Retirement Industry People Moves

Vestwell and BNY form partnership to provide retirement plans; 401(k) professionals establish advising firm; DWC brings on industry veteran as first in-house actuary; and more.

Vestwell and BNY form partnership to provide retirement plans

Vestwell has announced a strategic relationship with BNY Mellon. Together, the firms will now offer 401(k), 403(b), and employer-sponsored individual retirement account (IRA) plans to BNY Mellon clients, accessible via Vestwell’s turnkey digital interface. 

Through the collaboration, Vestwell will be tightly embedded in an open-architecture construct and offered to BNY Mellon clients nationwide. Jointly, the platform will allow companies to bring modern solutions to state-sponsored retirement programs as well as adviser-led 401(k), 403(b) and IRA programs.

Moving forward, BNY Mellon’s wholly-owned entities—which include BNY Mellon Custody, Pershing brokerage services, Lockwood asset management and Sumday—will be able to utilize Vestwell’s platform. This integrated offering will provide advisers a more comprehensive viewpoint into their plan sponsor companies and their employees’ retirement accounts.

401(k) professionals establish advisory firm

Three 401(k) industry veterans have formed Wise Rhino Group to help retirement plan consulting firms capitalize on industry consolidation.

According to the recently released “RIA M/A Deal Report,” 2017 was a banner year for mergers and acquisitions among registered investment advisers (RIAs). Based on these consolidation trends of the past, industry analysts are predicting significant changes in the retirement planning services industry over the next five years. Dick Darian, Bob Francis and Adam Sokolic created Wise Rhino Group to take advantage of these trends. 

“The firm’s name came from us wanting something different,” says Darian. “Think about a rhino—strong, feet on the ground, moving forward with determination, steady with intent. This is what we hope to help our clients do in this volatile, ever-changing industry.”

Prior to forming Wise Rhino Group, Darian was head of adviser sold defined contribution strategy and distribution at BlackRock, where he managed the firm’s adviser-sold business and built the aggregator business.

Francis had his own consulting firm, Gale Force Consulting, before joining Wise Rhino Group, and was also with BlackRock, where he was managing director of BlackRock Retirement. Francis was previously the president of the retirement business for Aetna/ING.

Sokolic joined Wise Rhino Group after leaving American Century Investments, where he was senior vice president and head of retirement an client marketing. Prior to that, he was senior vice president of retirement at LPL Financial.

Wise Rhino Group’s approach includes a four-step process: Each engagement with Wise Rhino Group begins with obtaining a deep understanding of the client’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats, as well as the vision for the future state of the client’s business. Based on this discovery process, Wise Rhino Group guides the firm’s team in the development of a plan to impact key enterprise value drivers. Then, the group assists with building a plan and process around inorganic growth opportunities, including affiliations, mergers, acquisitions, capital raising, buy-in or earn-in succession strategies or strategic sale of the firm. Finally, this process often leads to a review of Wise Rhino’s proprietary partner database, providing assistance with the identification and review of all relevant industry partnership opportunities, focusing on which firms are the “best-fit” in terms of culture, future growth and financial success.

DWC – The 401(k) Experts brings in industry veteran as first in-house actuary

DWC – The 401(k) Experts
has hired Joe Nichols as the firm’s first in-house actuary.

Nichols is joining the team in several capacities, the most significant of which is to streamline the way the firm works with defined benefit (DB) plans. As an enrolled actuary, he is also responsible for ensuring technical accuracy of the work product and effective communication of the results to plan sponsors, plan participants and other interested parties.

Over his 30-year career history, Nichols has worked with both national and regional actuarial firms, including as a founding owner of a pension actuarial and administration firm. In addition to his history of pension consulting and list of professional designations, Nichols also volunteers his time to the profession by serving as the secretary of the Board of Directors for the American Retirement Association, and he is a past president of both the American Society of Pension Professionals and Actuaries (ASPPA) and ASPPA College of Pension Actuaries (ACOPA).

His work experience includes plan design, consulting, actuarial valuations, experience studies, projection modeling, cost studies and presentation as well as special consulting projects related to data analysis, benefit calculation programs, mergers and acquisitions, liquidity analysis and bankruptcy proceedings. His passion is working closely with clients to assist them in achieving their goals.

Ascensus adds two executives to retirement division

Ascensus has appointed Chad Brown and Mindy O’Connor to leadership positions within the firm’s retirement division. In these newly created roles, they will help to drive retirement plan sales. 

As division vice president, western region, Brown will help achieve national goals for retirement plan sales while leading a team of external sales associates alongside Ascensus veteran Anthony Bologna, who will continue to manage the eastern half of the sales organization.

