At the 2018 SPARK Forum (Nov 4-6th, in Florida), a session on Accelerating Service Delivery Transformation: Culture, Methodologies and Tools, threw up some interesting points to ponder.

The panelists were Stephanie Bendrick, Vice President, Customer Experience at Empower Retirement, Dominick Cipolla, Vice President and Head of Operations, T. Rowe Price Retirement Plan Services, Kevin Kilcarr, Senior Managing Director, Retirement Services, Enterprise Iron Financial Industry Solutions, Peter Lohri, Partner at Enterprise Iron Financial Industry Solutions, and Mark Minukas, Partner, Co-Creation Partners. They discussed ways to deliver better outcomes for plan sponsors and participants, Lean and Agile methodologies, innovative tools and platforms.

The retirement industry experts offered some interesting ideas and suggestions, especially on effective leadership techniques. They stressed on the importance of getting the senior team in alignment, and on communicating regularly and constantly with the teams.

Authentic leadership (“Do you live by what you are saying?”) is extremely important; personal accountability and trust are other key parameters. A good leader should be able to have difficult conversations. A guiding set of behaviors and values should be part of the company’s DNA.

The need to identify informal leaders and getting them on board (the water cooler conversations and the meetings after meetings), was also discussed. Another practical suggestion was that companies should try and do a small set of things well, rather than a lot of things in a mediocre fashion.

In another session, a topic that has been in the news lately, the multiple employer plans, or MEPs, was discussed. The MEP is a type of employee benefit plan in which two or more unrelated employers participate. In an MEP, the expenses of the plan are shared across different employers, making it affordable for the small employer. To listen to our podcast on MEPs, click here.

The session was titled MEP Plans: The likely Next Disruptor… Anticipated Stakeholder Impacts. Fred Barstein, CEO, TRAU, and Kelly Michel, Chief Marketing Officer, Envestnet Retirement Solutions, and others, discussed the complexity and difficulties of the recordkeeping and administration of MEPs, and the advantages and disadvantages of MEPs from a plan sponsor’s perspective.

A key takeaway from this session, also an important benefit of the MEP, is that the plan’s Lead Sponsor is likely to know about and understand the nuances of the Defined Contribution (DC) regulations and the investment ecosystem, which would help the others.

Another breakout session, on ‘Paying Student Loans through a 401(k) Plan’, examined ways to help millennials pay off their debt and begin to save for the future. This discussion was in the backdrop of the emerging trend of plan sponsors trying to encourage their younger employees to save in 401(k) plans.

Meera Oliva, Chief Marketing Officer, Gradifi, shared some interesting statistics from their industry research:

People who have student loans are likely to have other debts as well. They spend 20% of their income on student loan debts
Students who have student loan debts are as likely to participate in retirement plans. However, as they age, their assets in retirement plans are much lower than those without. This aspect seemed to be true irrespective of the size of the student loan debt.
49.2% of households that don’t have student loans are not likely to have adequate retirement income to maintain their lifestyle, whereas the number is 60.5% for households with student loan debts.
Only 4% of employers help their employees with their student loans. A large number of employees would like to have a benefit (45% rated that as the No. 1 benefit and 90% of them said that they are likely to stay in a job which offered that benefit).
This is the second of our SPARK Forum 2018 series of blog posts. Read the first post here

Back to Blog Home