Cheryl Goettig, William Hollinbeck and Amy Wieland help a sponsor prepare for her first plan audit

TEAM MEMBERS:  Cheryl Goettig, William Hollinbeck, Amy Wieland
TENURE WITH COMPANYs:  A combined nine years
BIOs:  Cheryl Goettig has worked for 20 years in human resources, joining Ascensus in 2015. William Hollinbeck joined Ascensus in 2013, after earning
a degree in business administration from the University of St. Thomas. Amy Wieland has more than 20 years of retirement industry experience, the last three with Ascensus.
CLIENT:  SWS Environmental Services
CLIENT INDUSTRY:  Environmental, health, and safety management
CLIENT HEADQUARTERS:  Panama City Beach, Florida
CLIENT PLAN ASSETS:  $7.6 million

In 2014, Kelly Battistini started in her role as human resources (HR) generalist at SWS Environmental Services, which provides services such as emergency-spill response and hazardous-waste disposal.

Her years of experience in HR had not included working as a plan sponsor, but in joining SWS she assumed the responsibility of preparing for the 401(k) plan’s annual audit by an outside accounting firm.

“I had never done it before, and the whole process terrified me,” Battistini remembers of prepping for the audit, which was done as a precursor to filing the plan’s Form 5500. “The whole plan could have been shut down if I made any errors.”

But William Hollinbeck, Cheryl Goettig and Amy Wieland, the team at Ascensus, Inc., helped her through the process, addressing her needs as they arose by validating census data and providing requested documentation for the audit.

Hollinbeck, the point person for the recordkeeper’s work, says, “All of us partnered to handle these tasks as they came in, so we could respond in a timely manner.”

“Will always calmed me down and said, ‘Don’t worry. Even if there is something wrong, we can correct it,’” Battistini says. “And I was very comfortable with his knowledge about these issues.”

Battistini was unsure where to begin in preparing for the audit. “Will actually gave me the process,” she recalls. “He sent me an email [in which] he walked me through, step by step, how to run the reports to prepare for the audit and what to look for in each report. I could tell that it was not a generic email, because it was detailed to our specific plan.”

Sticking to a schedule of weekly conversations helped keep the preparation on track, Hollinbeck says. “Every Friday, we touched base by phone and talked about what work was still outstanding and what might be the next steps,” he says. “It was important that we had a weekly resolution on those issues.”

Ascensus also helped with the legwork on the audit prep, Battistini says. For instance, some highly compensated executives (HCEs) had not been properly classified in that group for testing purposes, so she had to identify those cases. Once she did, she says, “Will went into the recordkeeping system and manually changed them to the highly compensated employee group.”

The collaboration between SWS and Ascensus resolved the issues. “We passed the audit without any problems,” Battistini says.

Additionally, SWS now has processes in place that help it avoid operational problems and stay in good shape for future audits, Hollinbeck says. “We prepare, for all of our clients, an annual compliance calendar. It basically sets up milestones that need to happen throughout the year,” he says. “This way, they know when and how to prepare.” —Judy Ward
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