Prior to joining Ascensus, Brown served as vice president, managing director of institutional plan sales at Transamerica, where he led a team focused on building strong business partnerships in the large plan space. He has also held positions at Nationwide Financial, First Citizens Bank, M&T Bank and Manning & Napier. Brown earned his bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Nevada. 

O’Connor will serve as head of business development, leading a team charged with building and maintaining strong working relationships with broker/dealers, registered investment advisers (RIA), and third-party administrator (TPA) firms nationally.

Most recently, O’Connor served as managing director, business development, retirement for Transamerica, where she oversaw national relationships with key distribution partner firms while focusing on strategic growth and execution. She also held leadership positions in client development and worked in roles within relationship management and education services. She earned her bachelor’s degree in business management from Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business. 

Corporate Development executive joins FS Investments

FS Investments has hired Robert Stark as senior managing director of corporate development. His responsibilities will include developing and implementing the firm’s strategic plan and supporting the expansion into new sales channels, both domestically and internationally. Stark will split his time between the firm’s New York and Philadelphia offices and serve on the executive committee.

In his most recent position at J.P. Morgan Asset Management, Stark oversaw J.P. Morgan’s response to the Department of Labor’s (DOL) fiduciary rule reforms. Prior to that role, he was head of global strategic relationships and U.S. funds, responsible for national account relationships across all distribution platforms. Stark previously held the position of global head of strategy and business development at J.P. Morgan Asset and Wealth Management, where he oversaw long-term strategy and worked to improve the operating performance of each business. 

Earlier in his career, Stark served as global head of strategy and M&A at Russell Investments and as a partner with McKinsey & Company, where his international consulting practice focused on the financial services industry.

Stark is a graduate of the University of Cologne, where he studied strategic management, finance and logistics.

CBIZ purchases Sequoia Financial business unit

CBIZ has acquired Sequoia Institutional Services (SIS), a business unit of Sequoia Financial Group, effective December 1.

Founded in 2010 and based in Akron, Ohio, SIS provides retirement plan investment advisory services.

Jerry Grisko, president and CEO of CBIZ, says a strong cultural fit between SIS and CBIZ will allow the firms to provide clients with a broader array of services, backed by a larger team of professionals.

Mid Atlantic Capital Group acquires First Mercantile

Mid Atlantic Capital Group has closed on a transaction to acquire First Mercantile Trust Company from Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Co., as of November 30.

“We are continually looking for opportunities to improve our ability to serve our client base and provide our business partners with additional tools to expand their business,” says Paul Schneider, CEO of Mid Atlantic.

John Moody, CEO of Edge Holdings (the parent company of Mid Atlantic) says the acquisition represents the first of what the firm hopes will be many acquisitions designed to support its mission of providing quality technology, products and services to financial intermediaries.

Willis Towers Watson announces addition of benefits solutions leader

Willis Towers Watson appointed Pam Enright as leader of its expat benefits solutions business. In this role, Enright will oversee the growth and operations of the business, which helps multinationals determine the right mix of benefit coverage for their globally mobile workforce. Enright will report to Francis Coleman, managing director, global services and solutions, and will be based in Chicago.

According to the firm, internationally mobile employees often have specific challenges with respect to their benefits, which can vary greatly in each of the markets to which they are assigned. 

Enright has been in the employee benefit industry for over 25 years. Prior to joining Willis Towers Watson, she was a senior vice president and director of global benefits at Lockton Companies for over 12 years. There, she launched and developed the global benefits practice, including growing the expat benefits business. Prior to this, Enright was a regional sales director at Aetna Global Benefits. She has a bachelor’s degree in English from The University of Kansas.

The Standard promotes regional sales director to retirement plan VP

Rob Baumgarten of The Standard has been promoted to vice president of Retirement Plan Sales.

Baumgarten is a 20-year veteran of The Standard, having previously served in various sales leadership and management roles. Most recently he served as west regional sales director and was previously vice president of field sales, managing The Standard’s field sales team. In his new role, Baumgarten will have responsibility for the regional sales directors and managers, sales operations, institutional business development as well as retirement plan communications.

Baumgarten is a graduate of the University of Colorado in Boulder, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration. He holds FINRA Series 7, 24, 63 and 65 securities licenses. He will be based out of The Standard’s Denver sales and service office.

White Oak Advisors joins retirement plan aggregator

White Oak Advisors, LLC has joined Strategic Retirement Partners (SRP).

Jim Robison, founder of White Oak Advisors, becomes SRP’s new managing director for the Great Lakes region. 

The White Oak team adds eight new colleagues to SRP’s ranks, including Jim Robison and Ric Clouse, who will be managing directors in the Great Lakes region.