Retirement Industry People Moves

AXA acquires Maestro Health; BMO appoints CIO; The Standard hires former financial adviser as retirement plan consultant; and more.

In an effort to make health and benefits people-friendly again, Maestro Health will join forces with AXA Group in taking steps to transform the U.S. health care market by simplifying and personalizing how people shop, enroll and live with their health benefits.


The move comes at a tipping point in the U.S. health care market as cost, complexity and consumer engagement come to the forefront—inspiring the changing landscape of industry players. AXA’s acquisition of Maestro Health and its all-in benefits platform, maestroEDGE, supports AXA’s payer-to-partner strategy in line with its “Ambition 2020” corporate initiative. Once the acquisition is final, Maestro Health will maintain its identity, mission and team, while operating as a wholly-owned subsidiary of AXA.


“Not only is this the optimal step into the next phase of Maestro Health’s history, it’s also the ideal partnership to reinforce our all-in, continuum of care model—and ultimately transform health care as we know it today. With the scale and resources of one of the most recognizable brands in the world, we are well positioned to expedite our mission to lower healthcare costs, reduce complexity and empower the consumer more than ever before,” says Rob Butler, CEO and founder, Maestro Health. “It was critical for us to maintain our culture, brand and innovative identity, yet find a true partner with the unique combination of AXA’s scale, like-mindedness and industry prowess—a synergy that can appeal to all of our current customers and channel partners.”


With AXA, Maestro Health customers will see enhancements in their experience and access to leading product offerings, the firm says. Additionally, Maestro Health will continue to focus on delivering solutions and services to the market, designed to further reduce health care costs and improve engagement for constituents across the entire continuum of care.


BMO Appoints CIO


BMO Wealth Management announced the appointment of Mike Stritch as chief investment officer (CIO). Stritch will continue to serve as senior vice president and national head of investments, supported by Yung Yu Ma, Ph.D., chief investment strategist.


Since 2015, Stritch has led the U.S. Wealth Management investment strategy and a research team of over 30 individuals, including senior professionals across asset classes and industries. Stritch also chairs the Personal Asset Management Committee, and is responsible for setting investment policy and strategy for clients throughout the United States.


“Mike’s extensive experience in investments will enable us to continue delivering industry-leading insights and driving our investment strategy forward,” says Darrel Hackett, president, BMO Wealth Management U.S. “Our strong investment team under Mike’s leadership is poised to continue guiding our clients and serving as an essential partner to all their investment matters.”


As chief investment officer, Stritch replaces Jack Ablin who plans to pursue other interests in the private equity space. His tenure will come to an end at the end of January.

Stritch joined BMO in 2013 and previously held the role of managing director of Investments for CTC | myCFO, the Ultra High Net Worth group within BMO Wealth Management. He is a Chartered Financial Analyst, and a member of the Beta Gamma Sigma International Honor Society, CFA Institute, CFA Society of Chicago, and the Chicago Quantitative Alliance. Stritch earned a Bachelor of Arts in Economics from Northwestern University and a Master of Business Administration with distinction in Finance and Decision Sciences from the J.L. Kellogg Graduate School of Management at Northwestern University.

The Standard Hires Former Financial Adviser as Retirement Plan Consultant


The Standard hired Brian Armstrong as retirement plan consultant for its East Sales Region. He is based in The Standard’s Tampa, Florida, retirement plans sales and service office.


Armstrong has 20 years of experience in the financial services and insurance industry, specializing in retirement plans. Prior to joining The Standard, he worked as a regional sales consultant for United Retirement Plan Consultants. He has held positions with other retirement industry leaders that included regional vice president, retirement plans regional sales manager and sales director. He has also worked as a financial adviser. 


“Brian comes to us with deep experience in retirement plan consulting and sales. He has spent years helping financial advisers build their retirement plan practices and has worked as an adviser himself,” says Mark Bransford, director of The Standard’s East Sales Region. “He’ll bring expertise, collaboration and insights to our adviser partners and their plan sponsor clients.”


Brian graduated from Illinois State University with a Bachelor of Science in business administration. He holds FINRA Series 7, 66 and 63 licenses.


