Kerry Davis
Chief Financial Officer
  • Plan(s)
    401(k)
  • Total Plan Assets
    $41.1MM
  • Number of Participants
    293
  • Participation Rate
    98.9%
  • Average Deferral Rate
    10.2%
  • Default Deferral Rate
    4%
  • Default Investment
    American Funds American Balanced
  • Automatic Enrollment
  • Automatic Escalation
  • Employer Contribution
    80% of 10%
  • Provider(s)
    Recordkeeper, Transamerica Retirement Solutions LLC; Adviser, SageView Advisory Group
  • Financial Wellness Educator(s)
    BH Wellness (internal program); Transamerica Retirement Solutions LLC


With the changing demographics of its workforce, Simutis says, the company wants to continue diversifying its benefits offering with options such as the HSA.

Bohannan Huston helps employees plan for the future beyond simply saving for retirement. The civil and structural engineering firm, headquartered in Albuquerque, New Mexico, incorporates broad financial wellness education—from budgeting for monthly expenses to planning for health care costs—into its corporate wellness program as one of its three pillars of health: financial, emotional and physical.

As part of the firm’s internal program, participants are awarded “LifePoints” for attending and participating in events and activities. Those can range from 401(k) lunch-and-learns to a series of financial wellness classes that covers budgeting, saving strategies and retirement readiness. Participants are also awarded points for meeting with their financial adviser, as well as participating in non-retirement-related wellness activities such as getting a roof inspection or having their furnace or air conditioning serviced, explains Human Resources (HR) Director Nancy Simutis. After all, even a leaky roof unfixed over time or an inefficient heating and cooling system can add up to high costs that affect an employee’s retirement savings. Employees can also attend a six-week workshop on how to save on expenses such as utilities and groceries, and they can earn up to $500 in bonus gift cards each calendar year through LifePoint accumulations.

“They’ve deployed a phenomenal educational program,” says Ed Wagner, managing director, SageView Advisory Group, in Irvine, California, the plan’s 3(21) fiduciary. “We’re out there doing one-on-ones [a] minimum four times a year. They’ve really paid attention to making sure the participant has support.”

A warm welcome

Employees can always rest assured they have the resources to reach their financial goals. Each month, the sponsor sends SageView a list of its new hires, and those workers are then introduced to the financial services available to them through SageView and Transamerica Retirement Solutions LLC, recordkeeper to the plan for 10 years. For new employees, the onboarding process involves working with SageView to understand their investment options as well as the benefits of saving in a 401(k) plan and of taking advantage of the match, Simutis says.

“So every new person who comes onboard is auto-enrolled, but [we] also provide outreach to the new people,” Simutis says.

Employees can meet with Wagner at no charge, and he can offer advice about budgeting and debt reduction in addition to retirement saving. Bohannan Huston has a high rate of retirement—the average employee age is 45—so, as employees prepare for that next stage, Wagner works with them on distribution options. Participants also have the option to leave their account balance with Bohannan Huston indefinitely. About 30% of the accounts are from former employees who left their accounts with the company, says Ryan Pate, a client executive from Transamerica in Denver, adding that the company has little turnover.

Besides the SageView adviser visits, Transamerica representatives visit at least once a quarter, providing Managed Advice account services to employees, Simutis says. 

Bohannan Huston pairs its extensive education with plan design features that encourage high participation such as automatic enrollment at 4% and a 2% annual automatic escalation rate up to 10%. The company provides a generous match of 80% of the first 10% of employee deferrals, with a six-year graded vesting. The plan has a 98.9% participation rate—higher than its industry peers—and an average 10.2% deferral rate, says Pate. “It first hit 8% back in 2014,” he notes. The average account balance is almost $145,000.

“Nancy goes above and beyond communicating the importance of saving for retirement,” Pate says. “She believes the 401(k) is the central part of all the financial wellness they offer. She’s quite engaged and very proactive in regard to her employees.”

Through its retirement planning calculator, OnTrack, Transamerica provides plan participants with a retirement gap analysis tool that accounts for factors including the person’s 401(k) savings rate, balance, outside assets, Social Security and spousal savings. The participant then receives a projected retirement savings forecast—using weather icons of rainy, cloudy, partly sunny and sunny.

“We try to make it really easy,” Pate says, adding that participants can seamlessly change their contribution rate or make other adjustments to improve their forecast.

Meeting room decisions

The firm’s investment committee meets with SageView to discuss short- and long-term market conditions, and regularly reviews plan design, communication and administration. Last year, Bohannan Huston reduced recordkeeping fees from 15 basis points (bps) to 12 bps to help improve long-term retirement income for participants, and the sponsor hires SageView on a flat-fee basis. “We believe that’s a best practice,” Wagner says. 

From a regulatory perspective, Wagner says, quarterly committee meetings include discussions about legislative updates such as last year’s Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement (SECURE) Act. “And they will always make sure the plan is on the forefront of meeting all the regulatory requirements,” he says.

During quarterly meetings, the committee also reviews SageView’s proprietary fund analysis to determine whether to change certain funds.

“[We] want to make sure we’ve got the appropriate investment options that are performing well available to our plan participants,” Simutis notes.

Wagner says top management and the chief financial officer (CFO), Kerry L. Davis, attend every quarterly meeting, which makes for efficient decisionmaking. Others in the committee alongside Davis, Simutis, Wagner and Pate include Bohannan Huston’s Leslie Small, chief operating officer (COO); Louis J. Hernandez, senior vice president; Matthew Thompson, senior vice president; Scott Armstrong, vice president; David Larson, treasurer; Eric Wrage, vice president; and Rebecca Searles, a SageView account executive.

“I do sincerely feel like [the plan sponsor is] pushing the envelope in a good way,” Wagner says. For example, he says, the match is probably close to twice the market rate these days. 

Besides, its 401(k) benefits, Bohannan Huston makes a semiannual contribution to health savings accounts (HSAs) of participants in the high-deductible health plan (HDHP). Employees covering just themselves receive $750 annually, and those who cover any number of dependents receive $1,500 annually. With the changing demographics of its workforce, Simutis says, the company wants to continue diversifying its benefit offerings with options such as the HSA.

“We believe helping employees save for current and future out-of-pocket medical expenses is an important component of their retirement savings strategy and a contributor to financial well-being today,” Simutis says. “It also ties in nicely with our commitment to physical health, such that employees feel they have the funds to seek care when there may be out-of-pocket expenses they hadn’t planned on.”

The company does not offer student loan repayment, but it does have an option for tuition reimbursement to help with education costs.

Bohannan Huston’s efforts have indeed paid off: Participants’ savings rates have gone up 2% on average since 2015, Pate says. The average deferral rate at that time was 8%, and now it’s over 10%, while participation has remained around a solid 98%.

“Their savings and participation rates are through the roof,” Pate says. “… [the plan sponsor’s] continuous dedication and commitment over time speaks volumes.” —Corie Hengst

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