Driven through Differentiators

Interview with Sandy McCarthy, Retirement Services President, OneAmerica

Sandy McCarthy

The retirement industry has long seen companies who continue to respond to the industry’s changing issues and concerns with the same cookie-cutter tactics. At OneAmerica, though, Sandy McCarthy and her team are taking a different approach. As they prepare for 2020, the OneAmerica team is focusing on three key differentiators that matter most to financial advisors and those working to help Americans prepare for retirement. McCarthy, retirement services division president, explains.

PA: What is your first key differentiator, and why should retirement plan advisors care?

McCarthy: First and foremost, at OneAmerica we are focused on relationships. We see our size as an advantage that allows us to know advisors in a deeper way. Plan advisors have access at all levels of the organization and can reach me directly to have meaningful conversations about what’s important to them. The personal relationship is of great importance to us and I believe truly does set us apart.

We’re also extremely devoted to service and the customer experience. An advisor recently commented that when a problem arises, we ‘walk through the fire’ until it’s fixed. We take our commitments seriously, and advisors who work with us appreciate the highly responsive service we deliver. Once plans do their due diligence, we often stand out as the right company to help financial professionals grow their business and offer optimized retirement plan solutions.

PA: A second differentiator you’ve identified is education. Can you elaborate?

McCarthy: Absolutely. We view education from a unique perspective, and strive to continually offer new, cutting-edge tools and resources for our stakeholders. Our education programs are always influenced by the close connections we have with our advisors and sponsors, who help us to tailor our offerings to meet their specific needs.

At a participant level, we provide comprehensive educational materials that focus on all facets of financial wellness—from managing personal debt to planning for health-related expenses and beyond. It’s important to us to ensure participants know their options and can create tailored plans to help them meet their retirement goals.

We also strive to provide educational opportunities for our plan sponsors. One example planned for 2020 is a program to help sponsors understand their fiduciary responsibilities. Fiduciary requirements and concerns consistently rank among the top three priorities when we conduct surveys of plan sponsors. As a result, we’re teaming up with a well-known provider to deliver the knowledge and background sponsors need.

Of course, cyber security is also a major issue for the retirement industry. Earlier this year, we hosted webinars for our sponsors, helping to explain the current risks and how OneAmerica is working to mitigate those for our sponsors and participants. This issue is always top-of-mind at OneAmerica, and we’ll continue to focus on cyber security awareness and education in 2020. To this end, we also rolled out our Customer Protection Promise, which outlines our commitment to keep our participants’ assets secure.

PA: The third differentiator you’ve identified is particularly special to you. What is that?

: Customization. At every facet, we’re working to offer solutions for each plan’s unique needs.

We help our distribution partners and our retirement plan sponsors develop an optimized plan design—implementing features like auto-enrollment and auto-escalation to help lay the groundwork for retirement preparation. We provide communications and educational materials so that sponsors can engage with their employees and make it their own. By taking a unique and customized approach with each plan, participants receive materials that are relevant to them and help them understand the options they have in terms of retirement preparation and financial wellness.

At OneAmerica, customization also means innovative investment tools to take traditional options a step further. One example of this is the Personalized Retirement Accounts, which go beyond standard target date funds and allow for multi-faceted customization.

PA: What else is on the horizon in 2020?

: We’re excited about the concept of developing ‘buyer’ personas, which are representations of our actual participants—taking into account who they are, what they are trying to accomplish, how they behave throughout the buying cycle, and how they manage life events that create new ‘decision points’. All of this stems from our desire to deepen our relationship with our clients and optimize outcomes for our participants.

PA: Do differentiators really matter?

: Yes! It all comes down to a client’s unique needs. At OneAmerica, our differentiators allow us to truly know our clients and understand what they want from a retirement services provider. This commitment—to understand each client’s needs and align those needs with customized solutions—explains why OneAmerica can be a great fit for so many.

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