2015 Service Stars |Individual

Mario Quiroz

Solving sponsor problems in their comfort zone

RECORDKEEPER EMPLOYER: Transamerica Retirement Solutions 
BIO: Mario Quiroz is client executive for Transamerica Retirement Solutions, working from its Mid-Atlantic regional office in Harrison, New York, and handling clients throughout the tri-state area. He has more than 20 years’ experience serving plan sponsors, and previously worked for two independent consulting firms and TIAA- CREF.
CLIENT: Almatis Inc., Leetsdale, Pennsylvania 
PLAN TYPE: 401(k)
PLAN SIZE: $34 million

“We’re not just a client, we’re a partner,” says Karen Howe of her company’s relationship with Client Executive Mario Quiroz of Transamerica Retirement Solutions. When there is an issue with the 401(k) plan, Almatis Inc. can count on him for a solution. “I don’t have to ask him for anything,” says the human resources (HR) manager at Almatis, an alumina supplier in Leetsdale, Pennsylvania. If an issue arises, she says, Quiroz is proactive in “discussing different avenues we might want to pursue. He never talks over your head. And if he does, I’ll say ‘Whoa,’ and he’ll explain it. He’s just down-to-earth and very approachable.”
Howe and Quiroz started working together in April 2009. They have four scheduled meetings annually, two in person and two by conference call; additionally, Quiroz leads some on-site participant meetings. But the two also often touch base informally about plan issues. “Being proactive is key. It’s important to reach out to clients,” Quiroz says.

Almatis had been a client of Diversified Investment Advisors Inc., which, in 2013, merged with Transamerica Retirement Services, part of the AEGON group, to be rebranded as Transamerica Retirement Solutions. That meant the plan and its participants needed to make a transition to the newly rebranded recordkeeper. (This transition was not a merger in recordkeeping platforms for institutional clients such as Almatis.) “He called me, he sent emails, he came to see me, and he promised me a strong transition with no errors,” Howe recalls of Quiroz’s hands-on approach.

The transition to Transamerica Retirement Solutions happened in April 2013; in January of that year, Quiroz initiated contact with Howe to explain what the process would entail, to share with her a timeline of key steps that would ensure things ran smoothly and to discuss how to explain the transition to participants. He also offered to do an on-site visit to talk with employees about the change. “We provided them with so much communication, employees were fine with it,” Quiroz remembers. “It was seamless.”

Quiroz also aided in issue resolution when, in 2013, Almatis acquired a Louisiana alumina refinery from Ormet Corp. and needed to integrate the eligible new employees into its plan. Quiroz facilitated a smooth process for rolling the new participants’ balances into the 401(k), Howe says, and carried out an educational campaign to make sure the employees understood their new plan and the transition. “He was able to handle that all in no time—a month and a half,” Howe says of the integration.

For Quiroz, the merger meant coordinating work with experts at Transamerica who handled different aspects of the project. Quiroz and Transamerica’s technical staff collaborated with the Ormet plan’s provider to transfer the new participants’ outstanding loans to Transamerica, for example. Quiroz also worked with Transamerica’s communications team as it developed written materials for participants about their new plan. He arranged for a Transamerica education specialist to do on-site group meetings for the new employees. The key to success in such cases “is bringing in specialists experienced in dealing with these kinds of transitions,” Quiroz says.

As issues arise, Quiroz’ knowledge and communication skills “give you a ‘comfort zone’ when he talks to you,” Howe says. That holds true not just for her but for the plan participants, she says, adding that Quiroz has a knack for relating to them. “In fact, people ask, ‘Is Mario coming back?’” —Judy Ward
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