2016 Service Stars – VALIC

Over several decades of working together, VALIC and its client Georgia Perimeter College (GPC) have developed a family-like relationship. “They are just nice people who care about their jobs, their services, their clients and their colleagues,” says James Rasmus, chief human resources (HR) officer for the college, regarding the VALIC team.
VALIC staff members meet regularly with the sponsor and participants, and also make time to attend GPC employee events such as open enrollment meetings, staff development days and golf tournaments. “They have had great continuity of people serving us as well, versus many vendors who have a lot of churn in their organization,” Rasmus says. “That has certainly helped.”
Much of the credit for the strong bond goes to Teresa Harley, a senior retirement specialist at VALIC who devoted substantial time and energy over the years to the sponsor and the participants in its 403(b) and 457 plans. “Teresa had been working with Georgia Perimeter College for about 15 years, and she developed a very close working relationship with the plan sponsor,” says Roger Pearson, a district manager at VALIC in Atlanta. “She also had a very strong sense of personal responsibility for participants. That came to her naturally.”
Harley helped build and maintain a real sense of trust between VALIC and the sponsor and participants, Pearson says. “Each participant is unique, and retirement plans are very complex, so our advisers at VALIC spend a lot of time with participants individually, doing one-on-one meetings,” he says. And, at the sponsor level, “We try to become sort of an extension of their organization, supporting them,” he says. “As we get to know them and they get to know us, a trust level develops.”
Then, in 2014, Harley received a cancer diagnosis that limited her ability to spend time with clients. So VALIC added Retirement Specialist Tyler Walsh to the team working with Georgia Perimeter College. As her health deteriorated, Harley mentored Walsh while he developed a bond with GPC. “There was a very special relationship between Teresa and Tyler,” Pearson recalls. “They were very concerned about each other, and they trusted each other completely.”
A year ago February, Harley passed away. The sponsor and participants at Georgia Perimeter College felt her loss. “She had worked with a large number of our employees for years and would come to their respective workplaces, regardless of location, to counsel them and assist them,” Rasmus says. “She truly was a part of the GPC family for many years.”
But the bonds she helped build continue. “Tyler has many of the same qualities that Teresa had, and it turned out to be a natural fit,” Pearson says. “He is carrying on that same sense of personal responsibility that she had.” —Judy Ward