2016 Service Stars – Voya Financial

Plan mergers are common in the industry and involve a high level of complexity. But one facilitated by a Voya Financial team for a Virginia government contracting firm brings new meaning to the term “Herculean feat.”
“It certainly was up there among the most complicated plan mergers we’ve done,” says George Rand, implementation department lead at Voya in Braintree, Massachusetts.
Lisa Sargent, senior implementation consultant at Voya, agrees. “This project really demonstrated our authority and expertise with data management and payroll,” she says.

The challenge was to consolidate the client’s five legacy plans, at four different recordkeepers—covering 20,000 participants in 17 different union and nonunion groups—into one plan with a single recordkeeper, a new fund lineup and a more generic set of provisions.
The project, which spanned a year, was more than a merger—it was also a culture change for the company and its participants. Each of the 17 groups had different plan provisions, and, from the beginning, Voya stressed the need to make institutional changes that would simplify plan management. Many of the plans and groups had years of independent operation, so “it was all new and quite an evolution for them,” Rand says.
The process, begun in January 2014, involved restructuring fund lineups. Consolidating four fund menus with 66 total funds into a new lineup with only four in-kind funds carrying over, was a challenge for the team, Rand says.
“This was not a simple mapping process, but rather a re-enrollment for all of the participants,” he notes. “Each group had different processes. So it was not only complicated [to move assets] but also to communicate efficiently to all of these different groups of participants. Four different newsletters were created that included communications about the transition—one for each recordkeeper group.”
The team’s three leads and “dozens of people behind the scenes,” Rand says, mapped out the process end to end and then broke it into a series of steps. The first quarter involved sorting through planning requirements, with the Voya team meeting extensively with the client to consider the different plans and groups, while Q2 focused on reconfiguring to accommodate the client’s changing culture. The second half of the year involved plan conversion, with the project coming in on time and on budget.
“The communications and planning we do with clients begins as part of initial meetings with them on discovery,” says Robert Johnston, senior plan manager, who headed ongoing operations of the project for Voya. “We take the time to understand what they do now, and then map the best path to take to get them to the best possible outcome.”

Rand agrees: “We work to offer solutions to our clients that work best for them vs. putting clients into what works best for us.” —Sue O’Keefe