2017 RPAY – The Willhite Institutional Consulting Group, UBS Financial Services

PLANADVISER: What is your mission statement?

Willhite Institutional Consulting: Our team is focused on maximizing retirement outcomes by working with plan sponsors to develop retirement programs which promote job satisfaction, recruit and retain top employee talent, and enable workers to transition smoothly into retirement – we want the plan participants to be able to retire on their own terms.

PA: How is your team/process/structure unique? How has it evolved?

WIC: Three of our five team members are family members, we have a father, daughter and son-in-law relationship dynamic, so it is incredibly important to our team to maintain a positive and collaborative work environment. We work with our family every day – that drives us to be the best at what we do and love what we do day in and day out.

Our clients benefit from our unique family structure as well – from the pride and enthusiasm we have in providing retirement plan sponsors and participants with solutions to our ability to seamlessly deliver service to our clients. As our practice has grown, we implemented bi-weekly family dinners on Friday and Sunday evenings to keep up to speed on new business opportunities and plan for the following week. We specifically chose Fridays and Sundays as one of us is usually travelling to client meetings or to deliver onsite participant education during the work week. The cohesion and accessibility within our team is what makes us truly unique and allows us to provide a superior level of service to our clients.

PA: What areas of service are customized for each client? What are the same across your book?

WIC: At the outset of each relationship, we like to develop two customized roadmaps: one shows key service deliverables and the other outlines annual participant education initiatives. We stick to a standardized quarterly review format for our clients; this enables the investment committees we work with to process the information quickly and make decisions in the allotted timeframe. Request for proposal issuance and evaluation, share class optimization and target date fund reviews are all highly custom elements of work we perform for our clients.

PA: What do you need to be successful? From your team? From your clients?

WIC: For our team to be successful, we have built a service model which places a high value on respect and integrity of all team members. We encourage an environment that fosters ownership and accountability for an individual’s work product – we give our team members space to lead and make decisions in their area of expertise and have found this leads to outperformance.

Our relationship with our clients is successful when we are able to work in a collaborative environment with all the key stakeholders in the organization at the onset of the relationship, allowing us to define expectations around plan sponsor and plan participant needs.

It could mean understanding how the plan sponsor committee prefers to be communicated with and developing customized reports to fit those needs or working with an organization’s human resources team to fully understand their participant demographics and past challenges to develop a holistic and impactful employee education initiative.

PA: What do you consider the most significant challenge facing retirement plan participants? Facing retirement plan sponsors? Facing retirement plan advisers?

WIC: For plan participants, the biggest challenge is being able to retire on their terms. We have implemented the UBS Financial Wellness Center (FWC) with many of our plans. The UBS FWC is a multimedia experience that provides participants with tools and education to help make smart financial decisions and save for a brighter future – it is a holistic financial wellness tool covering all aspects of an individual’s financial health.

For plan sponsors, the biggest challenge is the complexity of the retirement landscape, from pending legislation to the breadth of plan design and recordkeeper options available to them. We are seeing plan sponsors request discretionary investment advice capabilities more frequently. Our team, as well as UBS, has invested significant time, training and resources into offering an ERISA 3(38) platform for participant directed 401(k) plans and an Outsourced CIO solution for defined benefit plans. Our firm’s program has been designed to integrate oversight and accountability into the process. In order to provide these discretionary offerings to our clients, our team members are required to obtain specific educational credentials and have significant experience in servicing retirement plans.

The biggest challenge for retirement plan advisers is how they work to deliver solutions to plan participants and plan sponsors which address retirement readiness and manage the complexity of the retirement landscape.

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

WIC: We take pride in the success of our team measured through our long-standing client relationships.

Approximately 30% of our clients have been with our team for over 30 years. When given the ability to work with an organization for long timeframes, it truly allows us deep insight into how their investment committees operate and the needs of their employees as the organization grows throughout the years.

For the clients we have been fortunate to work alongside for 10 plus years (around 50% of our current clients), we have had the opportunity to service many of them during various economic upturns as well as downturns.

As a first line of contact through our team’s toll free participant support line for many of our client’’s employees during an economic downtown – we receive our fair share of calls from individuals needing assistance during critical life events, whether it be what to do with their retirement plan during a termination, providing guidance on the investment options available, or talking through their concerns in a shaky market environment – being able to provide support and guidance during those times is what really drives us.

PA: How do you grow your business? What changes to your practice or service model are you planning for 2017 and beyond?

WIC: As a Senior Retirement Plan Consulting Team, our group is considered a specialty team at UBS due to our focus on retirement plans. Many of our newer client relationships are from partnering with other UBS advisors who have relationships at a company and want to deliver a holistic approach by bringing in an experienced Retirement Plan Consulting Team.

With the new DOL Fiduciary Rule being contemplated, we expect this trend to continue. Our team always enjoys the opportunity to partner with an advisor on a relationship as it encourages a dynamic work environment and breathes new life into our practice.

In 2017, we would like to see our lead team member, Jon Willhite, engage in more national speaking engagements to assist plan sponsors as well as his peers through sharing thought leadership based on his 30 plus years of experience in servicing retirement plans.



Assets under management: $2.9 billion

Median plan size (in assets): $76 million

Total plans under administration: 40

Total participants served: 25,000