PLANADVISER: What is your mission statement?
401k Advisors Intermountain: We feel that the highest form of recognition an employer can offer a valued employee is a way for them to retire comfortably. We help employers deliver on this. We have a clear passion to help as many people as possible retire with dignity and it is manifest in everything we do.
PA: Describe any particularly initiatives you have led with your customer base in the past 12 months (investment or education or plan design or communication).
401(k): Our team is evolving to meet what we consider to be the most important change in our industry in 20 years. That is a focused push to educate the masses on financial health. To be brief, we are fortunate to have had several of our larger clients allow us to use them to beta test various methods of education.
From those, we have come up with a great solution that helps employees and their families learn to live within their means. We help them focus first on getting out of debt, save for emergencies and, finally, appreciate the contribution from their employer towards their eventual retirement. Stress levels go down, production comes up and overall job satisfaction is improved.
This ultimately helps them gain a greater appreciation for their employer-sponsored retirement plan. This also completes the circle for the employer and helps them achieve the goal of reducing financial stress and creating happy employees. We are able to track increased savings, debt reduction and other wellness factors. This allows us to show the client real outcomes and validate the power of the program.
We have even marketed this solution to companies that are not our clients with success. One of the companies decided to hire us as their advisor, after seeing the impact and level of service we provide. We are certain this trend will continue.
The other by-product of this success story is the easy difference noticeable when we are stacked up against the competition.
As a part of another successful initiative we have been working on, we recently co-hosted an event with The Financial Services Roundtable recognizing employers in the Intermountain West who were deemed “Save10” companies. This distinguishes companies committed to helping their employees save 10% or more for retirement; 28 companies were awarded in the Intermountain West, with 21 of those being our clients. Our client OC Tanner (previous PLANSPONSOR of the Year and FORTUNE 100 Best Employer) hosted the event in partnership with Sen. Orrin Hatch, chairman of the US Senate Finance Committee.
PA: As a retirement plan adviser, what do you take the most pride in?
401k: We are fortunate to have clients that are like family. We are very proud of the many successes we have achieved with our family of clients. So many have built successful plans and helped their employees retire on their terms.
We are also very proud of the thousands of employees who have learned how to live within their means and pay off debt because of our financial wellness programs. We love hearing stories from participants in all stages of their lives tell us how they were able to turn their financial situation around, and now know they will be able to live a comfortable retirement. This drives us to keep pushing forward and continues to challenge our team to make sure we are always progressing forward.
PA: What is your most significant area of needed improvement?
401k: We have been slow to grow into the not-for profit side of the retirement plan industry. We have a few plans, but feel like we really need to step it up as there is a lot of opportunity in this space. After all, many of our clients are on boards or committees of not-for-profits and we feel confident we could be a great help to them. Our plan is to prospect through our current client base and centers of influence to grow our presence. We are prepared for the differences in what they need to be successful, along with resources and support.
PA: How do you react to clients or prospects who don’t share your goals for their retirement plan?
401k: Because we wear our passion on our sleeve about the importance of preparing employees for retirement, sometimes we overwhelm prospects and we don’t get hired. But, as we educate clients or prospects on the retirement savings crisis in our country, things change. We believe it is our job as advisers to help the employers understand why they need to play an integral role in helping people save.
Many committees do not jump on the bandwagon immediately; it takes several different approaches to find the one that resonates best and motivates them to employ the right tactics to move folks towards a successful path. As a team, we have learned to not give up coaching them on the right steps to take, even If they reject plan design and financial wellness the first time. It is our mission to help Americans retire and we must continue to find ways to get employers on board as partners.
We have countless success stories of helping plans move the needle in a big way. It’s not always the same strategy with each employer, and it requires persistence and passion for successful outcomes. When the committee sees your passion, they are more likely to get on board.
As a team, we never want to become content with the current state of things. Progression is necessary in business and personal affairs. As the industry ages and regulatory changes occur, we must continue to innovate in ways that keep us in business, but most importantly benefit our clients. We try and instill this same belief into clients/prospects. With this approach, we have been able to change the minds of many plan sponsors from just “check the box” clients into believers and promotors of 401(k) plans.
PA: How do you grow your business? What changes to your practice or service model are you planning for 2017 and beyond?
401k: When it comes to growing our business, we are truly reaping the benefits of having happy clients. They tend to be our best cheerleaders and we have found a way to harness that enthusiasm to help us grow. Our clients have a vested interest in our continued success and are happy to share their experiences and confidence in us with their friends through introductions to other professionals in their circle of influence.
Clients have invited us to speak to groups they are affiliated with like SHRM, CACPA and various associations. This has identified us as trusted experts, then we follow up with each attendee, inviting them to take advantage of a no-cost plan review. Many times, they ask us to help them as soon as possible.
Another method for growing our family of clients that has always been successful for us is partnering with CPAs, attorneys and benefits/P&C brokers. We are constantly reminding them of the great things we do to make the clients they referred us to happy. They are always glad they stuck their neck out for us. Each compliment or nice comment we receive we are sure to pass along to reinforce their decision to recommend us. It is amazing how effective that has been.
As our business, has grown and matured it has become clear to us that a specialized, team service model provides the best experience and outcomes for our clients. I vividly remember the days when it was just a couple of us, we had great relationships, but as the industry has evolved, I look back with great pride seeing how far we have come. Growth and opportunity has been the catalyst in our business to create the team and deploy the resources to every client efficiently and effectively.
We now employ a team approach with every client. We have a team leader to oversee every client relationship experience who is tasked with a 100% client reference and retention rate. We have significant resources available to our clients with the team service model. The team leader coordinates all of these resources to ensure an experience that meets the expectations we set for a client during the discovery phase.
Each client is assigned a lead adviser, CRM, financial wellness director, investment specialist and ERISA specialist.
I am delighted to share that 2016 was a record year for our business. We experienced record growth while adding significantly to our resources and team, and are looking at adding additional resources to our team in 2017 as well.
Lastly, by attending industry conferences, being a part of advisory councils with service providers, and sharing best practices with some of the most respected advisers in the business, we help move the industry forward. We are surrounded by some talented retirement plan teams across the country and we only hope our peers see us the same as we see many of them. ROCKSTARS!
BUSINESS AT A GLANCE:
Plan assets under advisement: $2.4 billion
Median plan size (in assets: $11 million
Total plans under administration: 169
Total participants served: 53,000