Three years after Atlas Commodity Markets started a 401(k) plan, it encountered an issue that had potential for costly liabilities. Sheryl Tan, a client account representative with John Hancock Retirement Plan Services, was able to put the plan back on course.
It started when Atlas’ former payroll provider miscalculated the 2016 profit-sharing employer contributions for about one-third of the company’s employees. “As a result, several participants were over-contributed and a few received less than what was due to them,” explains Tan. “On top of it, the funds were debited from the incorrect [corporate] bank accounts. [Atlas has] four bank accounts on file, and each corresponds to a different division within the company.”
Moreover, the payroll provider sent these funds to John Hancock, even though it was instructed not to do so. “And of course, once funds are in the plan, they stay in the plan,” says Amy Brooks, plan sponsor and director of operations. “But Sheryl was able to help get the funds properly directed within John Hancock. And this was no small task.”
The recovery did not stop there. Brooks recalls that Tan also took the lead in making sure the process was properly reported to the participants affected and the rest of employees were made aware of it, as well.
She helped Brooks manage several issues: communicate with the employees about what was occurring; lessen the public relations blowback; bring the plan back into compliance; and verify that the participants’ plan accounts were corrected, Brooks says.
The plan sponsor notes that Tan carried out this task in addition to her work with other clients. “If she was willing to do that for this small company with just $1 million or so in plan assets, I think it shows her willingness to help anyone. The problem-solving and analytical pressure were huge.”
Brooks says Tan was also instrumental in guiding her through other aspects of plan administration such as how to provide plan loans and how to roll over employee assets.
“Our goal is to grow plan assets, because we started this plan just a few years ago, and we want to get people to roll their accounts into it,” says Brooks. “Part of the reason why we had success with that is because it’s so easy. And it’s because of Sheryl.”
But the work was also a learning experience for Tan, who took on Atlas as a client early last year, even though John Hancock has been the firm’s recordkeeper for about four years. Brooks says, “Working with Atlas Commodity is challenging in a sense that you’ll learn a lot from their day-to-day administration. Amy is very hands-on with the plan and wants to be on top of things. So whenever there’s a transaction or situation she’s unfamiliar with, she would always reach out and seek assistance.” Today, Brooks says, the plan is in good health, operations are running smoothly, and all regulations are being met. —Javier Simon
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