Voya Financial

Kelly Luther and Heidi Schiller, with the team she leads, took on the Herculean task of communicating the array of benefits offered in the state-sponsored retirement plans to Michigan public school districts, which operate with a considerable degree of independence.
Voya, Heidi Schiller and Kelly Luther
Voya, Heidi Schiller and Kelly Luther
  • Client
    State of Michigan: State Employee and Public School Employee retirement plans
  • Industry
  • Client Headquarters
    Lansing, Michigan
  • Plan Assets/Participants

BIOS: Kelly Luther is a senior marketing specialist at Voya Financial and has been an on-site communications liaison between the state of Michigan and Voya since 2014. Heidi Schiller is a plan manager who has been with Voya since 2002, responsible for the state of Michigan 401(k) and 457 plan educational program.

A senior departmental analyst (DA)
for Michigan’s Office of Retirement Services explains that in 2010, Michigan began enrolling public school employees in its long-established 457 and 401(k) plans, which offer competitive fees compared with other plans available to public school employees, made possible by the volume of plan assets and total employee population. Prior to 2010, only a defined benefit (DB) plan was offered through the state. In addition, as the plan’s recordkeeper, Voya Financial provides participants with guidance on preparing for retirement, as well as one-on-one education sessions and advice, he adds.

The challenge, the DA says, is that in Michigan, the nearly 700 school districts were free to offer 403(b) or 457 plans from other providers long before 2010, and some districts had formed relationships with several.

This means that the state-sponsored plans “have to compete with the legacy plans that already had established relationships with the districts,” the DA says. “This made it very difficult for Voya to initiate relationships with several districts to explain that its intent was only to educate participants on existing benefits available under the plans and convey the competitive fee structure. It needed to overcome the hurdle of these districts not realizing that Voya is the recordkeeper for the state of Michigan plans.”

When the state asked Voya to initiate this public school campaign two years ago, Voya had solid relationships with only about 100 school districts, the DA says. The Voya team made progress by facilitating relationships with another 67 districts and is continuing its efforts.

“The goal is to reach out to all of the districts and try to get one-on-one conversations with them to explain the benefits of our plans and get permission to then reach out to their employees,” the DA says.

For the districts that agreed to bring Voya on board and provide education to their employees, Voya plan manager Heidi Schiller says, “It is absolutely gratifying to see the light bulb go on when they realize that Voya is not there to offer a new product but to educate them on what is already available to them” through the state of Michigan retirement plans.

—Lee Barney

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