Author: SRP

Strategic Retirement Partners Embraces Fiduciary Excellence

Our firm was founded on the principles of integrity, professionalism and exceptional client service. We are also deeply committed to continuous improvement. Our dedication to doing what is best for you, our clients, prompted us to engage CEFEX, the Centre for Fiduciary Excellence, LLC to audit our processes.

We contacted the CEFEX organization and requested an independent analyst provide us with a comprehensive independent review. The process was rigorous and their assessment took months to complete. Now, after going through the audit and carefully evaluating our procedures, we are proud to share with you that Strategic Retirement Partners is a CEFEX certified Investment Advisor.

This certification signifies our commitment to uphold the highest level of fiduciary care and that has a direct impact on you, your plan and your employees. As a plan sponsor, the Department of Labor (DOL) identifies the following as your fiduciary responsibilities:

  • Act solely in the interest of plan participants and their beneficiaries and with the exclusive purpose of providing benefits to them;
  • Act prudently in the faithful performance of all duties;
  • Follow the plan documents (unless inconsistent with ERISA);
  • Diversify plan investments; and
  • Pay only reasonable plan expenses.

By working with Strategic Retirement Partners, you can rest assured that our actions align with these responsibilities; our prudent process aims to help you limit liability and build a retirement plan that strives to improve retirement outcomes.

CEFEX is an independent global assessment and certification organization. They work closely with industry experts to provide comprehensive assessment programs designed to improve the fiduciary practices of investment advisors, stewards (retirement plans, foundations and endowments, etc.), investment managers, and other financial service providers. CEFEX confers a formal certification for those firms that are willing to undergo an independent audit and able to demonstrate that they fully conform to high standards which are substantiated in case law and fiduciary best practices.

At Strategic Retirement Partners, we follow well-defined processes, grounded in best practices, so that we can make sound, objective, and consistent decisions in service to our clients. CEFEX certification offers testament to the fact that we understand the importance of paying close attention to everything from high level strategies and policies all the way down to the details of our business practices. The CEFEX Mark seeks to make our clients confident that we are worthy of their trust.

We wanted to share news of the important recognition of our commitment to fiduciary excellence and continuous improvement. CEFEX certification is yet another way we tangibly demonstrate that serving our clients’ best interests is our highest priority.

 

 

1 Department of Labor. “Meeting Your Fiduciary Responsibilities.” DOL.gov. Sept. 2017

CEFEX and Strategic Retirement Partners are separate, unaffiliated entities.

SRP Earns Fiduciary Excellence Certification

Strategic Retirement Partners is honored to announce our certification from the Centre for Fiduciary Excellence, LLC (CEFEX). This certification is only granted by CEFEX to firms that demonstrate adherence to fiduciary best practices. It is a hallmark accomplishment for Strategic Retirement Partners as it signifies conformity to a recognized global standard of fiduciary excellence.

Strategic Retirement Partners was subject to a rigorous, multi-month audit and certification process guided by the “Prudent Practices® for Investment Advisors”, an industry-recognized handbook that is grounded in law, regulation and professional best practices.

“CEFEX is pleased to add Strategic Retirement Partners to an elite group of investment advisors who have demonstrated adherence to professional practices that define a standard of fiduciary excellence,” said CEFEX Managing Director Carlos Panksep. “They have earned the right to use the CEFEX Mark which indicates the firm’s established practices are aligned with investors’ interests and worthy of trust and confidence.”

Jeffrey Cullen, Managing Partner and Managing Director, Great Lakes of Strategic Retirement Partners said, “Strategic Retirement Partners applied for CEFEX to verify our practice is trustworthy and transparent. Receiving the CEFEX certification, we uphold the global fiduciary standard. We embrace an orderly and efficient process, so we are positioned to help our clients make better business and financial decisions.”

Strategic Retirement Partners is certified for Investment Advisor Certification, which is registered and can be viewed at www.cefex.org.

CEFEX certification standards are substantiated by legislation, case law and regulatory opinion letters from the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), the Investment Advisers Act of 1940, the Uniform Prudent Investor Act (UPIA), the Uniform Prudent Management of Institutional Funds Act (UPMIFA) and the Uniform Management of Public Employee Retirement Systems Act (UMPERSA) in the U.S. A full copy of the standard can be downloaded from CEFEX at www.cefex.org and a summary can be viewed by clicking on Strategic Retirement Partners online CEFEX certificate.

 

Six Easy Steps to Keep Your Plan Assets Safe

Cyber fraud is a growing concern globally. Individuals are typically very careful to keep their bank account and email authentication information safe, but they aren’t always smart with the rest of their personal information.

