Retirement Industry People Moves

Principal announces new chief information officer of retirement and income solutions, BPAS acquires retirement plan services provider, Groom Law Group announces new principal; and more.

Principal Announces New Chief Information Officer of Retirement and Income Solutions 

Principal Financial Group has announced that Shawn Johnson will be the new chief information officer of the company’s Retirement and Income Solutions (RIS) business.

“Shawn brings a wealth of digital and IT [information technology] experience to Principal that’s critical in ensuring our Retirement and Income Solutions business is on the leading edge of recordkeeping technology and digitization,” says Renee Schaaf, president of Principal RIS. “Shawn’s hands-on experience in technology modernization and digital transformation within the retirement recordkeeping industry will be invaluable as we continue strengthening our top-tier provider status.”  

As chief information officer, Johnson will have responsibility for the technology and digital strategies for the RIS business and report to Schaaf. In this role he will continue to evolve the company’s retirement savings and analysis platforms for small, medium and large plan sponsors, as well as participants.

Following a strategic review, a Principal spokesperson recently told PLANSPONSOR: “We will also pursue digital solutions, such as Principal SimpleInvest, our digital IRA [individual retirement account] and advice offering, and our mobile apps that make it easier for customers to do business with us on their terms.”

Johnson succeeds Chief Information Officer Susie Thomann, who will be retiring after leading the technology group within RIS.

Prior to Principal, Johnson spent the past 15 years in leadership positions within the energy, health care and financial services industries, where he drove IT innovation and developed and executed cloud initiatives. In his most recent role at Empower Retirement, Johnson oversaw the support of mission-critical systems while focusing on the modernization and execution of its cloud strategy and upskilling of IT talent.

Johnson earned his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from Colorado State University. He will be based out of the Principal headquarters in Des Moines, Iowa.  

Cobbs Allen Expands Into 401(k) Business With New Hire

Cobbs Allen, a national independent agency, is expanding its health and welfare practice to include 401(k) consulting with the addition of John Wilhoit.

“John brings extensive knowledge and industry-leading experience in the retirement space to Cobbs Allen,” says Bruce Denson Jr., president of CAC Specialty, a specialty insurance brokerage and investment banking platform and part of Cobbs Allen. “He is an accomplished leader and will be an instrumental piece to growing and establishing our 401(k) and corporate retirement plans consultant team.”

Prior to joining Cobbs Allen, Wilhoit worked at Willis Towers Watson as a director and created and led the mid-market retirement practice. At Willis Tower Watson, Wilhoit was responsible for the strategic development of clients’ retirement plans and provided them with investment advisement, analysis, communication and education.

BPAS Acquires Retirement Plan Services Provider

BPAS, a national provider of retirement plans, benefit plans, fund administration and collective investment trusts (CITs) is acquiring Fringe Benefit Design of Minnesota Inc. (FBD), a provider of retirement plan administration, actuarial and benefit consulting services with offices in Minnesota and South Dakota.

“We are very excited about joining forces with BPAS,” says Kevin Miller, FBD president and CEO. “We feel that combining our highly skilled administrative team, industry-leading technology and operating efficiencies provided by BPAS, and the investment selection/monitoring provided by The E-Valuator software will make this an industry-leading package that will compete extremely well in the retirement plan industry.”

The acquisition will give BPAS, a subsidiary of Community Bank System Inc., a profile of revenues of approximately $110 million, administration of more than 510,000 retirement plan participant accounts, 4,200 employer clients, approximately $13 billion in defined contribution (DC) plan assets on its daily valuation system and some $110 billion of total assets in trust.

“This transaction represents a very attractive opportunity for us,” says Community Bank System President and Chief Executive Officer Mark E. Tryniski. “Our employee benefits and trust business is the largest of our non-banking businesses and plays a significant role in our overall growth strategy for our financial services businesses on a national level.”  

“This affiliation adds exceptional depth and breadth for the benefit of our current and prospective clients,” adds Maryann Geary, president of BPAS. “With this acquisition, we significantly expand our retirement offerings on a national level, including the association and group plan space. We are excited to combine with FBD and committed to growing our capabilities in the region and nationally.”

MetLife Hires Government Relations VP

MetLife Inc. has announced that Frederick Mitchell will join the company as vice president, U.S. government relations, effective July 26. He will serve as a senior member of the U.S. government relations team and lead the company’s advocacy efforts on retirement and financial services policies. Mitchell will be based in Washington, D.C., and report to Maggie Gage, head of U.S. government relations.

Mitchell joins MetLife from the American Bankers Association, where he most recently served as vice president of congressional relations, advising member companies and developing legislative strategies on securities, banking and investments issues.

Previously, Mitchell worked in the office of Government, Regulatory Affairs and Public Policy for PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC). He also held government relations and paralegal positions with Jones Walker LLP and Williams & Connolly LLP and spent time on the House Ways and Means Committee.

Mitchell received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from George Mason University and studied at the University of Oxford.

Groom Law Group Announces New Principal 

Groom Law Group, Chartered, has hired principal Elizabeth F. Drake.

Drake was previously at another law firm where she led its Employee Benefits Practice Group.

“We are excited to have Elizabeth join us and bring her wide-ranging command of ERISA [the Employee Retirement Income Security Act] and tax issues that apply to employee benefit plans, particularly with respect to qualified retirement plans, to the firm,” says David Levine, co-chair of the firm’s plan sponsor practice. “Elizabeth will be yet another incredible resource for our clients who depend on us for our meaningful sub-specialization in these areas.”

Drake devotes a large portion of her practice to assisting Fortune 150 companies on day-to-day plan administration matters, as well as assisting clients with nondiscrimination testing matters, pension plan de-risking activities, plan mergers and plan terminations. She also represents clients with regard to IRS filings, including with respect to letter ruling requests and corrections. Her history of handling a variety of sophisticated matters on behalf of plan sponsors has earned Drake recognition as a leader in the employee benefits, executive compensation and retirement plan fields by Chambers USA and U.S. Legal 500.