Retirement Services Technology Making the Difference
Retirement services technology can be the differentiator in distinguishing a good retirement plan from a great one. Plan administration, testing, and communication become less burdensome and more reliable when retirement services technology is introduced to perform what was once considered laborious and complicated. Plan sponsors, plan advisors and third-party administrator no longer need to rely on late-nights in the office, under a green eyeshade – running and re-running ADP tests. That is just one of the examples cited when Fred Barstein, Founder and CEO of The Plan Sponsor University (TPSU), visited with John Cunningham, Senior Vice President, Alliant Retirement Services in the New York City office. Mr. Cunningham discussed the advantages of a plan sponsor to utilize and work with retirement services professional where there is a good command of the available technology. Mr. Cunningham addresses several areas where retirement services technology is being used to alleviate the mistakes and surprises that have historically disrupted sleep-patterns for plan administrators, plan fiduciaries and retirement committee members.
Full Transcript Here
This is Fred Barstein with 401K TV here in New York City and I’m pleased to have John Cunningham, Senior Vice President at Alliant Retirement Services. Welcome, John.
Fred, how are you?
Good. Okay if we ask you a few questions?
So John is, as I said, the Senior Vice President at Retirement Services for Alliant. He established the 401K Group in 2010 and has been recognized by a number of leading publications as a leading plan advisor. Alliant was established in 1925 and they’re one of the largest plan advisory groups in the Northeast and the New York City metropolitan area. They work directly with plan sponsors providing administrative and advisory services but they also work with advisors to help their clients with administrative services as a TPA. This is part of our new series 401K Tech TV, talking about how advisors, plan sponsors, and providers are leveraging technology to help participants, to help plan sponsors to be more successful in retirement. Run the plan for efficiently and limit liability. I know that Alliant is one of the leaders in this area in leveraging technology. So John, when we talked before, you told me a little bit about a plan sponsor portal and document vault. So how does that work?
Well, the plan sponsor and the portal is essentially a document vault. It’s an ability to have a portal that’s secure that the employer has, or plan sponsor has a user password that they establish. They essentially are able to go in and directly pull down documents, whether that’s 5500’s, plan document SPD’s, other related material, but including also their minutes, their fiduciary reports, their executive minutes, agenda, pieces that essentially are associated with a 401K.
So if the DOL comes calling, you know exactly where it is.
No matter who their turnover with their employees, there’s always that vault.
That’s correct. What’s great about that vault, it’s always up to date. Right? So it’s got the most recent 401K update, all the amendments, CPA auditors. Right? For most audited firms the auditors are always looking for pieces of documents. We’re going to give them a short period of access as well. So again, they’re auditing from April through July. We can give them a three-month access to essentially get those documents without hassling the plan sponsor and HR team and comptroller.
So plans, the document, and portal are great but that’s pretty common.
Is there anything unique about your portal that would help the plan sponsor?
Sure. Our portal is a little bit … again, you’re right, there’s a lot of portals out there that provide some of that access. What is a little different about our portal, is that we’re producing TPA. We’re in the third party administration business. Right? So compliance, document testing, we’re actually doing that inhouse here at Alliant. The access the plan sponsor has is to that document but we can also have the plan sponsor upload their census from their ADP, paychecks, Paylocity, PayCorp, whoever their payroll … Ceridian, whoever that may be. They can essentially upload that document or that census into the system and real-time run a discrimination test. It can give them, obviously, discrimination test, testing whether that’s mid-year, quarterly, or year-end census. They can upload that and produce testing.
So they don’t have to wait. Number two, they can get a sense, mid-year or maybe towards the end, are they going to fail.
Can they do anything?
Correct, yeah. So if you get too close to September, it may even be, there are only a few payrolls left. You probably don’t even have enough time so-
You want to do it mid-year.
You could do it mid-year. You could do it quarterly. Again, you can do it as many times as you like. It’s a software piece that was incorporated into the portal that essentially allows you to take very limited pieces of information that you can upload directly out of your payroll system to test it mid-year. So, ADP, Paychecks, other payroll companies do that because they’ve housed that data right on their 401K platforms. We just simply built it so it doesn’t matter what the vendor is.
So regardless of the-
And that’s relatively unique to be able to do it instantaneously. Right?
I do. I think that’s relatively unique. Now again, there are pieces in there that you have to identify who are highly compensated, who is not highly compensated. Right? Because there’s a look-back period. There are a few things in there but for a good benchmark to figure out exactly where you stand from a discrimination test restrictive, it’s on the money.
I bet you some of your clients ask you to do it for them. Right?
Well, again, this gets to using Robo Advisory, other pieces. Right? How do you … for all advisors in this marketplace and even for some of the vendors, right, there’s … you’re looking to try and do more with fewer bodies. Right? You’re trying to scale up. Using some of these technology pieces is really, really important. For us, you’re right. Those questions would come in. We’d have to stop. Turn around. Figure out. Upload. Do things. If we can get the plan sponsors to understand they can do it quickly, quickly train them once, lead that horse to water, they can essentially check it anytime they want. So it’s a nice piece.
Then call you after and say “Oh, what can we do?”
Hey, here’s the result. Now what? Right. But again, keep in mind, we work … our business is essentially also working with other advisors. Right. They’re able to use the platform that we’ve built to essentially help them with their clients as well. So it works out great.
Very good. That’s great. That’s good to hear. This is part of the series that we have about leveraging technology. A part of that, we’re trying to highlight an advisor, like John, who is also a TPA and what they’re doing to help their clients, plan sponsors and advisors to leverage technology to bring efficiencies to running their plan. So stay tuned to more segments like this on 401K Tech TV.
I’m a one-take guy.
Yeah? I’m mean is there anything else? Are we doing it?