2016 Service Stars – The Standard

When VibrantCare Rehabilitation Inc. switched Form 5500 auditors for its 401(k) plan in 2014, the new auditor raised more than 100 questions about the plan’s 2012 and 2013 Form 5500 filings and underlying processes. The team of Michael Shoemake, account manager, and Natalie Gentry, relationship manager, from The Standard in Portland, Oregon, and Sacramento, California, respectively, helped the sponsor resolve the many issues.
“Simply stated, they did not give up,” says Stephanie Butler, human resource (HR) generalist at VibrantCare, about The Standard team’s contributions. “If there was an issue, we worked together as a team to resolve it. No matter what, we resolved each issue one by one. Nothing was avoided or considered too small. I felt valued and important to them.”
VibrantCare “got many questions from the new auditors, trying to learn how it does things,” recalls Shoemake. For example, the new auditor wanted the sponsor to provide additional paperwork confirming participants’ loan and distribution requests.
Making the situation more challenging, Butler only recently had become VibrantCare’s main contact for the plan, after the previous, longtime staff contact retired. “The new auditors [typically] go through two years of data: the current year and the prior year,” Shoemake says. “That was the first [time Butler] went through an audit, and doing two years at once is kind of daunting.”
Part of the resolution came as Shoemake and Gentry spent time working with the auditor, explaining how their company’s recordkeeping system functions and providing additional reporting. The team also coached Butler, to help her understand points such as how the recordkeeping system integrates with VibrantCare’s payroll system, how distribution processing works and how she could go onto The Standard’s system to access loan documentation.“There was a lot of training in a short time. There were times when we were talking with her daily, to get her up to speed and comfortable with the questions from the auditors,” Shoemake says. “We followed up frequently to make sure she understood the information we provided her. We try to never just dump a file on someone: We want to make sure that sponsors understand the information, so if an auditor does ask questions, they’re prepared.”
All that work has paid off in resolving the initial 5500 audit issues and speeding up subsequent audits. “The Standard was able to cut my audits down from a two-day process with the accountants to just one day, and last year it took them only six hours to complete the audit,” Butler says. “Our outside accountants compliment us on the efficiency of the 5500 process, which is a combined effort by myself and The Standard. Knowing what is needed upfront, and that the audit will go smoothly, is extremely valuable to me.” —Judy Ward