Improving constituent outcomes across advisers, sponsors and participants is critical in today’s rapidly evolving retirement marketplace. Providers must focus on equipping advisers and sponsors with the tools needed to help American workers understand and prepare for their financial future. Four executives from SunGard’s Wealth and Retirement Administration business—Mike Rogalski, group president; Ian Sheridan, executive vice president, strategy and product management; William Byerly, executive vice president and general manager – Omni; and Misty Austin-Wessels, executive vice president and general manager – Relius—spoke with Alison Cooke Mintzer, editor-in-chief of PLANSPONSOR, about the retirement plan climate and how SunGard, through its investments in technology, data analytics and services, is helping its clients adapt in order to improve outcomes for their businesses and for the clients they serve.
PS: How have SunGard and its offerings evolved into what they are today?
Rogalski: Simply put, our focus is on delivering solutions that position our clients for success. SunGard has proven itself as the business behind the business—providing core systems that help firms around the world process, manage and account for trillions of dollars in assets. Yet excelling in today’s climate takes more, so we continue to make very specific research and development (R&D) investments around our technologies and service offerings to drive innovation across the customer value chain. For example, we’ve developed adviser- and sponsor-focused tools to gather assets, retirement readiness assessments for individual investors, business intelligence dashboards and payroll clearing technology, all with mobile access. We frequently host these technologies for our clients, and in some cases actually become their back-office administrator—or, as we like to call it, providing business processes as a service (BPaaS). It’s all about our proprietary technology, surrounded with a broader set of services, where we can build scale and deliver a differentiated solution to the market. SunGard has always had deep-rooted domain expertise and a fantastic team of employees specifically focused on serving the retirement industry. We have complemented this rich product and technology knowledge with experienced leaders who have come out of organizations similar to the companies we serve. In fact, the majority of Ian’s, Bill’s, Misty’s and my careers were spent working for retirement providers, so we truly understand our clients’ perspective.
PS: When it comes to managing the business, what are you hearing from your clients?
Austin-Wessels: As I travel around the country meeting with leaders in the retirement space, I hear two reoccurring themes: fee pressure and shrinking margins. Regardless of size or length of time in the business, these challenges are taking a toll on providers in our industry. The conversations we have with those clients are generally about effectively managing their costs while delivering scale. We dig deeper and talk to them about how they run their operations, what’s core to their business and what’s not. We offer them a partnership: We’ll serve as their back office so they can focus on growing the business. And it’s business growth that gets people energized!
Byerly: Our clients realize they need to focus not only on helping improve retention and cash flow, but also on creating new conversations that allow them to demonstrate the value they bring to each investor across their customer chain—from sponsor to participant. We have the metrics to show that our platforms help enable and empower those conversations. To that end, our approach is to continue to build out those platforms, and extend the value from the back to the front office in ways that ultimately help our clients get better outcomes.
Sheridan: Our clients are confronted with change on multiple fronts. Huge waves of investors are moving from accumulation to the income distribution phase. Regulatory pressure remains strong, but the bigger issue is regulatory uncertainty tied to the political change. There’s also continued margin pressure and a simultaneous need to improve the value being delivered to three distinct constituents: the sponsors, participants and the advisers that serve them. With that in mind, we believe the climate is right for retirement providers and recordkeepers to consider leveraging outsourcing specialists, whether it’s for comprehensive business processing as a service or software as a service. We work with our clients to help them determine what point along this continuum of options will allow them to build a winning formula.