PA: Tell us about your practice and how you and your team members got into advising retirement plans.
I started in the retirement plan consulting business in 1991 where I did all the retirement plan consulting and my partner did health care consulting. I was a one-man retirement shop for many years and built from ground zero. In 2005, we sold our benefits firm to a national insurance and benefits firm, and I spent four months at a national firm. I then decided I was going to start over and do things the way I wanted to do them, not how I was told from insurance executives.
I started MRP in 2005 with one employee who has been with me for over 18 years and we started building from scratch, one plan at a time. We now have 22 employees and 100% of our growth has been organic growth which is very unique in our industry. We haven’t purchased any plans or books of business over the years but we’ve hired people who are passionate about this business and love to service our clients. The one question I ask everyone who comes in for an interview is “why do you want to be in the retirement business?” I’ve been fortunate to weed out people who are looking only for a job from those that want an exciting career where they can make a difference in people’s lives that is meaningful.
I personally believe that retirement is way overrated. I love this business, but what I’m passionate about is helping people save money. It just so happened when I was starting in my career, 401(k)s were relatively new and I believed they were the best vehicle for people to actually save money, often get a matching contribution, and ultimately build net worth. I’ve spent my career trying to teach employees that they will never retire on their income – only on their net worth.
PA: How is your team/process/structure unique? How has it evolved? Where will you be in five years?
One of the things that makes our team unique is our long-term focus on the employees. Many people in our industry continue to say that employee engagement hasn’t worked and I completely disagree with that assessment. We have always gone out of our way to help employees and in 2017 alone, our retirement engagement team held over 4,000 one-on-ones with employees of our clients. I’m convinced that most people won’t engage in their plan unless you give them very specific and meaningful reasons to do so. We work hard to innovate and make our meetings not only relevant, but also fun for the employees.
In five years, we will continue to change both the content and the purpose of committee meetings and employee meetings. One of the key changes that we’ve made in our service model is a much more focused approach on what people should be doing in retirement with their accounts. This included distribution planning, Social Security planning, and helping people understand that one of their goals should be to leave a legacy through donations of either time or money, or both.
PA: What have you done in the past year to improve participants’ retirement readiness?
One of the things we are most excited about is that for the first time in our history, over 50% of our plan sponsors have implemented auto-enrollment, or auto-escalation features. This has been a significant process of continuing to encourage committees and also showing the impact this can have on their employees. Last year, we convinced all but one of our plan sponsors to complete a target-date re-enroll during their transition to a new record keeper. We feel very strongly that getting employees properly diversified is a critical factor in helping them meet their long-term goals. We currently have approximately 64% of our total plan assets allocated to diversified investment options including target date funds (TDFs) and managed accounts.
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) or any plans for the next 12 months.
We were engaged by two of our larger clients to do a comprehensive employee engagement initiative as part of their freezing their traditional defined benefit programs. We worked closely with their actuaries in helping to implement changes to their defined contribution (DC) plans to offset the pension freeze and then we conducted both group meetings and individual meetings for every impacted employee to help them better understand their options and the long-term impact of the changes to them personally.
While not 100% of the employees chose to meet with our representatives, we did hold over 20 group meetings and 500 individual one-on-one meetings for this project.
PA: As a retirement plan adviser, what do you take the most pride in?
One of the things that I love to hear from clients is the fact that they feel so confident in their plan’s ability to meet the retirement needs of their employees. This confidence is critical and it demonstrates that we’ve helped them to focus on the things that truly are most important rather than just checking off the fiduciary boxes. I honestly believe that someone can be a great “fiduciary” but a horrible “steward” of their employees’ money.
PA: How do you grow your business? What changes to your practice or service model are you planning for 2018?
The major change that we’ve implemented for 2018 is that we have engaged every employee in our firm in our two major initiatives for growth and profitability for 2018. Every employee understands the importance of growth even though the majority are not involved in sales and marketing. They all impact in a huge way our client retention, profitability, and new business opportunities. These initiatives require every employee to set a weekly goal and to be accountable for their goal each and every week. We have a team full of people who are driven and determined to make a difference.
PA: How do you select what recordkeeping providers to work with and how many relationships doyou currently have across your client base?
We currently have clients with 26 different recordkeepers. We have always said that we don’t care who the recordkeeper is as long as they are providing quality service at a very competitive cost. We look at recordkeepers services and try to look especially deep into the little things that will make a difference for the employees. One example of this is how easy they make it for employees to transfer accounts to the new plan and how difficult they make it transfer out of the plan.
Business at a Glance
How many plan assets do you have under advisement? $5.2 Billion
What is your median plan size (in assets)? $26.5 Million
How many plans do you have under administration? 219
How many participants in total do you serve? 64,000 estimate