PA: What is your mission statement?
Jason Chepenik: Our true mission is to empower all people with the resources they need to live the life they dream, to always use our “We go beyond” attitude in every aspect of our business every single day.
PA: Please describe any special education or communication initiatives you’ve undertaken with plan sponsors or participants.
JC: We have one particular approach, the 4.01k Race for Financial Fitness. We developed the idea as a corporate wellness initiative, and April is National Financial Literacy Month, so it seemed like a perfect fit. The race will be held on 4/01, April 1, at 4:01 p.m.
Furthermore, we teamed up with Junior Achievement so that all proceeds will go toward the advancement of financial literacy. Our vision is to have the race in 25 cities across America next year. Lastly, we developed a series of videos highlighting the commonality between physical and financial wellness.
PA: As a retirement plan adviser, what do you take the most pride in?
JC: Being different from our peers! Most firms focus on the three core competencies—fees, investments and fiduciary governance. While those are certainly of primary concern to us, our overall philosophy focuses on a much bigger goal: efficacy. In other words, is your plan really serving its purpose? Are your employees really preparing themselves adequately for a comfortable retirement? Are they on track to being able to comfortably retire when they choose?
Finally, are we really doing everything we can to propel them to the retirement finish line on time? So, in actuality, our consulting philosophy goes beyond investments. We know that creative plan design, aggressive participant engagement and rigorous evaluation all contribute to plan success and the best possible participant outcomes. We come in firing on all cylinders. That’s what we mean by our corporate tagline—“We go beyond.”
PA: What benchmarks do you use to measure plan and client success? How do you react to clients or prospects who don’t share your goals for their retirement plan?
JC: We know that there are three factors that contribute to the strongest and most successful plans:
- A commitment from leadership that their retirement plan is important to the organization;
- An active and engaged decisionmaking process or committee; and
- Most importantly, people—in human resources (HR), payroll, etc.—who are willing to listen to and implement new ideas.
We work with our clients to develop, implement and measure an ongoing strategy based on factors that their retirement committee deems important in defining plan success for their organization. At the end of the day, our job is to make the retirement plan come alive, and that is an ongoing process that demands continuous engagement and attention from both sides.
PA: What are the most important issues your plan sponsors face with their company retirement plan, and what specific actions do you take to assist them in overcoming those issues?
JC: The primary issue is clearly a lack of operational efficiency. Most of the plans we initially engage with are focused on the wrong things—investments, education, etc. Many of them have not built electronic data bridges between their payroll files and their recordkeeper. One initial action is to eliminate all paper transactions by requiring all participants to call the vendor or log on to the vendor’s website for all participant actions.
We will also have the plan outsource all loan and hardship approvals, further reducing the administrative load to our client. If we can make the plan operation as administratively efficient as possible, we will mitigate risk and maximize profitability, allowing the client to focus on all the fun stuff—this makes their plan come alive! Making their plan come alive is about effective messaging. Most clients historically let their vendor control the messaging, and this is where we shine.
BUSINESS AT A GLANCE
PLAN ASSETS UNDER ADVISEMENT: $850 million
MEDIAN PLAN SIZE (IN ASSETS): $6 million
TOTAL PLANS UNDER ADVISEMENT: 72
TOTAL PARTICIPANTS IN PLANS SERVED: 35,000