Participants need to be vigilant with their retirement savings accounts as well. In the past year we’ve seen a slew of cases of attempted fraud – some successful – against retirement savings plan participants across a multitude of recordkeepers. The good news is that virtually all recordkeepers view security as a prominent priority and diligently update their technology. However, their security can only go so far if the participant isn’t being equally vigilant.

Educate your plan participants on the following tips to ensure the security of their retirement savings accounts.

1. Use all available levels of authentication. If your plan’s recordkeeper comes out with a new type of authentication, your participants should implement it immediately.

2. If participants frequent a website or have an account with a company whose website and information has been compromised, they should change all of their passwords for all online accounts.

3. Remind participants to use strong passwords. Utilize letters, capitalization, numbers and symbols. Don’t use recognizable words. Don’t use the same password for multiple purposes. Have the password be at least 14 characters in length. Consider changing passwords frequently. Using a password manager can make this task less unwieldy.

4. Don’t send authentication information to any third parties, and remind participants to limit authentication access to use on sites which are navigated to independently – not through a link or other prompt.

5. Check your participants’ accounts frequently, address any irregularities, and remind participants to keep an eye out, too.

6. Ask participants to immediately contact you if they receive any “updates” that look suspicious so you can notify your recordkeeper.

Keep your participants in the know. We recommend sending the participant memo that is included with this newsletter on the importance of remaining vigilant when it comes to cybersecurity – it’s one of the most important investments your participants can make.

Records and Their Expiration Dates

“What records should I keep? How long should I keep them? How should I organize my files?”

Advisors have been asked these questions time and time again by plan sponsors looking for a general guideline for record expiration dates.

Record retention doesn’t need to be a mystery, and the filing system doesn’t need to become a tomb. For audits, remember the following requirements.*

As for organizing your fiduciary file, we suggest a format that includes the following sections:

1. Documents with all plan documents, amendments, tax filings and so on.

2. Administrative for all audit results, contribution records, Fiduciary Plan Review meeting minutes, fee benchmarkings, participant complaints.

3. Participant Communication containing copies of enrollment materials, communications and memos, and meeting sign-in sheets.

4. Investments with a listing of fund menu with expenses, Fiduciary Investment Review meeting minutes.

If a participant, auditor, or DOL agent requested plan information, could you find it quickly? The key is twofold: keep the things you need and store them so you can find them easily.

Of course, these are only general guidelines. For questions about your specific case, contact your plan advisor to discuss best practices for keeping records.

*For litigation purposes, we recommend that documents be retained indefinitely.

January 2019 Plan Sponsor Webinar

Click here to register for 2019 – What’s in Store For the Year Ahead?
Thursday, January 31st
at 11:00 AM ET / 10:00 AM CT / 9:00 AM MT / 8:00 AM PT

We hope that you will join us for our first webinar of 2019. Robert Wagner (Chief Investment Officer for
SRP) and Jim Robison (Managing Director, Great Lakes) will share a review of 2018 and the major
financial trends expected for 2019.

If you are interested in the impact of Government Shut Down and Political Turmoil, Trade Conflict, Fed
Policy, and the overall Economy then this is a can’t miss webinar.

New Participant Education Webinar Series for 2019!

Plan Sponsors:  The following message is intended for you as well as the participants within your retirement plan.  Will you please help us share the great news about the 2019 Participant Webinar Series by forwarding this announcement to you participants and eligible employees?  Thank you!

Dear Valued Retirement Plan Participants:

We meet with you, our MVPs (Most Valuable Participants), for group meetings and one-on-ones and have helped many of you enroll in a 401(k) for the first time. We’ve strategized about your retirement goals and encouraged you to keep saving, even during stressful financial situations. As a result, we’ve delighted in celebrating many retirements along the way. At SRP, we take pride in truly understanding what your needs and goals are, as well as what questions and concerns you may have during your retirement planning journey. We have valuable knowledge and we want to continually share it with you! Our upcoming Participant Webinar series will make it possible to share information and deepen our relationship with you, our MVPs.

Retirement Plan Participants:  Please join us on Tuesday, February 5th at 1:00 pm EST / 12:00 pm CST for our first webinar: “The Market Is Down, Now What?!” Click here to register. 

A rocky few months for the stock market has created worry among investors, and it’s not over yet. Many investors opened their 2018 year-end 401(k) statements and did not like what they saw and may be worried about what’s to come in 2019. You may be asking:

“Should I adjust my contributions?” “Should I change my investments?” “How does my age factor in?” “What do I need to know during times of market volatility?”

Join Greg Gavran (Managing Director, Wisconsin) and Sarah Krapec (Director of Participant Education) for a 30-minute webinar to address your most pressing questions related to the ups, and especially the downs, of today’s market. We’ll discuss target date funds, age considerations as well as explore when “staying the course” really makes sense.

