2017 Service Stars – Aon Hewitt

Over the past two years, Cummins Inc., a manufacturer of engines and other power-related products, has made numerous acquisitions, integrating most of the acquired employees into its own retirement plans. The process, which is expected to continue, has sometimes meant dealing with multiple plans at one company—e.g., separate plans for union and nonunion employees, each with a different recordkeeper.

“It’s been a huge project,” says Darlene Hamilton, North American retirement specialist at Cummins. “It is mind-boggling, the number of things that need to occur for an integration to go smoothly.”

Fortunately, recordkeeper Aon Hewitt has kept the integration projects on track.

“The Aon Hewitt team members were calm when we were ready to pull our hair out,” Hamilton recalls. “The team at Aon Hewitt has done a really good job of keeping us on task.”

Rebecca Baird served as Aon Hewitt’s defined contribution (DC) client manager, working with Cummins’ plan during the completed integrations (she has since transitioned to a role as a solutions consultant in retirement and investment sales at the firm). She was joined on the Aon Hewitt team helping Cummins by Lead Systems Analyst Advanced Jennifer Schneiderman, as well as Inderdeep Kaur, then a benefits operations manager and now a defined contribution (DC) client manager working with Cummins’ plan.

Cummins completed 11 integrations in the past two years, Hamilton says.

Baird identifies a couple of the biggest complexities that were involved. First, the sponsor and recordkeeper had to identify protected benefits—for both union and nonunion employees at acquired companies—that needed to continue for those employee groups when moved into the Cummins plan. Those included elements such as distribution options and vesting schedules. Second, the sponsor and Aon Hewitt needed to ensure that the latter received the large amount of necessary data from the recordkeepers of acquired-company plans on schedule.

“Aon Hewitt put together a detailed project plan with tasks to do each week, and it set up weekly Friday phone calls with us,” Hamilton says. “We’d go through the tasks for the week—what had been accomplished and what still had to be done. And they would talk to us about what tasks were coming up in the next few weeks.” Aon Hewitt also sent follow-up emails reiterating what Cummins staff members needed to do next.

“Every week, we provided them with a quick summary of the status of the project, something that they could easily share with their leadership,” Baird says. “And we made sure they knew exactly what still needed to be done and when it needed to be done by.”

The company likely will do one or more integrations by next year, Hamilton says. “It’s a really massive project,” she says, “and it is not over yet.” —Judy Ward