Innovate

Giving Employers a Plan

As the U.S. Department of Labor heads toward enforcement of stricter fiduciary rules concerning the administration of employee benefit plans, the compliance requirements for multi-employer plans (MEP) becomes an increasingly arduous task. The usage of collectively-bargained MEPs is one of the reasons American small businesses can provide a host of employee benefit services that small business owners simply could not afford individually. Finding the right team to serve as a MEP fiduciary is critical.

Enter Troy Tisue, president of TAG Resources, LLC, based in Knoxville, Tenn., but serving clients located across the nation.

“Our mindset when we started TAG in 2001 was to create something better for the MEP marketplace. We sought to create a product type of approach that would have a big impact for clients,” Tisue said. “That is our still our mindset today. Getting people into plans is what we do.”

TAG specializes in finding plans for companies that might otherwise have to go without. Four out of every ten clients are start-up firms that face significant challenges finding employee benefit plans, Tisue noted, adding that TAG takes pride in the fact that start-ups turn to the firm’s expertise in securing benefit plans that attract top talent at a time when company growth may limit capital.

“Our client demographics are such that we are like the island for misfit toys,” he jokes. “But that works for us. We are big fans of companies that are growing or that have a lot of workforce challenges such as a lot of turnover.”

“Those two types of companies are the ones that often either put off enacting a 401K plan or employee benefit plan, or never get to the place where the plan they do have is running well,” Tisue explained.

“Those are the ones we can certainly help,” he said. “The best clients for us are the ones who really recognize the need to outsource the day-to-day administration of a plan to a firm such as ours.”

That means relieving employers and their respective human resources departments of the tedious – yet essential – tasks of operating a benefit plan such as answering employee questions, hardship processing, loans, file corrections and a whole host of other record-keeping responsibilities essential to effective operation as well as compliance with increasingly specific regulations.
It takes the administration of the fiduciary role off the shoulders of the employer, who in most cases does not have expertise in that subject matter.

“They can just focus on the things that drive their business,” Tisue said. “That is the key value we can give them.”

Second to getting people into a plan is his interest in participants' behavior once they are enrolled in that plan. Does an employer use automatic enrollment to ensure no employee is left behind? Does the employer not only offer, but also encourage automatic escalation of the employee’s contribution to their self-funded accounts? Tisue is a big believer in automatic escalation, and thinks the industry’s current standard of six to eight percent as an upper limit is far too low. That’s a tough change, but he challenges employers to educate employees about putting more of their paychecks into savings for their future. “The trouble with retirement savings and matching employer contributions,” Tisue asserted, “is that it is a bit like that field of dreams operating on the premise of ‘if you build it, they will come,’ or perhaps more accurately, ‘if you offer matching, they (employees) will participate.’

It isn’t always true.

He points to the nation’s food service industry – an industry where one in every three Americans held their first employment and a sector growing four times as fast as any other job market for the middle class.

“Most employers in the food service industry view matching as a whole different thing,” Tisue said. “They see it as just another expense.”

That’s why his firm seeks innovative methods for creating plans to fit the specific needs of the more difficult industries, such as food service. Tisue says the team at TAG is perfectly poised to do such.

“We have the most amazing people,” he said. The firm’s office is an open concept layout that facilitates plenty of brainstorming during the day. He describes it a “think tank” in which idea exchange is not hindered by cubicle walls. “Our team has this crazy, obsessive radical dedication to making things even cooler for our clients.”

One of those “cooler” ideas of TAG’s includes the firm’s model that provides options for small business. It was used as the model for expanding small business retirement by the Federal Retirement Act of 2014.

TAG updated the prototype in early April 2016, and Tisue is ecstatic about the opportunities he sees to serve even more small business owners.

“The initial read on the way this is structured indicates that it is going to be very favorable for helping advisors and business owners,” Tisue said. “This is going to be construed by a lot of folks as a very, very positive thing as TAG takes on the role of running these plans.”

Learn more about TAG Resources, LLC, online at www.tagresources.com

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