Retirement Industry People Moves

TRA Hires Regional Sales Consultant; Heffernan Retirement Service Opens Seattle Office; Voya Retirement Adds SVP; and more.

TRA Hires Regional Sales Consultant


The Retirement Advantage, Inc. (TRA) has hired Paul Villanueva as their regional sales consultant (RSC) covering East Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi, reporting to Jeffrey Schreiber, director of sales of TRA.


Villanueva will be responsible for partnering with financial advisers and wholesalers by designing and implementing optimal retirement plans for privately-held businesses with up to 1,000 employees. 


Villanueva has 19 years of financial services experience with 15 years of sales experience with several financial services companies. Most recently he was vice president of Retirement Services for USI Consulting Group. Prior to his role at USI, Villanueva worked with Transamerica, MassMutual, and John Hancock.


“With the addition of an industry veteran like Paul, TRA is excited to continue broadening our reach while serving the needs of our clients through top consultant personnel. His expertise in retirement plan sales strategy, adviser practice management, marketing and communications, Paul will enhance the service and support we’re able to provide to our advisers in the region,” says Schreiber. “We are excited about the fresh perspective that Paul brings to TRA”.


Villanueva acquired his bachelor’s in economics from University of Houston. Villanueva has his FINRA Series 7 License and FINRA Series 63; and is currently pursuing his Certified Financial Planner (CFP) designation.


Heffernan Retirement Service Opens Seattle Office


Heffernan Retirement Services, a division of Heffernan Insurance Brokers, has opened a Washington branch. Overseen by Managing Director of Heffernan Financial Services Blake Thibault, Dallas Otter, executive vice president, and Matthew Pearson, vice president, will makeup Heffernan’s newest office located in Seattle.


Otter most recently worked with a local insurance and financial services firm in the Seattle area, which was recently purchased by a national east coast based insurance brokerage. In addition to consulting clients, Otter also ran a plan recordkeeping office in Anchorage, Alaska, and has spoken at several forums discussing fiduciary best practices. In his new role as executive vice president, Otter will provide fiduciary governance guidance to investment committees, employee education, cost benchmarking, and service provider search services.


With experience in both investment advisory and retirement plan consulting, Pearson recently consulted clients on wealth management at Northwestern Mutual, and oversaw corporate retirement plans with Kibble & Prentice/USI. Pearson graduated from Western Washington University with a degree in Economics and International Business before starting his career. At Heffernan Retirement Services, he will work with clients to help design and implement best practices for retirement plans, draft Investment policy statements, and oversee the monitoring of investment performance, as well as employee communication strategies.


“We are very excited to bring both Dallas and Matthew on board and open our first office in Seattle,” says Thibault. “They bring a wealth of knowledge and experience to the team, and we look forward to growing our presence in the Pacific Northwest in the near future.”


Voya Retirement Adds SVP


Voya’s Retirement business has hired Doug Murray as senior vice president of Retirement Strategic Growth and Partnerships, effective early August.


In this new role, Murray will be responsible for building relationships with key retirement distribution partners, as well as leading a team that supports business growth across all of Voya’s Corporate and Tax-Exempt Market segments. He will also oversee Voya’s consultant relationship management, third-party administrator (TPA) relationship management and business development (RFP) teams, increasing awareness of Voya among the intermediaries they reach, including plan advisers, wire-houses, TPAs and other distribution channels.


He is based in Voya’s Minneapolis, Minnesota office and reports to Bill Harmon, president of Retirement Corporate Markets while also supporting Heather Lavallee, president of Tax-Exempt Markets.


“We are thrilled to welcome Doug as part of the Voya team. His role is an important one that reflects today’s market and the need for a business development model that aligns with our evolving industry and diverse distribution partners,” says Harmon. “Doug’s role will span across all of our Retirement market segments, and his deep relationships and cross-market experience will be extremely valuable to our business.” 


Murray graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a bachelor’s of Finance and Risk and Insurance. In addition, he currently sits on the Board of Directors Governance Committee for a non-profit organization providing employment and other opportunities for young adults with disabilities, as well as serving on the Board of Trustees for the Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI).



Transamerica Expands Distribution Team


Industry veterans Jason Heine and Matthew Ott have joined Transamerica’s distribution team as regional vice presidents for retirement plans, focusing specifically on mid-market retirement plans.


Heine will support financial advisers and third party administrators (TPAs) working with mid-market retirement plans and will cover the territory of Kentucky and the metropolitan area of Cincinnati, Ohio. He has more than two decades of experience in retirement plans and pensions. Heine holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration and accounting from the University of Kentucky, and is a PLANSPONSOR Retirement Professional (PRP) through the PLANSPONSOR Institute. He will report to Timothy Lastivka, Transamerica Division Sales Manager for distribution.


