Efforts in Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI)

Oswald Financial, Inc. (Deena Rini pictured)

Cleveland, Ohio

Deena Rini, Oswald Financial, Inc.Deena Rini, Oswald Financial, Inc.

Business at a Glance as of 12/31/21

  • Plan assets under advisement: $3.7 billion
  • Median plan size (in assets): $12 million
  • Plans under administration: 305
  • Total participants served: 160,000

PLANADVISER: Tell us about your practice and how you got into advising retirement plans.

Deena Rini: Our practice was founded in 1999 by David Kulchar. After many years of being an industry leader with Principal Financial Group, Dave was highly sought after by Oswald Companies to start a new division, Retirement Plan Services. Oswald Financial, Inc. is a team of fully licensed professionals with over 200 years of combined experience in the retirement plan industry, having achieved reputable designations such as Accredited Investment Fiduciary, Chartered Retirement Plan Specialist, Certified Public Accountant and Master of Business Administration.

Our team has three verticals of focus: retirement plans, wealth management, and participant education. We believe in a comprehensive approach to retirement for our clients, their participants, and the individuals we work with. We strive to simplify the financial industry and make it more accessible to all individuals. The more plans and companies we work with, the more individuals we can interact with on a one-on-one basis. The more individuals we reach, the more families we can help gain strong financial footing and positively impact their communities.

 

PLANADVISER: How is your team/process/structure unique? How has it evolved? Where will you be in five years?

Rini: Our team takes a comprehensive approach to retirement advising with our clients. Our efforts don’t stop with at the plan sponsor level. Over the years, we evolved into a business model that supports our clients and their participants before, during and after retirement. Recognizing the need for more participant level education and engagement, almost seven years ago we started our participant education program. Although we provided education support previously, we did not have a structured business model around this initiative.

Today, we have a team of five individuals this strictly focus on participant education. We refer to these individuals as “Money Coaches”. Our Money Coaches provide comprehensive financial wellness services in both a group and one-on-one setting. The ability to provide comprehensive financial support to all employees of our clients is unique from most of our competitors. We leverage our recordkeeping partners to complement the comprehensive support we provide our plan participants.

In the next five years, our team will continue to evolve with the needs of our clients and participants. As the industry continues to experience leakage from plans, our education team plans to either prevent that leakage or continue to capture these opportunities outside of the plan, perpetuating and diversifying our business model.

 

PLANADVISER: As a retirement plan adviser, what do you take the most pride in?

Rini: We take the most pride in changing people’s relationship with retirement. Our goal has always been to educate and encourage change in saving for retirement so that individuals can retire securely and on time. While most of our competitors focus tends to be with the C-Suite, we take the most pride in helping those that don’t have the same access to elite professionals and sophisticated planning tools, or don’t have the required minimum funds required to invest. We feel we can have a much larger impact on the lives of this segment of the population by providing them the tools and education that is often reserved for more wealthy participants

 

PLANADVISER: How do you grow your business? What changes to your practice or service model are you planning for 2022 or 2023?

Rini: We are highly focused on organic business development, as a team. All team members participate and support new business efforts as we strongly believe that it helps us serve more individuals.

We grow our business by continuously diversifying our revenue streams by types of plans served in both defined contribution and defined benefit space, as well as wealth management. Last year we launched our Pooled Employer Plan, Unison Risk Advisors Pooled Employer Plan. We also have strategic partnerships with Private Equity firms to support their portfolio companies’ retirement plan needs.

Our parent company, Oswald Companies, is actively seeking acquisitions which in turn may lead to growth through the acquisition of an existing retirement plan practice or open a market to cross sell services in a new market to our Property & Casualty and Group Benefits clients.

 

PLANADVISER: What challenges do you think the retirement plan industry faces and what role do you have in addressing and confronting those challenges?

Rini: Our industry is an aging, white, male dominated workforce. We need to encourage more diversity by educating college students and recent graduates about our industry, the challenges, and the great opportunity it presents for them to make a difference.

The industry continues to face the issue of prioritizing retirement savings. With many different budgeting and debt management needs, retirement savings can get pushed aside so often. Our goal as advisors is to help individuals manage each, while still designating money towards their retirement.

Our industry continues to face consolidation of recordkeepers. Our role as an advisor is to consult with our clients to ensure their recordkeepers are providing the expected level of service for reasonable costs. Through our benchmarking efforts and prudent processes, we establish with our clients, we can continue to help them navigate these issues.

Lack of Access to Retirement Plans – Over 40% of Americans still don’t have access to retirement plan benefits. As advisors, it is our job to leverage legislation such as the Secure Act 1.0 and 2.0, to reach these organizations that have yet to offer these benefits to their employees.

The industry has been primarily focused on participants’ saving for retirement or the “accumulation phase” and not been focused on the spending down of retirement assets or the “decumulation phase”. Recently, service providers are introducing retirement income products to help participants spend down their retirement savings, however, these products are often complicated and difficult for participants to understand. Our role is to understand these income products and to educate both plan sponsors and plan participants on the options available and to assist them in making well informed decisions.

 

PLANADVISER: How do you go about moving from words and ideas to action when it comes to addressing the lack of diversity in the financial advisory industry?

Rini: Our organization began with including DE&I in our strategic planning, ensuring that areas of focus had executive and senior leadership buy-in from the beginning (words). Oswald established a DE&I Alliance (Advisory Committee) that would be the entity of accountability and a think tank of strategic and measurable goals for the organization. Our goals are generated directly from Oswald employees aligning with the areas of focus given by our strategic plan. Our goals aim to make inclusive and equitable impact throughout the organization (ideas).

These words-turned-ideas have transformed into action by our Alliance (made up of 21 diverse perspectives of employee-owners of various backgrounds, identities, tenures, and departments) posturing and supporting our Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) to lead the charge in actionable steps, while leverage leadership, internal passion, and external resources for support. Our goal is to be transparent, outcomes and impact-oriented and sustainable with our actions as we embed DE&I in everything Oswald does.

As stated above, our industry is an aging, white, male dominated workforce. Through education of students and transparency of career pathing, we believe we can start shifting this industry’s workforce demographics. We believe our new virtually supported workspace opens the door for a wider pool of candidates, providing more diversity and exposure to the opportunities in our industry outside of our region.

 

PLANADVISER: What are some of the benefits that an equitable and inclusive culture bring to a firm and its people?

Rini: Some of the benefits to a firm and its people by creating an equitable and inclusive culture includes a sense of belonging in the workplace. Employees can feel safe, seen, heard, and valued which drives engagement and loyalty to an organization. Equitability and inclusivity impact retention—people want to stay in spaces where they are given equal opportunity, development, and recognition. Innovation increases too—when the seats at the table of ideas are filled with diverse backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives and those ideas are heard, valued, and included in a shared vision, positivity, and productivity result.

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