PLANADVISER: What is your mission statement?
Compass Financial Partners: We love what we do. We pave the path to the future. Our mission is to put the people we serve—retirement plan sponsors and plan participants—on the best path toward their goals. We enable them to make smart decisions, empower them to act with confidence and strive to position them for long‐term success. It is an awesome responsibility. And an equally awesome opportunity.
PA: How is your team/process/structure unique? How has it evolved?
CFP: At Compass Financial Partners, we know we’re not the only firm offering retirement plan consulting to plan sponsors across the U.S. But while other firms may offer a similar list of services, we believe that who we are and how we operate sets us apart. As highly credentialed professionals (accreditations include: CFA®, CPA®, CFP®, CRPS®, CRPC®, AIF®, AIFA®, QPFC®, GFS® & CMFC®) with a seasoned history in helping plan sponsors maximize their retirement plan benefit, we have earned the trust and respect of our clients, and have established ourselves as recognized thought leaders in the retirement plan industry.
But we know we can always improve, and so, we are committed to re‐investing in our business through not only the exceptional team members we employ, but also in our investment in infrastructure, operations and technology in order to continuously enhance the services and consulting capabilities we deliver to our clients.
In an industry where we see cost compression, increasing responsibility and greater competition, our team has created exceptional partnerships with clients and service providers that create efficiencies, fosters collaboration, and ultimately help employees navigate retirement with dignity.
PA: Describe any particularly noteworthy initiatives you have led with your customer base in the past 12 months (investment, education, plan design or communication).
CFP: Aside from our continual encouragement for plans to adopt automatic enrollment and automatic increase at higher deferral percentages (i.e. automatic enrollment at 6% and automatic increase at 2% annually to as high at 10% 12%), we reviewed with each of our clients over the past year increasing the flexibility of distribution features that would assist participants in meeting their income replacement needs at retirement.
The goal of our discussions with clients was to encourage plan provisions that allowed for a plan truly designed to accommodate the needs of participants from “cradle to grave,” thus allowing participants the ability to continue to benefit from the institutional pricing of their company sponsored plan. We reviewed provisions to assure that plans provided the maximum distribution flexibility at retirement by offering notonly lump sum but partial lump sums and systematic installment distributions. The timing was great, as many of our clients were going through a document restatement last year and were able to wrap these changes into the restatement.
Most recently, we have also been reviewing with our clients the Department of Labor’s (DOL’s email sent last fall to plan sponsors with tips for selecting and monitoring a plan auditor. Just like we did when the DOL released their target-date fund tips in early 2013, we have assisted our clients with documenting their process regarding auditor selection.
Lastly, Compass has continued to invest heavily in our firm’s investment due diligence efforts.
With plan sponsors and regulators steadfastly focused on fees we believe the bar for active management has been raised. Therefore, the insights we gain from traveling across the country to meet directly with portfolio management teams (10 due diligence meetings at firm headquarters in 2015) has never been more important to our process.
PA: As a retirement plan adviser, what do you take the most pride in?
CFP: We believe at the heart of every fiduciary decision is a single question: “Will it help plan participants?” We have built our firm on empowering plan fiduciaries to have the confidence to make the right decisions in designing their plan in order to improve their ability of their employees to retire with dignity. As such, although we fully embrace our role in supporting our clients regarding the “3 F’s” (fees, funds, and fiduciary) our passion lies with the plan participant.
We believe strongly in the concept of “what gets measured gets done”—whether it is measuring the effectiveness of plan design or documenting our education efforts by tracking key metrics such as the number of group and individual meetings, number of employees in attendance and the number of employees taking positive action in group meetings and individual meetings—we believe our passion in helping participants become more engaged, better informed and empowered to take or maintain positive action leads to a more appreciated benefit program and extraordinary results.
PA: How do you grow your business? What changes to your practice or service model are you planning for 2016?
CFP: As mentioned above, our biggest differentiator is our team. It’s not our investment scorecard, or our fiduciary lockbox that gets us hired. It’s our people. It’s the combination of experience, energy and passion that sets us apart. Each of the team members supporting client relationships with Compass brings specific experience: investment due diligence and performance reporting, fiduciary governance, participant engagement strategy development and execution, plan design and fee benchmarking.
These specialty areas of focus, when combined, allow us to help holistically evaluate and enhance our client’s retirement plans. In 2016, we have, and will continue to focus on selectively making additions to our team who can both complement our passion and enhance the Compass’ client experience.
BUSINESS AT A GLANCE
LOCATION: Greensboro, North Carolina
TOTAL PLAN ASSETS UNDER ADVISEMENT: $6.1 billion
MEDIAN PLAN SIZE (IN ASSETS): $13 million
TOTAL PLANS UNDER ADMINISTRATION: 100