Ott will work with financial advisers and third party administrators on mid-market retirement plans, and will cover the states of Kansas and Missouri. He has worked specifically with retirement plans since 2001, and holds a master of business administration degree from the University of Phoenix, and a bachelor’s degree in personal finance from the University of Missouri. He will report to Tom Briggs, Transamerica division sales manager for distribution.


“Transamerica continues to recruit the brightest wholesalers in the industry to be valuable resources to financial advisors, third party administrators, and their retirement plan clients,” says Joe Boan, SVP, executive director, Workplace and Individual Market Distribution for Transamerica. “Both Jason and Matt have long and successful track records, and I am very excited to have them join Transamerica.”

UBS Appoints Executive to Real Estate Team


UBS Asset Management’s (UBS-AM) Real Estate & Private Markets (REPM) business has appointed Robert “Rob” Palmeri to its U.S. Real Estate team, based in Hartford, Connecticut. He will join the business in August, as an executive director on the Daily Valued Defined Contribution (DC) Real Estate team, reporting to Thomas O’Shea, head of Portfolio and Client Services.


Palmeri joins UBS with over 30 years of experience in investment consulting and asset management. In his role, he will help support and expand UBS’s efforts in the defined contribution space and will assist in working with outsourced chief investment officer (CIO) platforms and multi-asset solutions providers seeking direct daily-valued real estate exposure.


Prior to joining UBS, Palmeri spent 13 years at investment consulting firm RVK, Inc., where he served as RVK’s director of East Coast Consulting and was head of RVK’s Defined Contribution Solutions Group. Before this, Rob was a senior investment consultant with KPMG, where he serviced and consulted to large DC client relationships. Rob is a chartered financial analyst (CFA) and received his bachelor’s in Finance from Ithaca College.


Commenting on the appointment, Matt Lynch, head of U.S. Real Estate at UBS Asset Management, says, “We are pleased to welcome Rob to REPM. The daily-valued real estate fund is a strategically important initiative for the firm featuring strong growth and performance over its five-year history. Rob’s addition to the Defined Contribution team underscores the firm’s current and future commitment to this large and growing market segment, and we’re confident that Rob has the right expertise to help drive the business forward to its next stage of growth.”



Hub Acquires Ward Agency Assets


Hub International Limited (Hub) has acquired the assets of The Ward Agency (Ward Agency). Terms of the acquisition were not disclosed.


Headquartered in Longview, Texas, with an office in Tyler, Texas, Ward Agency provides comprehensive employee benefits, retirement plans, workplace wellness programs, and individual health and life insurance plans. Scott Ward, managing partner of Ward Agency, will join Hub Texas and report to Randy Martell, senior vice president, Employee Benefits of Hub Texas.


Ascensus Connects with Symitar VIP


Ascensus has joined the Symitar Vendor Integration Program (VIP). Participation in the program will provide Ascensus with access to Symitar’s technical resources to enable IRAdirect express, to integrate with Episys—the leading data processing system in the United States in all asset ranges over $50 million. The VIP is designed to help ensure that Symitar’s customers can easily deploy third-party products. 


After the integration with Episys via SymXchange, IRAdirect express will give Ascensus’ clients the ability to enter individual retirement account (IRA) transactions to their core processing system and IRAdirect in one easy step. They can post to both systems in real time, making IRA transactions easier and more efficient while helping to avoid common input errors. 


IRAdirect express integrates with Episys via SymXchange, a services-based programming interface that enables third-party vendors and credit unions to access the platform’s core data and business rules. The integrity of data is maintained throughout any data exchange, because access to business rules and data is managed through a service layer which governs these interactions. 


“Ascensus is excited to join the Symitar VIP, as integrating will allow users to experience increased IRA processing accuracy while reducing their risk of non-compliance,” says Steve Christenson, Ascensus’ executive vice president of retirement and health services. “As a result, our clients will be able to spend less time on back-office administration and more time growing their businesses.” 


The service is expected to be available on August 13.


Former Attorney Joins Stroock as Partner


Stroock announced that compensation and benefits attorney Austin S. Lilling has joined the group as a partner in New York.


Previously leading Katten Muchin Rosenman LLP’s executive compensation practice, Lilling’s arrival to Stroock follows that of Patrick Menasco, who joined the Employee Benefits, Executive Compensation and ERISA [Employee Retirement Income Security Act] Group as a partner in July from Steptoe.


Lilling provides strategic counsel on benefit plans and compensation arrangements across a broad spectrum of industries. His practice focuses on the design and negotiation of key executive compensation, incentive, severance, retention and change in control arrangements, as well as equity and equity-based compensation programs in connection with M&A and various other commercial transactions, including those in the investment funds and financial restructuring arenas. He also counsels companies on the securities, employment and corporate issues relating to employee benefits and compensation, including in connection with going-public transactions, and regularly advises boards, compensation committees, sponsors and other interested parties on the tax implications of benefit and compensation plan operation and design, including deferred compensation arrangements and Code Section 409A.


