2023 RPAY – Rehmann Financial

Business at a Glance as of 12/31/22

  • Plan assets under advisement: $946 million
  • Median plan size (in assets): $1.3 million
  • Plans under administration: 296
  • Total participants served: 16,500

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

Gerald Wernette: Rehmann is a fully integrated financial services and business advisory firm that provides accounting and assurance, business solutions and outsourcing, specialized consulting and wealth management services. Rehmann was founded in 1941 and has more than 80 years of experience in providing forward-thinking solutions to our clients. With more than 950 associates in Michigan, Ohio and Florida, we are the momentum behind what’s possible. We focus on the business of business—allowing companies and individuals to focus on what makes them extraordinary. We help our clients and associates look to the future with confidence thanks to our unrivaled expertise and integrity. Through our partnerships with our clients and the communities we serve, we drive impact that empowers our world.

Rehmann’s entrance into advising on retirement plans stemmed from our commitment to being obsessed with our clients’ success, which is one of our five core values. I began my career as a CPA practicing in the arena of tax. Our retirement plan practice began in 1985, when we recognized our clients’ needs for more dedicated and sophisticated retirement plan consulting and administration services. This led to our development of a TPA practice for which I, in turn, oversaw and grew for the firm. By 2000, through our conversations with business owners and plan sponsors, we realized we had the expertise and capability to provide additional solutions to them, which opened the door for investment advisory services. Since then, we’ve developed a team dedicated to the delivery of retirement plan solutions, which has allowed us to grow our practice to where it is today

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

Wernette: There are many different facets of advising on retirement plans, including investments, plan design, plan compliance, participant education, plan sponsor education and more. Rehmann’s uniqueness is our expertise within each component. We have specialists in employee education, plan transitions, third party administration and plan design, investment research, benefit plan audits, ERISA compliance, and participant engagement. We build a custom, cross-functional team of experts for each plan sponsor to deliver an exceptional experience. This allows us to leverage our expertise across a larger number of plans and to deliver a consistent experience regardless of the plan size. While many advisory teams don’t work with start-ups, we do, along with plans with $100+ million in assets.

In the next five years, Rehmann has a very ambitious goal to double the number of plans we serve. We are working on building out our team to allow for this growth without sacrificing our current client service standards. This is why we focus so much on mentorship and why we are thrilled to be recognized for our efforts.

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

Wernette: I take tremendous pride in what our team has been able to accomplish for our clients and the growth our associates have experienced in doing so. For me, it is not about the number of plans, amount of assets or number of participants; rather, it is more about the impact we have on our clients’ futures and helping them attain their goals. I take great pride in the impact I’ve been able to have on clients and associates alike. I’ve been told that I’ve changed associates’ roles for the better, helped clients to reach their goals and ultimately helped both clients and associates live a life closer to the one they’ve dreamed of.

PLANADVISER: How do you grow your business? What changes to your practice or service model are you planning for 2023 or 2024?

Wernette: One of the best parts about Rehmann is our more than 950 business professionals, all working to provide solutions to our clients. It’s our job at Rehmann Financial to educate those professionals about our services so they can incorporate us into their client conversations when appropriate. Having warm leads to well-established organizations is a primary source of our growth. We are also beginning to expand our retirement plan services to governmental organizations. This is an area where we see a lot of growth in future years. We rolled out our own MEP in 2016 and converted it to a PEP in 2021, another high-growth segment for us. As we explore other areas like financial wellness and retirement income solutions, we predict continued opportunities to both grow our retirement plan practice and pursue wealth management opportunities for participants looking for additional support.

In 2023 and 2024, our practice will continue to explore all opportunities for plan sponsors due to the SECURE 2.0 ACt. With the increase of retirees on the horizon, we expect business succession planning to take an increased role within our service capabilities and open more doors in areas such as ESOPs and nonqualified plans as key employee retention tools.

PLANADVISER: What challenges do you think the retirement plan industry faces and what role do you have in addressing and confronting those challenges?

Wernette: Implementation of SECURE 2.0 is going to be more easily said than done. Our role on the consultant side is to fully understand how each recordkeeper plans to integrate changes to their platforms and help convey that information to plan sponsors. Many of the provisions are optional, and some present some major obstacles if implemented. As opportunities expand for increasing plan coverage, we will strive to contribute through our PEP and by growing opportunities for all employers to provide coverage to their employees.

Another area of challenge is the increasing number of retirees. This includes our profession as well. Without a solid mentorship and training program, all of the expertise gained by seasoned advisers will be lost. Our robust mentoring and training helps to ensure consistently great service. For retirees in plans, the challenge is how to make sure they are just as successful in retirement as they were in their working careers. This includes looking at in-plan annuity solutions, managed accounts, financial wellness, participant advice and identifying what is going to best meet their needs.

PLANADVISER: Please tell us about an important experience you have had as either a mentor or mentee.

Wernette: Being a mentee is not reserved for entry-level employees, nor is it something that only lasts for a year or two, just like being a mentor is not restricted to senior employees. It spans over an entire career, in which we are constantly serving in one or both capacities. In the thick of the pandemic, August 2020, we were very fortunate to bring on a senior member to our team. It was a little strange as, during his onboarding, all of his equipment was getting mailed to his house. I served as a mentor to him, helping him to acclimate to our firm and understand our culture. We had so many video meetings during those first few weeks. While it may seem like that wouldn’t have been as ideal as in-person meetings, I was actually able to introduce him to so many individuals across our multi-state footprint, thanks to technology. While this informal mentorship was transpiring, we overlayed our formal mentorship program to him. For many organizations, it is difficult to bring in an experienced hire and have them integrate with the team and process, but our mix of formal and informal mentorship worked wonders. At that same time, he was also acting as a mentor to myself, sharing his ideas and philosophies on things. We grew together. It is such a powerful experience to let go of the idea that mentorship can only go to those less experienced.

PLANADVISER: What advice can you give to your industry peers about developing successful experiences for both mentors and mentees?

Wernette: A mentorship program can’t be an afterthought; rather, it must be an investment you make in your employees and in yourself. A well-established program will pay dividends for a lifetime, helping your practice not just survive, but thrive. We have high employee retention rates and have been able to build a stronger team of associates. I know our mentorship program has made a big difference in attaining and maintaining these results. There is not a one-size-fits-all solution, so keep an open mind and dedicate the resources to develop a robust mentorship program. It will increase value of your firm and benefit the future of everyone in your organization.