your organization inside and out and making a commitment to your success. It means empowering—and motivating—your employees to reach their retirement goals. And it means doing business with the highest personal integrity.
PA: How is your team/process/structure unique? How has it evolved?
RBG: RBG has been built on a philosophy of providing a consistent team structure for all plan sizes. On the vast majority of our plans, our team structure includes a minimum of four team members: A principal in charge of fiduciary oversight, a principal in charge of investment due diligence, an investment professional responsible for reporting and investment data analysis, a relationship manager responsible for daily requests and document retention (Fiduciary Vault), a retirement advisor responsible for education, communication, implementation and delivery and an in-house ERISA attorney.
PA: What areas of service are customized for each client? What are the same across your book?
RBG: Each plan client, regardless of plan size, is provided with a consistent annual meeting structure and agenda (sample attached). This is the same for all clients. The specific pieces provided at different times are customized for each client depending on several factors including plan size, committee requests and participant education requirements. RBG includes an education series for all advisors via a webinar each quarter on the specific topics and provisions for each quarterly meeting, where the partner reviews the topics, concerns and regulatory updates for each quarter consistent with the agenda for that quarter.
All plan sponsors of RBG plans receive monthly Passion for the Participant educational pieces on timely subjects and relevant topics. Additionally, each plan sponsor receives a plan performance spreadsheet that provides for each underlying investment within the core menu, a relative ranking among their peer groups. Plan sponsors also receive scheduled regulatory updates to help guide their priorities in retirement plan committee meetings.
PA: What is your most significant area of needed improvement?
RBG: We are a group of 53 advisors, 20 staff, and seven principals. While in many situations, our leadership structure is beneficial (diversity of background, experience and philosophies), there are challenges to leading an organization with seven people in charge. We recently revised our operating agreement that formalizes the partnerships and the business succession plan. At one time, getting seven voices in the same direction on a budgetary item – e.g., regarding the purchase of office equipment –was not so difficult.
However, as we have grown, so have the consequences of our decisions. We are still evolving in the business of “being in business” together, and have made a few determined steps in that direction over the past 12 months. We still need work! Our organizational structure is unprecedented, at our size, in this environment. Despite the challenges we face in this unusual leadership structure, we have been extremely successful in our goal of optimizing participant retirement outcomes.
PA: As a retirement plan advisor, what do you take the most pride in?
RBG: We spend two days a year together as a group – all RBG advisors and staff – talking about our plans, our sponsors, and our participant stories. We encourage each advisor to share success stories and provide the platform for each advisor to talk about what they do best. We have heard stories of smoking cessation, credit card destruction, budget creation, all for the end goal of improving their retirement savings and outcome.
In an environment where we as advisors are consumed with trying to comply with changing regulations, react to fee pressure, and determine fine-line provider capabilities, we never have enough of success stories of the “end-user” – working Americans – putting another penny of each dollar toward their retirement.
Frequently, these stories come from advisors that are working with very modest income participants, which makes the change exponentially more valuable. We take great pride in impacting the lives of plan participants through education and coaching at all levels of the organization.
PA: How do you react to clients or prospects who don’t share your goals for their retirement plan?
RBG: While there are regulatory issues on which we will not bend, there are other areas in which we consider the client and the industry. If there are clients or prospects that are not following regulatory requirements, we will coach, remind, and instruct, but ultimately disengage if the issue presents a threat to the integrity of the plan sponsor or our firms’ advisors.
However, though we collectively share the desire to see high (>75%) participation rate amongst our plan clients, we know there are industries in which that is not likely – for example, retail – and we will aim for the highest-possible outcome. Our mission statement is founded in the participant experience and our clients hire us for that reason.
BUSINESS AT A GLANCE:
Plan assets under administration: $13.5 billion
Median plan size (in assets) $6.5 million
Total plans under administration: 774
Total participants served: 161,070