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Looking for new 401k provider

Rich Welch's Profile

I’m CFO of a ~100 person private company and am not terribly happy with my 401k provider. Their response is slow and their 401k management systems are sorely lacking. I want to put our 401k business out to bid. Anyone have any recommendations of 401k service providers in the SF Bay Area? Thanks.

Answers

Topic Expert
John Kogan
Title: CEO/CFO
Company: Proformative, Inc.
(CEO/CFO, Proformative, Inc.) |

I have used a number of 401k providers over the years and the best I have run in to is Wespac. Nelson Chia is the principal over there and is a great guy. He gets two things: 1) customer service. his organization is very focused on response times and for doing the little things that would otherwise take up a lot of your precious time. 2)Competitive pricing. Nelson just lays the economics out, including how both the funds and his company makes money on your employee assets. Then he lays out very low cost plans where he gets a fair profit but helps you avoid wasting money on load fees, processing fees or management fees. They are a Schwab gold partner, have been in business for decades and have many hundreds of customers over a few regions. In a nutshell, highly recommended.

Contact Nelson Chia at Wespac nelson [dot] catwespac [dot] net and (510) 287-5255.

Topic Expert
Jeff Chase
Title: Advisory CFO
Company: Hazelcast, Juicebox Energy, and Social I..
(Advisory CFO, Hazelcast, Juicebox Energy, and Social Inertia ) |

I have been using at my most recent company, a guy named Todd Bellistri, with August Benefits. He has spent time with me in person and on the phone (he works out of NY but he comes out here periodically) to fully educate me on my situation (I took over a plan with ING that was a disaster). We just shopped it to ING, Hancock, American Funds, Principal and a new one called ePlans, I'm leaning towards ePlans. He's both the TPA as well the advisor and did a great job detailing the fees under ING's program that magically got better, and ePlans the final 2 for me. Todd is at 631-435-2701 X 17 or toddataugustbenefits [dot] com Good luck!

Anonymous
(Vice President) |

We used Alta Investors (www.altainvestors.com). We liked their focus on small-med sized companies. They were by far the cheapest and their service is very unique. They answer emails by administrators and participants within 1 hour. They gave us a free benchmark analysis of all the major providers. Might be worth inquiring.

Topic Expert
Vernon Reizman
Title: CFO
Company: RCM Industries, Inc.
(CFO, RCM Industries, Inc.) |

From an administrative perspective I prefer to integrate with my payroll systems if possible. ADP offers a product that ties cleanly. Also consider Fidelity which is strong with 401k service but their payroll product is not as friendly as ADP if you have a lot of hourly employees.

Anonymous
(Vice President) |

Vernon is absolutely right. Payroll integration (either 180 or 360) is essential for small to medium sized businesses. Alta Investors gave us a free analysis of our all in plan costs, including the hidden fees our broker charged. They also had a list of which 401k plan recordkeepers could integrate with which payroll services. It saved us about 125 manhours in payroll.

Stephanie Banister
Title: Managing Member
Company: ERISA Wise LLC
(Managing Member, ERISA Wise LLC) |

As an Independent Fiduciary, 401(k) plans are my expertise. Going out to bid for plans is always the best option. Find out how much the true costs of investments - including the "hidden fees"! As Plan Sponsors, you have a fiduciary obligation to prove that you shopped fees, and selected vendors wisely! In fact, 408(b)(2) is requiring you to publish those fees on participants quarterly statements - and, no, the record keeper is not required to provide this information unless you give it to them! Some myths to not buy when you're being sold:

1) A "free" retirement plan is an absolute fallacy!! Fees are hidden in investments.

2) Your TPA, record keeper, and investment advisor will keep you out of hot water because they are the fiduciary or co-fiduciary of the plan. The buck always stops at the Plan Sponsor. However, there are ways to mitigate your fiduciary responsiblity.

3) Payroll companies are experts in payroll - not ERISA regulation.

Heather Morrison
Title: Finance Director
Company: Media Two Interactive, LLC
(Finance Director, Media Two Interactive, LLC) |

I recommend checking out PAi. I was very unhappy with our past TPA, and plan, whom I will not mention. I switched our company over to PAi this year and they made the transition appear seamless. Excellent customer service and response as well as forward thinking on what they can always be doing better and what upcoming legislation might/will affect our plan and business. 800-236-7400, planserviceatpai [dot] com.

Topic Expert
Patrick Dunne
Title: Chief Financial Officer
Company: Milk Source
(Chief Financial Officer, Milk Source) |

I would also recommend that you put it out to bid. Make sure you have a crisp understanding of all fees and make sure vendors delineate the services that they provide. I recently attended a conference on 401K benefits and the DOL (Department of Labor) and a number of others emphasized that you often get what you pay for in this arena.

Topic Expert
Jeff Chase
Title: Advisory CFO
Company: Hazelcast, Juicebox Energy, and Social I..
(Advisory CFO, Hazelcast, Juicebox Energy, and Social Inertia ) |

Update in 2015: With the help of our insurance broker partner (Silicon Valley Risk Insurance Service or SVRIS) I recently bid a new 401K program for 10+ employees (not all will participate) startup. I bid Voya/Nicholas (Voya was ING), Trinet/Transamerica, Principal, and NFP/Ascensus. Results were somewhat surprising:

1 - Voya/Nicholas and Principal found a way to structure it so that the company cost (annual admin charge) was $2-$3K a year (not bad), while employees only paid a small participation fee. The old asset charges we used to see and are charged to employee participants were somehow removed - nice job Voya and Principal.
2 - Trinet/Transamerica was the best deal for the employer, as the annual admin charge was waived (what is normally $2-3K a year), while employees did have to pick up the asset charge of about .5% and small participation fee.
I felt good though in that the Trinet/Transamerica fund choices resulted in an average investment expense ratio of only .5%, which was .5% lower than other plans we reviewed. So, the asset charge was covered by lower cost funds in my opinion.
3 - The NFP/Ascensus solution made no sense financially, but for more complex requirements perhaps they can help - we were pretty vanilla so didn't need to pay for their cadillac solution (NFP is a retirement plan advisor so you'll pay fees on both sides).

One question (the holy grail to me) was to analyze the funds offered across the offerings, and see if we could discern if one provider was better than others - based on some detailed analyses on funds with help from SVRIS, we decided that they were all fairly comparable- going to 'open' platforms where all the competitors pull from the whole universe, has flattened the world a bit - I like this. 5 years ago, if you talked to ING, all you got were ING funds.

We ultimately agreed to go with the low cost Trinet/Transamerica option. But any of the 3 would have worked fine. There were other benefits of Trinet for us - they pick up the fiduciary bond,they act as TPA, etc.

Hope this is helpful.

Brent Watson
Title: Chief Financial Officer
Company: SAM
(Chief Financial Officer, SAM) |

I'm surprised that you think 0.5 % is not a big deal. I love the Vanguard funds most of the ERs are 0.3% or less. This is why I liked the Acensus plan. They work with the low Vanguard ERs and don't tack on expenses to the employees' funds.

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