PLANADVISER: What is your mission statement?
Compass Financial Partners: We love what we do. We pave the path to the future.
Very simply, we enable retirement plan sponsors and plan participants to make smart decisions, empower them to act with confidence, and position them for long-term success. It is an awesome responsibility, but an equally awesome opportunity!
PA: How is your team/process/structure unique? How has it evolved?
CFP: Compass Financial Partners’ mission is to put the people we serve – retirement plan sponsors and plan participants – on the best path toward achieving their goals. While other firms may offer a similar list of services, who we are and how we operate sets us apart. Ultimately, we are hired for our thought leadership and intellectual capital – it is our people that matter. As highly credentialed experts with a seasoned history and proven track record of striving to help 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.
We are laser-focused on constantly striving to improve our services and capabilities – 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.
PA: What do you consider the most significant challenge facing retirement plan participants? Facing retirement plan sponsors? Facing retirement plan advisers?
CFP: The upcoming DOL fiduciary rule is the most significant challenge facing all three populations—retirement plan participants, retirement plan sponsors and retirement plan advisers.
The regulation is an attempt to remove conflicts of interest in retirement plans, which we believe is a step in the right direction, and uniformly adds a fiduciary standard in the retirement-planning space. Although this change will impact a number of retirement plan advisers and their activities with retirement plan clients, we are already investment fiduciaries to the plans of the vast majority of our clients and we acknowledge that fiduciary status in writing. We are fully prepared to comply with the new regulations.
Therefore, we have been focused on the second piece—the impact to our retirement plan sponsors and their participants. We have been working with our clients over the past several months to understand, based on their recordkeeping vendor, the plan sponsor and participant impact of the upcoming regulation. Where their vendor is going to assume fiduciary status in providing investment and/or distribution advice, we are supporting our clients by documenting a thorough process in finalizing (or not) their decision to accept the recordkeepers fiduciary status. We will then add the monitoring of the recordkeeper’s advice offering to our annual service plan.
As we meet with prospects, our sense is that many plan sponsors are not instituting processes to select their vendor for these ‘enhanced’ fiduciary services, and may not recognize that they are making a fiduciary decision and not simply signing a service agreement amendment – we see this as an opportunity – not a challenge, and we are only more than happy to help!
PA: Describe any particularly initiatives you have led with your customer base in the past 12 months (investment or education or plan design or communication).
CFP: Below are two education initiatives we have led with our customer base in the past 12 months:
- In addition to our partnership with Financial Finesse, we also have formed a relationship with Dave Ramsey’s SmartDollar program through our relationship with LPL Financial. SmartDollar is designed to help employees regain control of their money, reduce financial stress, and build wealth. By delivering commonsense education through entertaining videos and simple exercises, SmartDollar empowers people to develop good money habits on their own time and at their own pace. A series of seven steps guides participants through common financial roadblocks, and email messages and reminders motivate them along the way.
The goal is a more secure and optimistic workforce, and an overall culture of financial wellness. Although we have been dedicated to providing holistic financial wellness programs beyond just retirement education for years, what has changed, or rather grown, is our continued investment in human capital in order to facilitate the delivery of such programs.
This past year, we hired a Director of Financial Wellness who brought to us a unique skillset and experience, having been a plan sponsor to an almost $300 million retirement plan. Her experience in dealing directly with the needs of employees, as well as her subject-matter expertise (as manager of a recordkeeper communications team in North Carolina, as well as CEBS & PMP designations) has helped us grow our capabilities and streamline the delivery of robust participant education and communication programs.
- We worked with one of our clients to develop a Retirement Distribution Guide last year, and have since replicated our efforts with a handful of additional clients utilizing the same recordkeeper.
We found when reviewing the recordkeepers Distribution Kit with our initial client that the material was very generic and uninformative.
We spearheaded the idea of creating a comprehensive guide with the recordkeeper and oversaw the iterations of the guide through to completion. The clients that have rolled out the Retirement Distribution Guide have received positive feedback from plan participants – stating how helpful the information was in understanding the distribution options available.
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: What benchmarks do you use to measure plan and client success?
CFP: We are dedicated to helping improve the retirement readiness of participants, and plan design can truly “push the needle” on improving outcomes. Though we have been discussing with clients for years the concept of 90-10-90 (90% participation, 10% average deferral and 90% utilization of professionally managed investment options) as a targeted goal to measure plan success, in 2016, we rolled out our Retirement Plan Dashboard to clients to capture and track year over year the plan’s movement towards success.
This dashboard will be reviewed with the client annually and incorporates both national and industry benchmark data as well – all captured on one page.
BUSINESS AT A GLANCE
Plan assets under advisement: $7 billion
Median plan size (in assets): $14 million
Total plans under administration: 125
Total participants served: 93,000