Wells Fargo Institutional Retirement and Trust

Rebecca Karner and Julie Nelson take on a plan sponsor’s issues

TEAM MEMBERS:  Rebecca Karner, Julie Nelson
BIOs:  Rebecca Karner, vice president, relationship manager, joined
Wells Fargo in 2002; she has over 17 years’ experience in the financial services industry, prior to which she worked as a broadcast journalist in Washington, D.C. Julie Nelson is a client account manager in Wells Fargo’s retirement plan service center in Roseville, Minnesota; serving the retirement plan industry since 1987, she came to Wells Fargo from Wachovia Retirement Services in 2007.
CLIENT:  A large plan sponsor

Rebecca Karner and Julie Nelson with Wells Fargo Institutional Retirement and Trust consider themselves an extension of their plan sponsor clients’ teams. This feeling is obviously reciprocated, as one large plan sponsor says, “I value these ladies as colleagues.”

High-touch client engagement and contact are major parts of Karner and Nelson’s service model. Whether it means answering emails within minutes, pulling reporting or documents at a moment’s notice, or assisting with additional support during a client company’s staff transitions, they show their dedication to ensuring plans work at peak level.

“Our objective every day is to make each one of our clients feel like they are our only client,” says Karner. “As a relationship manager, I never have more than five or six clients at a time, which gives me capacity to think proactively. I can take the time to recognize my client’s needs, even when it hasn’t had a chance to tell me. I’m then able to think strategically and work with my service team to align our efforts.”

The team also values in-person communication. The women attend all quarterly 401(k) plan committee meetings, besides which they travel to be at additional meetings as necessary, in person, in areas across the country. “Any time a very large client is undergoing change in its organization and plans, it needs a reliable, consultative partner—not just a recordkeeper,” Karner says. And being a partner, she says, sometimes entails travel a couple of times per quarter to talk face to face with key decisionmakers about “our recommendations or processes, or joining calls well after regular work hours, because that’s the only time decisionmakers could all get together. That’s when the client needed us, so we made sure we were there,” she says.

The large plan sponsor that nominated the duo has been part of an alignment of 401(k) plans across multiple corporate entities—a project that has been grueling for 18 months. However, Karner and Nelson have kept up with the furious pace of questions and emails coming at them from all directions—whether from senior vice presidents, legal advisers, actuaries or financial analysts. Not only have they kept up with the demands, but, the client remarks, “they gladly answer all questions with courtesy and accuracy.”

Attention to clients and questions is coupled with attention to detail. Says the same client of work on the plan’s nearly 100-page summary plan description (SPD), “[Karner] took the time to review every page and to comment on each comment on the document, which had been reviewed by more than six different departments in our company, and followed through to the end! I think there were over 200 comments!”

Perhaps the most telling statement of the nomination was this: “If I was the ‘undercover boss’ of Wells Fargo, Rebecca and Julie would be the top two winners [for]loyalty, professionalism and genuinely extending themselves for the success of their clients.” —PS
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