“Austin is a talented and knowledgeable adviser with a strong track record of achieving success for organizations with unique business needs,” says firm co-managing partner Jeff Keitelman. “Employee Benefits, Executive Compensation and ERISA is an essential component for many of our financial services practices; our clients will benefit from the significant experience he brings to the firm.”


Lilling earned his LL.M. (Taxation) from New York University School of Law and his J.D. from Seton Hall University School of Law. He graduated with a bachelor’s from Emory University.


Principal Hires SVP for Retirement and Income Solutions Group


Principal Financial Group has added Sri Reddy, CFA, as the new senior vice president in Retirement and Income Solutions (RIS), effective September 4. Reddy will lead the Annuities, Full Service Payout and Principal Bank businesses. He succeeds Jerry Patterson, who now oversees the Full Service Retirement and Individual Investor businesses for RIS. Reddy will report to Nora Everett, president of RIS.


“We’re thrilled to have Sri join Principal at a time when consumers are looking to us to help them on their financial journey from their first paycheck to their final payout in retirement,” says Everett. “Reddy is the right addition to our leadership team as he shares our passion for helping more people save enough during their working years and have enough through their retirement years.” 


Reddy was previously the senior vice president and head of Full Service Investments for Prudential Retirement where he was responsible for all aspects of the investments and retirement income businesses. Reddy also led Prudential Bank & Trust and Prudential Retirement’s registered investment adviser group (Global Portfolio Strategies, Inc.). Previously, he held senior leadership positions with USAA and ING.


Reddy is a graduate of Baylor University and the Thunderbird School of Business Management. He also serves as a United States Department of Labor (DOL) Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) Advisory Council member.


Mercer Appoints U.S. Head of Wealth Business


Mercer has appointed Christine Mahoney to the role of U.S. head of Mercer’s Wealth business. Mahoney reports to Rich Nuzum, president of Mercer’s global Wealth business.


“Chris is a versatile, innovative leader who knows our business, our clients and our people well. We are excited to appoint Chris as our U.S. Wealth Leader.  Chris’s skills and experience will help us achieve our goal to provide industry-leading solutions to clients across client segments and governance models,” says Rich Nuzum, president of Mercer’s global Wealth business. “Chris’s broad and diverse experience will help us continue to accelerate the growth of our Wealth business by better supporting our clients.”


After beginning her career at Coopers & Lybrand as an actuarial analyst, Mahoney joined Mercer in 1997 when Marsh & McLennan Companies acquired Foster Higgins. Over the past two decades, she has held a slew of roles across Mercer – retirement consultant, retirement office business leader, retirement market business leader, south market leader, global health & wealth strategy leader, and most recently leading the global integration of Thomsons Online Benefits.


America’s Best 401k Creates Board of Advisors to Combat High Fees


America’s Best 401k has formed a new Board of Advisors, comprised of business leaders providing expertise and support in hopes of modernizing the 401(k) industry and eliminating unnecessarily high 401(k) fees for small businesses and their employees.


The members of the Board of Advisors include Marc Benioff, chairman, and CEO of Salesforce, provider of client relationship management support; Carter and Courtney Reum, authors and Founders of M13, a diversified venture and brand acceleration firm based in Los Angeles; Tony Robbins, strategist and author of UNSHAKEABLE: Your Financial Freedom Playbook and MONEY: Master the Game; and Shelley Zalis, CEO of The Female Quotient, a business committed to connecting women in business and advancing equality in the workplace.


“Equality in the workplace is not only about gender, it’s about equal opportunity,” says Zalis. “401(k) plan participants who choose to work for smaller businesses should not be penalized with high fees and limited access to great investment options simply because of their choice of employer.” 


USI Consulting Names Retirement Services VP


USI Consulting Group has named Jason Ibarra as vice president of retirement services, based in Atlanta, Georgia. In this role, Ibarra will be responsible for leading the business development activities for USI Consulting Group’s defined benefit (DB) and defined contribution (DC) practices in Georgia and Alabama. 


Mike Sullivan, senior vice president and regional sales director for USI Consulting Group, says, “Jason brings extensive experience in consulting plan sponsors with plan design and administration. His experience will be invaluable to the central and southeast regions as we continue to grow our market share. We are excited to welcome Jason to the team.” 


Prior to joining USI Consulting Group, Ibarra worked with an independent wealth management firm where he specialized in plan design, administration and implementation. In the past, he was affiliated with a national payroll company that marketed retirement plan services. Ibarra has extensive experience in relationship management, communications and sales. He also has expertise in plan education, recordkeeping and process implementation during plan conversions.

Ibarra earned his bachelor’s degree in Management Information Systems from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Industry education and designations include: FINRA Series 7, 63 and 65; Life, Accident, Health and Variable Annuity licenses.