2021
Nonprofit DC

Kirby Medical Center

FINALIST
Andrew Buffenbarger
Chief Compliance Officer and Director of Human Resources
  • Plan(s)
    401(k)
  • Total Plan Assets
    $30MM
  • Number of Participants
    306
  • Participation Rate
    93%
  • Average Deferral Rate
    9%
  • Default Deferral Rate
    4%
  • Default Investment
    UnifiedPlan Managed Account Solution
  • Automatic Enrollment
  • Automatic Escalation
  • Employer Contribution
    150% of 4%
  • Provider(s)
    Recordkeeper: American Trust Co.; Adviser: Unified Trust
  • Financial Wellness Educator(s)
    SmartDollar, Financial Finesse

At Kirby Medical Center, a personalized approach to 401(k) education and communications has helped boost employees’ retirement savings.

The Monticello, Illinois, hospital, with a wide range of jobs and employee demographics, has a 401(k) plan with 93% participation and a 9% average deferral. The plan automatically enrolls new hires at 4%, then automatically escalates them at 2% a year until the participant requests a deferral rate change.

“Our employee base spans the full range of income and socioeconomic status,” says Andrew Buffenbarger, chief compliance officer and director of human resources (HR).

“We’ve got everything from high school grads employed at their first job to physicians with many years of experience,” says CEO Steven Tenhouse.

Kirby started taking a more personalized approach to plan communications and education 15 years ago, Tenhouse says. Hospital officials felt that employees didn’t really understand the value of the plan’s match, which was 225% of 4% at the time—it is now 150% of 4%, so an employee contributing 4% gets a 6% match. “It was a very rich plan, but, from an employee understanding standpoint, it was very limited,” he says.

To make changes, Kirby moved to American Trust Co. as recordkeeper and its Unified Trust division as adviser for the plan. “We started to get more serious about ensuring our people have all of the tools they need to make financial decisions,” Buffenbarger says.

For more than a decade, Kirby’s participant statements have shown a personalized estimate of the participant’s projected income in retirement, his income need in retirement, and the surplus or shortfall. The hospital has many long-term employees, Tenhouse says. “The balance they have in their 401(k) is probably the single biggest investment account that most of them have, so they’ll rely on that primarily in their retirement,” he says. So it is critical for them to accurately know where they stand. “Many folks, without knowing their own [projected] numbers, will pull a number out of the air, or base it on what somebody else said,” he adds.

Adviser Diana Jordan, a senior retirement plan consultant at Unified Trust, comes on-site quarterly to do optional one-on-one meetings—though offering them virtually during the pandemic—with employees about their retirement account. Meetings include talking about the participant’s retirement readiness status and the underlying factors, such as the person’s contribution rate and investment allocation.

“The meetings get them engaged in the discussion about their retirement,” Buffenbarger says. Jordan also reaches out regularly by email and postal mail to non-savers and under-savers in the plan. “She shows them what the difference will be in their projected retirement income if they contribute more,” he says. “Once a quarter, she emails to let them know that she’s available to chat with them.”

At the end of last year, 76% of participants were projected to be on track to replace at least 70% of their income in retirement. Tenhouse attributes this to the mix of automated plan-design features, the match and personalized education. “Our formula works,” he says. “It’s just a matter now of getting [the non-savers and under-savers] into the process. The model of breaking it down into something manageable and achievable is key.”

Judy Ward

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