PLANSPONSOR SERVICE STARS

Janet Rogers

Managing the backend movement of investments

RECORDKEEPER EMPLOYER: Empower Retirement
TENURE WITH COMPANY: 20 years
BIOs: Janet Rogers is the financial control projects leader for Empower Retirement in Overland Park, Kansas. She has been employed in retirement plan services for 20 years, focusing on higher fund levels with larger dollars. She has also worked with project fund managers on several funds.
CLIENT: Southwest Airlines
CLIENT INDUSTRY: Air travel
CLIENT HEADQUARTERS: Dallas, Texas
CLIENT PLAN ASSETS: $10.5 billion
CLIENT PLAN PARTICIPANTS: 51,668

After notifying their small-cap fund manager of a decision to change providers last April, Southwest Airlines learned, within two to three months of the transition date, that the fund manager preferred to transfer assets in kind versus liquidating the fund and delivering cash to the new fund manager. Due to this complication, the Texas-based airline company was pulled into a tricky setback, requiring the engagement of a transition manager to work with the previous and new fund managers, all of whom were independently searching for a solution to manage the transaction efficiently and effectively.

Shortly after, Janet Rogers of Empower Retirement was called in as project leader for the plan, in charge of managing the backend of the movement of securities from one fund manager to a transition account and on to the new fund manager.

“In the first meeting, there were probably 25 people on the phone, and the tension was just off the charts,” says Elaine Parham, senior manager, people, at Southwest. “We were all scratching our heads, thinking, ‘How in the world is this ever going to sort itself out?’ When they brought Janet Rogers in, she whipped everybody into shape—in a very professional manner.”

From the get-go, Parham recalls, Rogers alternated between leader and moderator. “She managed that large group of people, all the complexities associated with the transaction, and made sure that everybody did what they needed to do for the benefit of the entire group,” says Parham. “Everybody respected the role that she played, and she really just brought it all together.”

“I made sure everyone knew what their task was, and I, graciously, did not allow room for arguments,” says Rogers. “We worked great as a team.” When Rogers was not holding weekly conference calls with several companies and large groups of team members, she assembled and updated playbooks—essentially, task lists on an Excel spreadsheet—that detailed certain assignments and urgent deadlines. All pieces of the project were date-driven, to be completed in 30, 60 or 90 days, according to Rogers.

“The task list had everybody’s responsibilities: who was going to follow up, when they started that project, when they were [supposed] to finish it, any comments, the dates it was due, the dates it may have slipped past,” says Parham. “It was just page after page of every single step needed to be completed and checked off, in order to complete the transition.”

“I had a task for everybody, and if they didn’t agree or if they wanted the task to be more detailed, I would expand upon it,” says Rogers. The result was, that through Rogers’ leadership, the transition manager was able to sell off the assets and realign the portfolios in just three-and-a-half weeks. Parham had believed it would take at least six.

“At the end of the day, it was very smooth, and I feel like [that was because of] Janet’s leadership…,” says Parham. “We have specifically requested her any time something else has come up. Now we say, ‘Can Janet be our project leader?’” —Amanda Umpierrez
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