Don’t Forget About the Savers Credit

Now is an ideal time for your employees (and you!) to look at their retirement plan contributions to be sure they are maximizing the Savers Credit. For those eligible the Savers Credit offers a valuable incentive, which could reduce your federal income tax liability, for contributing to your company’s 401(k) or 403(b) plan. Those who qualify may receive a Tax Saver’s Credit of up to $1,000 ($2,000 for married couples filing jointly) if they made eligible contributions to an employer sponsored retirement savings plan. The deduction is claimed in the form of a non-refundable tax credit, ranging from 10% to 50% of your annual contribution.

Remember, when contributing a portion of each paycheck into the plan on a pre-tax basis, employees are reducing the amount of your income subject to federal taxation. And, those assets grow tax-deferred until they receive a distribution. The Savers Credit may even further reduce their taxes.

Eligibility depends on Adjusted Gross Income (AGI), your tax filing status, and retirement contributions. To qualify for the credit, you must be age 18 or older and cannot be a full-time student or claimed as a dependent on someone else’s tax return.

Use this chart to calculate your credit for the 2019 tax year. First, determine your AGI – your total income minus all qualified deductions. Then refer to the chart below to see how much you can claim as a tax credit if you qualify.

For more information on the Savers Credit, visit this link on the IRS website.

SRP Hits NAPA’s “Top” Lists

In the last month, SRP and its Managing Directors have been recognized on three different “Top” lists by The National Association of Plan Advisors (NAPA).

Kristen Deevy, Managing Director, Rocky Mountains and Lisa Petronio, Managing Director, Upstate New York were named on the 2018 NAPA Top Woman Advisors list in late November. Lisa was honored as Captain this year, her second year on the list. Kristen was honored as an All-Star for the fourth year in a row. The list recognizes the contributions of the top women financial advisors who specialize in serving retirement plans. This is the fourth annual NAPA Top Women Advisors list, produced independently by the National Association of Plan Advisors. NAPA asked the nominees to respond to a series of questions, both quantitative and qualitative, about their experience and practice. Those questionnaires were then reviewed on an anonymous basis by a panel of judges and voted on by the public. The lists were drawn from nearly 500 nominations submitted by NAPA Firm Partners. Roughly 15,000 votes were cast in support of these individuals.

In December, SRP was named to the inaugural list of the NAPA Top DC Multi-Office Firms and 14 of our offices were named to the NAPA Top DC Advisor Teams list. Unlike other lists, the Teams list focuses on individual firms, or what may be referred to as a team, or office. While the Multi-Office list focuses on capturing the DC assets of an entire firm, or a multi-office arrangement.

Jeff Cullen, Managing Partner for SRP, said, “We are excited to have so many of our advisors and offices recognized on these lists by NAPA, and in the case of Kristen and Lisa, recognized year after year. Each of these advisors and offices is dedicated to creating the best possible retirement outcomes for the companies and employees that they work with and for. We are honored that their commitment to clients, participants and the industry has been recognized.”

 

 

Who should serve on my retirement plan committee?

Do we need a retirement plan committee?
If your plan requires an independent audit, you should have a retirement plan committee in place and meet regularly. Your auditor is likely to request committee meeting minutes as part of their audit. Smaller plans are moving to adopt this best practice, as it creates proof of prudent fiduciary process. When you’re responsible for making decisions that impact the financial livelihood of others, this is best practice you want to adopt.

How many representatives should be on the committee?
The committee should be large enough to share the responsibilities – but not too big to make it unmanageable. The most efficient committees have between three and seven members. The larger and more complicated the plan, the more committee members are likely to be involved to share the workload.

Who should serve on the committee?
Some positions on the committee may seem obvious, seeking to include representation from various functions in the organization – notably finance, HR and legal. Sometimes plan sponsors choose to include other key representatives on the committee.

  • If the plan includes both union and non-union employees, you may consider including a union representative on the committee.
  • If the plan sponsor is a not-for-profit organization, you may consider including a board member or finance committee member on the committee.
  • The plan sponsor may consider having individuals representing key divisions, functions or constituents serve on the committee.

Ultimately, committee members are taking on personal liability by serving as a fiduciary to the plan. All committee members must take their role on the committee seriously and be willing to dedicate time to reviewing materials in advance, asking challenging questions and employing strategic thinking for the plan.

Do I need investment expertise to serve on the committee?
While having some level of investment expertise is certainly helpful when serving on a committee, it is not required. Most plans hire a retirement consultant to assist with educating the committee, preparing investment monitoring reports and making recommendations to the committee. The committee member should be engaged in the learning process, willing to ask questions and make decisions based on information learned from their consultants.

Should there be term limits?
This concept is gaining traction, especially for larger organizations with larger committees. For smaller organizations, this can be challenging as there may not be any other suitable representatives. Each plan should evaluate their circumstances to determine if this makes sense for their organization.