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Richard Counts helped a 403(b) plan consortium to create a supplemental plan for K–12 school employees
VALIC, Richard Counts
VALIC, Richard Counts
  • Client
    CSD Retirement Trust
  • Industry
    Education – K–12, preschool, day care
  • Client Headquarters
    St. Louis, Missouri
  • Plan Assets/Participants
    >$100mm – $200mm/6,000

BIO: Richard Counts, vice president of business acquisition at VALIC (now AIG Retirement Services), joined the company in June 2007. He has 24 years’ experience in the financial services industry and a B.S. degree in economics. He works closely with his VALIC colleagues to find the best solutions for the accounts he manages.

The Consortium of School Districts (CSD) retirement trust was created to provide the best supplemental retirement program—i.e., a 403(b) and a 457(b) plan—for K-12 school employees in Missouri. Stephen Keyser, managing director of the CSD Retirement Trust, says Richard Counts has been in his role, supporting the program, since it launched in 2010. “He and other colleagues and plan providers have worked with me to grow the trust from zero to 51 school districts, $150 million in plan assets and more than 6,100 participants,” Keyser says.

Such work required “a true partnership,” Keyser says, noting that Counts, a vice president of business acquisition at VALIC, acts like a partner with the trust, not merely a vendor or service provider. “He has said that consortiums are the wave of the future and are the best way to help participants,” Keyser adds. For Counts’ and CSD’s joint efforts, “the VALIC leadership has recognized the trust as a model for other states.”

Part of the trust’s model is a focus on education. “Counts works with the trust to provide education to help employees have better retirement outcomes,” Keyser says. “We have fielded some very focused and unique educational programs.”

Most of the participant education is delivered by financial advisers out of VALIC’s St. Louis or Kansas City, Missouri, offices. As an example of Counts’ service, Keyser says, if an adviser was assigned to a school and the chemistry did not work, it took only a call to Counts to receive a different adviser from the group.

Keyser also points to an initiative taken by Counts to reduce fees for one of the trust’s benefits. Participants are allowed to roll out assets from their 403(b) or 457 plan to buy service credits, which can accelerate accruals in the state’s defined benefit (DB) plan. “The 403(b) plan has heavy annuity use, and there are fees to cash these assets out to buy service credits. One thing Counts pursued with VALIC, and accomplished, is to eliminate fees to roll money out for that purpose,” Keyser says.

“We’re successful, and Richard and others who work with the plan are why,” he adds.

—Rebecca Moore

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