2015 RPAY – Alliance Benefit Group Financial Services

PA: What is your mission statement?

Alliance Benefit Group Financial Services: Driving sustainable financial outcomes for the American worker.

PA: How is your team/process/structure unique?

ABG: We measure plan success differently. Many plan sponsors measure the success of their plan in terms of funds, fees and fiduciary governance. The typical vendor measures success by examining the plan participation rate and average participant deferral rate. We challenge our clients to measure the success of their plan by the percentage of participants actually on track to have enough money at retirement to maintain their same standard of living. We measure that progression, provide participants with an annual statement as to where they stand, develop and implement strategies to improve those statements and benchmark them for our clients and participants annually.

PA: What have you done in the past year to improve participants’ retirement readiness?

ABG: Participants can’t expect to achieve retirement success unless their current financial health is in good shape. To this end, we set forth on a project this past year to effectively deliver a financial wellness program to our client base. We’ve developed a multistage financial wellness program to assist participants in gaining control over their finances, improving their savings rate and thereby improving the likelihood of retirement success. This multistage strategy includes three tiers of education, enabling participants to determine the best approach to fit their needs. The initiative blends in-person assistance with technology-based tools, supporting participant education through multiple channels to meet multiple learning styles.

PA: Describe any particularly noteworthy investment initiatives you have led with your customer base in the past 12 months.

ABG: We have taken the following steps:

  • Analysis for plan sponsors comparing the value of actively managed versus low-cost passively managed fund menus;
  • Analysis of all managed account alternatives available, including methodology, results, price and user experience;
  • Designing a 3(38) menu of funds essentially based on low-cost fundamental/rules-based indexing, coupled with defensive actively managed funds; and
  • Analysis and implementation of a retirement income annuity solution for plan participants. 

PA: Please describe any special education or communication initiatives you’ve undertaken with plan sponsors or participants.

ABG: One of our clients, a large, national construction company—the 2015 PLANSPONSOR of the Year in the Corporate 401(k) $50 million to $250 million category—has over 2,000 employees with locations throughout the country. As a construction company with participants on various job sites, direct participant engagement is difficult, and both participation and asset-allocation results were concerning. 

Last year, this company embarked on a total re-enrollment campaign using automatic enrollment, auto-
escalation and auto-advice features. We used a robust, multichannel communication strategy, fully customized for the plan, to reach its wide demographic and geographic span.
From traditional print materials and mailers to innovative approaches such as QR, or “quick response,” codes, custom video education and a host of useful information all housed on a dedicated webpage for employees, we were able to reach this diverse and dispersed work force wherever they were and at any time. All of this data was made available in both English and Spanish, to accommodate the employer’s diversity.

The company’s goal to positively impact plan participants was a success. The plan participation rate rose from 77.32% to 91.94%. Out of the 1,551 eligible participants, 1,188 employees (76.6%) were aided through this re-enrollment, which also reallocated $107 million of the plan’s $180 million total plan assets to age-appropriate, risk-based asset-allocation strategies.