Community Impact and Giving Back

Christopher Jamail, TCG - Trusted Capital Group

Austin, Texas

Christopher Jamail, TCG - Trusted Capital GroupChristopher Jamail, TCG - Trusted Capital Group

Business at a Glance as of 12/31/21

  • Plan assets under advisement: $4.25 billion
  • Median plan size (in assets): $5 million
  • Plans under administration: 1,000
  • Total participants served: 800,000

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

Jamail: The firm actually was established as a consulting firm with a prominence in governmental and non-profit plans. The founders spent the first several years working with organizations to help them design their plans, issue RFPs to select vendors, and general oversight. It was at this time it was recognized just how high cost and bad the responses were, so the company shifted away from one time consulting arrangements to ongoing advisory relationships. It was there that TCG could really continue to expose bad actors and impact change for its clients.

 

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

Jamail: We designed our unique team structure around having someone to support the boardroom and the breakroom. We have an advisor or consultant assigned to work with the plan sponsor investment committee, whose skill set is focused on plan level issues such as plan design, fiduciary responsibilities and investment oversight. We then have a specialist whose responsibility, and training, is geared towards financial education and participant-level advice.

The model has evolved over the years from the generalist advisor that was responsible for all activities within the plan. It wasn’t that talented people weren’t in this role and couldn’t handle all aspects, but it was slower to scale and ultimately we want people to do what they are best at. The reality is some people are better at plan level activities, and others are better working with individuals.

In the next five years we will continue to see the further evolution of the team model. While I’m not exactly sure what that looks like, I don’t think we will go back to the single advisor for the entire plan.  Not only has the workforce and workplace changed during the recent pandemic for our clients, but it has also changed for advisors, and we need to adapt too. We certainly can continue to embrace technology, but there is a large part of the population, and employers themselves, that lives on the analog side of the digital divide.

 

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

Jamail: I take the most pride in improving outcomes, for both participants and plan sponsors. More specifically, when you see the individual realize the result of the hard work and investment they have made. For a plan sponsor and investment committee, sometimes we forget these are individuals that may not have an investment background, and they are there because they care about their employees and peers. It takes dedication and effort to not only put a plan together, but to consistently meet, discuss ongoing issues or new trends, and then to work the plan. It feels impactful when all of these come together. Everything we do is a process, not a product.

 

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

Jamail: Like many others we embrace technology to support growth and scale, but we support it with a human element. I think in 2022 and into 2023 and beyond, we will continue to see the advancement of technology specifically to our infrastructure and the integration for the improvement of the client experience. As we grow, we may look to continue to evolve our service model to create more specialists. Many years back the Advisor was responsible for every aspect of the plan from boardroom to breakroom. Then we added participant specialists who more effectively spend their time with that work so the Advisor can focus on plan level responsibilities. In 2020 we then added financial coaches to even more specifically focus on all employees, not just plan participants, as financial empowerment is a significant focus for our firm.

Additionally, a few years back we launched TeleWealth, a platform that allows our plan participants to more easily schedule appointments and connect with our financial advisors across the country. We have seen tremendous growth in usage whether this results in a video or traditional phone call to help meet the needs of the employee.

 

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

Jamail: At the end of the day financial conversations are personal and emotional – whether you are talking to a plan sponsor or plan participant. They both have fears, worries and concerns about whether they are doing it right. Fintech is making a difference, and as new technology continues to emerge and develop, we must remember the emotional component of our business. When you look at the industry through the lens of education, advice and solutions you see that we have decades of experience and have become pretty efficient with general participant education. With fintech having another blockbuster year with fundraising, there will continue to be an abundance of solutions coming to the marketplace. What we can’t forget about is the middle, and what most plan sponsors and participants need most, and that’s advice and conversation.

We also must become more inclusive in our financial conversations. Overall plan health success is when you focus on the entire range of employees and helping those from surviving to thriving. We have made tremendous strides with financial wellness initiatives, but I still see too many advisors and employers wanting this to be a retirement plan participant benefit only without access to tools and coaches for everyone.

 

PLANADVISER: Please tell us about an important experience you have had while getting involved in your local, regional or global community.

Jamail: Many years ago I was giving a retirement presentation to a group of cafeteria staff at an urban school district. It was a smaller group and included older and younger employees. At one point we are talking about the minimum amount someone can afford to save when one of the older ladies told the group they need to start early even if it is the minimum. She continued with how she had put away $25 a paycheck and now had a couple thousand dollars. Another lady commented how she had been at the district for years and no one had ever come down to speak with them. 

It was this comment that people had been ignored, and at the same time they cared very much about their families that I remember. This is why I try to stay away from the phrase financial literacy, as I believe it ultimately labels people as illiterate.  If you actually have a conversation with someone, you will realize most are very literate in the financial world to which they have been exposed. Our financial gap is 100% limited by our exposure.

 

PLANADVISER: What advice can you give to your industry peers about developing a successful philanthropic or charitable vision for a firm?

Jamail: If you are looking to set a philanthropic or charitable vision for your firm, as a leader you should help point everyone in the direction of the north star, but ultimately it is the team that accomplishes it. Set the meeting and then listen to what’s important to your team. A few years back we created an internal committee made up of employees at all levels of the organization, and their goal was to make sure as a company we took care of employees and their needs. In addition to purely internal activities, it was encouraged to consider fundraising and volunteer opportunities. From there it was no longer a top down initiative, but everyone brought ideas to the table that they cared about. Our employees have been very generous in creating back to school supply drives, raising money for other charities, food drives, fun-runs and more.

Another piece of advice is it takes dedicated action to make the vision realized, and you can’t fake passion for long. When our partners decided to financially support the startup of a non-profit focused on financial empowerment, it wasn’t anything any of us had done before. Donating to a charity, and creating a charity are definitely different activities. As a team, we’ve spent countless hours researching legal aspects, creating awareness and fundraising, learning how to create non-profit budgets (which trust me are very different), grant writing, establishing advisory boards, and the list continues. If it wasn’t for the dedication by everyone, and the belief that we are making a difference, then it would still be only a vision.

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