2022 RPAY – Ken Catanella, UBS Financial Services

Business at a Glance as of 12/31/21

  • Plan assets under advisement: $4.6 billion
  • Median plan size (in assets): $100 million
  • Plans under administration: 24
  • Total participants served: 48,014

PLANADVISER: Tell us about your practice and how you got into advising retirement plans.

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Catanella: Our team, The Catanella Institutional Consulting Team, provides access to high quality institutional advice tailored to reflect our clients’ specific needs, philosophy and mission. We focus on 401(k) and deferred compensation plan institutional consulting. Our team has approximately $4.6 billion in current client assets under management including S&P 500, NYSE multi-national corporations, hospitals, private equity firms, law firms and private and family-owned businesses.

Our client plan assets range from $40 million to $1 billion. In the early 90’s I recognized the growing impact and popularity of 401(k) plans in saving for retirement. Equally important, I recognized the need for customed institutional services for plan sponsors in the area of fund performance and due diligence and individual participants in the area of customed education and communications. I opened my first two 401(k) plans in 1993 and 1994. Both of these plans are still my clients today.


PLANADVISER: How is your team/process/structure unique? How has it evolved? Where will you be in five years?

Catanella: Our structure is unique in three ways.

1. Unlike many other institutional consulting teams, our median account size is $100 million, leading us to service a limited number of clients with a high level of institutional consulting services. We have no individual client business and focus solely on 401(k), deferred compensation plans and the UBS Wellness Program for participants, therefore giving our undivided attention to each of our plan sponsors.

 2. Our manager and fund research is unique in that, along with the typical research provided by independent outside services such as Morningstar Institutional, MP Stylus and our own UBS Fund Research Department, we also provide an additional layer of fund due diligence with our team’s in-house institutional research analyst and onsite or virtual meetings with fund managers. When completed we then provide a full summary of our findings in writing to the plan sponsor investment committee, documenting a written prudent process of our and their fiduciary obligations. This extra layer of due diligence is always used if a fund is placed on watch, termination or replacement.

3. Plan sponsor and participant communication during unusual times of crisis and volatility, for example during the 2008 Financial Crisis, the March 2020 outbreak of COVID-19 and the recent Russian/Ukrainian War. We invited plan sponsors, members of the investment committee and their participants to listen in to a direct conference call with senior Members of the UBS chief investment research department. These timely calls are vitally important to not only explain the historical nature and implications of the current events effecting the markets but also to help participants understand better and to remove some of the emotions and helping them avoid making a decision that will negatively affect their long-term performance.

Our goal in five years is to continue our path of selecting and servicing a limited number of clients and add an additional team member once we reach 30 plans. We also have in place a succession model as certain members of the team may wish to consider and pursue retirement.

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

Catanella: As a recently chosen committee member of the UBS of Americas 401(k) and Pension Committee covering over 30,000 participants nationwide, I understand the responsibility and liability faced by each of our plan sponsor clients. In our institutional consulting role as a 3(38) and 3(21) fiduciary, we offer client-centric guidance backed by the resources of a global financial investment firm. In our consulting role, we provide objective advice and creative strategies to address any and all complex situations. I take enormous pride in being there for each and every plan sponsor, investment committee member and participant in helping to educate and answer any and all questions and concerns they may have especially during times of crisis and volatility.


PLANADVISER: Please tell us about an important experience you have had while getting involved in your local, regional or global community.

Catanella: When I first was introduced to Challenger Baseball, I was visiting my son in California at my grandson’s little league baseball game, when I noticed some very loud and excited cheering going on at an adjacent field. Wandering over to the other field I saw a man on one knee pitching underhand to a child. Asking who were the participants I was told it was a special needs baseball program named “Challenger Baseball” for children with autism, down syndrome and other special needs and disabilities.

What I continued to see that day was the joy and happiness of not only the children but the parents watching. I was so moved beyond words with the joy I had witnessed that when I went home, I went straight to my hometown’s recreational department and asked if I could donate and sponsor a Challenger Baseball Program for our local special needs children. Five years later, we continue to run our own Challenger Baseball Team in our Moorestown Community. Games typically last an hour and are played on standard little league baseball fields so that participants can enjoy playing on the same fields as other little leaguers in the community.

All levels of play are welcome from kids who never held a bat to returning players. A regular sized baseball is used but is soft and rubbery. Everyone plays the field, bats and gets on base. Buddies are available to assist with batting, base running and field play, if needed. The daily struggles of these children and parents go beyond what most of us can truly understand. Something as simple as hitting a baseball just like everyone else, brings so much joy and a sense of accomplishment to the children and families. But equally, the joy I feel in my heart when I see a child hit the ball and run to first base, with the assistance of a buddy laughing and jumping for joy, is the greatest reward I could ever ask for. They are all a blessing to me!


PLANADVISER: What advice can you give to your industry peers about developing a successful philanthropic or charitable vision for a firm?

Catanella: As we all know giving is better than receiving and giving with the heart and the joy it brings to those less fortunate is immeasurable. But it takes more than giving money. It takes the same effort that you used to build your own successful business. Rolling up your sleeves and being involved with passion and dedication and understanding who you’re dealing with and what they are going thru and how you can make an impact not only on their lives but your own. Don’t wait if you see a need that your passionate about. The reward is absolutely life changing. It sure was for me!