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As Director of Finance for Accept Corporation, I’m happy to work for a company that innovates beyond the solutions it provides to customers. My name is Stephanie Banister, a certified Independent Fiduciary for pension plans, and I usually write with a calculator. A fiduciary is the decision maker and the ultimate responsible party of every aspect of a pension plan, and they add value by providing more retirement income for employees, making sure the Plan is in compliance under ERISA at all times, and ensuring mediation between a plan and the financial services industry. Recently, I was featured in Kiplingers Personal Finance in an article about 401(k) plans, specifically about the innovative way we were handling the plan for Accept’s employees.
Our path to 401(k) innovation began when Accept wanted to design a benefit package that would help recruit and retain top talent, one that included a 401(k) plan. In late 2007, our growth plans created an opportunity for innovative thinking with our Plan. I reached out to our 401(k) Custodian (the institution holding our assets/funds) to engage their help, “Please, can you tell me exactly the amount we are being charged to invest in your annuity?" I was consistently directed to the prospectus. Our broker at the time wasn’t quick to return my phone calls, or helpful in reducing our investment expenditure. Surprising, huh? I needed a new plan of attack.
The first step was to reduce the employees’ fees – they were just too large and not documented in a clear, transparent fashion. Accept needed a new approach so employees didn’t lose their hard earned dollars to non-transparent charges. With some innovative thinking and hard negotiating, we were able to secure a low cost line up of index funds with a cost to employees of 1.2% annually. That’s 1.6% to 2.5% of savings sitting in employees’ accounts.
That savings number caught the attention of the Wall Street Journal and Forbes. Recently I spent a few hours with the Kiplinger’s talking about how Accept is an innovative, socially responsible employer who helps its employees save more of their hard earned dollars for their retirement years. Kiplinger ran this article in the October 2010 issue that hit newsstands September 8, 2010.
As we go forward, we continue to innovate, by further reinforcing the strength of our retirement plan - we now allow immediate vesting in all employer-matched contributions. Many companies hold out the matching on a three- to five year vesting schedule.
My proudest moment at Accept came during recent recession; while many companies were eliminating their 401(k) matching benefit, our CEO, Bryan Plug, chose to continue the matching benefit without hesitation or reduction. Accept doesn’t just help its customer innovate, faster and more profitably – we do it for own our business and the communities we live in.