VALIC Names Vice President for Midwest Region


VALIC has named Tom Stephenitch as vice president, Business Development, for the Midwest Region. Stephenitch will work closely with plan sponsors, advisers and consultants in Ohio, Kentucky, Michigan and Indiana to secure new group relationships for VALIC. He will report to Glenn Harris, executive vice president, VALIC.


“We are working tirelessly to enhance every aspect of our business–from plan participant services to plan sponsor support to cutting-edge technology and a continued focus on our powerful adviser team,” says Harris. “Recruiting top talent to focus on Business Development is just one of many ways VALIC is positioning itself to be the retirement plan provider of choice.”  


Stephenitch joins VALIC from Transamerica Retirement Solutions where he served as regional vice president, Institutional Markets, focusing on defined benefit (DB), defined contribution (DC) and non-qualified retirement plans in higher education and health care markets. He previously served as director and regional manager at John Hancock. He began his career at Empower. Stephenitch earned his Bachelor’s Degree from Ohio State University.


Willis Towers Watson Appoints U.S. Head of Asset Management Exchange


The Asset Management Exchange (AMX), launched last year by Willis Towers Watson, appointed Kimberley West as U.S. head. In this newly created position, West will have overall responsibility for leading the expansion of the exchange in the U.S. 


Based in New York, West will report directly to Oliver Jaegemann, global head of AMX. West has over 25 years of asset and investment management experience. Prior to joining AMX, she spent two years at Blackrock as a managing director and lead product strategist for its active equity division. She also worked at J.P. Morgan for 12 years where she held various senior-level management positions across asset classes.


“AMX is transforming the institutional investment market, and I am confident that Kimberley’s experience and proven track record will help ensure the exchange is tailored to the unique needs of U.S. investors,” says Jaegemann. “We look forward to engaging with both asset owners and managers alike across the U.S. and, in the future, across a wider global reach.”


Duff & Phelps Adds to ESOP/ERISA Advisory Services Practice


Duff & Phelps has added three new managing directors to its Corporate Finance practice.

Danielle Montesano has joined in the Corporate Finance and ESOP/ERISA Advisory Services practice and is based in the Chicago office. She holds more than 20 years of experience working with corporate acquisition and sale transactions involving restructuring, valuing and financing public and private securities. She has expertise in matters involving corporate governance, valuation, Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), tax, compliance, executive compensation and employer securities. Prior to joining Duff & Phelps, Montesano was the head of the Fiduciary Advisory Group at First Bankers Trust Services. 

Kurt Steltenpohl has joined in the firm’s Transaction Advisory Services (TAS) practice and is based in the New York office. He has served as a consultant to industry executives, corporations and private equity on strategy and operations. Steltenpohl specializes in performance improvement and merger integration in the consumer, industrial, and health care sectors and leads TAS’ Operations Advisory vertical, providing the firm’s clients with pre- and post-transaction services. He joins Duff & Phelps from Alvarez & Marsal, where he served as a strategy and transactions adviser in that firm’s Private Equity Services Group. 

“Each of these professionals will enhance our practice in a distinct way,” says Bob Bartell, managing director and global head of Corporate Finance at Duff & Phelps. “Danielle’s ESOP/ERISA experience will be immensely beneficial to our Transaction Opinions practice. Kurt’s strategy and operations improvement experience deepens our service offerings. We welcome them to the team and look forward to their contributions.”


Qualified Plans LLC Joins Ascensus TPA Solutions


Ascensus has entered into an agreement to acquire Qualified Plans LLC (Qualified Plans).


The third-party administration (TPA) firm will immediately become part of Ascensus TPA Solutions.   


Headquartered in Savannah, Georgia, Qualified Plans provides plan design, consultation, compliance, and administration services for defined contribution (DC) and defined benefit (DB) plans. The firm’s relationship managers, who average over 20 years of industry experience, oversee every aspect of the retirement planning operation to ensure that plans are as efficient and effective as possible.


“Acquiring Qualified Plans to become part of our TPA Solutions business is another indication of Ascensus’ ongoing commitment to providing high-quality solutions to advisors through a platform-independent, open-architecture business model,” says David Musto, Ascensus’ president. “Qualified Plans’ dedication to outstanding client service makes them a solid addition to Ascensus—we welcome their associates and their expertise in delivering efficient and high-quality plan retirement plans along with administration and actuarial services to our family.”