PLANADVISER -May/June 2022 - 15

Retirement Plan Adviser of the Year
Plan Participant Service
John O'Brien
Venture Visionary Partners
Sylvania, Ohio
PLANADVISER: As a plan adviser, what do you take the
most pride in?
John O'Brien: If you dedicate your practice to employersponsored
retirement plans, there's only one place for
pride to exist: in the service of others. Plan advisers have
hundreds of millions of assets under advisement, if not over
a billion. These aren't just dollars. They're goals, dreams
and the fruits of each employee's hard work.
We are a team of experienced wealth managers, investment
advisers and other financial specialists, who design
and implement customized plans to address clients' current
needs as well as their legacy goals.
For most, the 401(k) is their only retirement savings,
and these people frequently lack basic investment knowledge.
Every group or individual meeting I conduct is
another opportunity for participants to learn the benefits
of compounding growth, to understand why market volatility
can present long-term opportunity, or to simply learn
to rationalize saving over spending.
Whether they're a newly eligible hourly employee or a
salaried highly compensated executive, I take pride in delivering
the same level of service to each.
PA: How do you grow your business? What changes to
your practice or service model are you planning?
O'Brien: I've always balanced the sponsor and participant
service experiences so one isn't subordinate to the other,
and clients routinely comment on that commitment. To
ensure clients aren't adversely affected by growth, I focus
on increased efficiency over fees. During the pandemic, I
was able to quickly adapt the benefits of remote technologies
to work with both groups.
Virtual offerings are now a key focus. Prerecorded
educational webinars for clients with 3,000-plus employees
and multistate footprints are being planned. This project
will provide plan updates and financial-wellness-related
topics for participants, specific to their plan, that can be
Plan Participant Service Finalists
* Sean Bjork, Bjork Asset Management, Inc.,
Northbrook, Illinois
* Scott Ciullo, KerberRose, Marquette, Michigan
* Francis Investment Counsel, Brookfield, Wisconsin
* Wagstaff & Crawford/LPL Financial, Salt Lake City, Utah
accessed on demand via the employer's intranet and web
hosting, where utilization is measurable. Additionally,
virtual live meetings are expected to drive individual attendance.
This should be another tool to emphasize participant
service while increasing efficiency, which in turn allows for
continued growth and capacity.
PA: Why is it important to work individually with plan
O'Brien: The push toward automated enrollment has benefited
participants in terms of participation and contributions.
Structurally, these programs may benefit the plan at
the expense of participant confidence and/or understanding.
The most common feedback I get in initial employee meetings
is: " I don't know how I'm invested, whether it's right for
me and whether I contribute enough, " or " I don't want to
participate-I was automatically enrolled; how do I get my
money back? "
Individual meetings allow a participant to listen, learn at
a level suitable for them, gain confidence in their long-term
savings goals, and make decisions for their individual situation.
They take ownership of a benefit they otherwise may
have dismissed and discover how much control they have.
We can discuss risk tolerances and investing mechanics,
address factors that can't be covered in a group setting.
It's common for participants to feel they're OK, until
market events or personal circumstances change. Individual
meetings let us expand on behaviors, such as taking
plan loans, that may hinder long-term success. Employing a
regular, predictable education schedule with active support
from the sponsor benefits the entire plan while building
adviser value. This is best accomplished by employers
mandating a sign-up time and setting the meeting during
work hours.
PA: What is participants' biggest challenge today, and how
do you help address it?
O'Brien: It's the focus on their account balance vs. how
well it will provide for a comfortable retirement. When I
first meet with participants, most don't understand the
retirement process-the rollovers, draw-down percentages,
target allocations-and generally how they'll fund retirement
expenses. The greatest impact comes from our financial
planning process. It's voluntary and is included in my
plan services. We provide planning and goal analysis for any
participant who supplies [personal financial] information. May-June 2022 | 15

PLANADVISER -May/June 2022

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of PLANADVISER -May/June 2022

PLANADVISER Industry Leaders Awards
Paving the Way
2022 DCIO Survey
Fool's Gold for 401(k)s?
Design and Stability
A Collective Effort
Cryptocurrency In DC Plans
Real Estate Fund Investments
PLANADVISER -May/June 2022 - Cover1
PLANADVISER -May/June 2022 - Cover2
PLANADVISER -May/June 2022 - 1
PLANADVISER -May/June 2022 - 2
PLANADVISER -May/June 2022 - 3
PLANADVISER -May/June 2022 - 4
PLANADVISER -May/June 2022 - 5
PLANADVISER -May/June 2022 - 6
PLANADVISER -May/June 2022 - 7
PLANADVISER -May/June 2022 - 8
PLANADVISER -May/June 2022 - 9
PLANADVISER -May/June 2022 - PLANADVISER Industry Leaders Awards
PLANADVISER -May/June 2022 - 11
PLANADVISER -May/June 2022 - 12
PLANADVISER -May/June 2022 - 13
PLANADVISER -May/June 2022 - 14
PLANADVISER -May/June 2022 - 15
PLANADVISER -May/June 2022 - 16
PLANADVISER -May/June 2022 - 17
PLANADVISER -May/June 2022 - 18
PLANADVISER -May/June 2022 - 19
PLANADVISER -May/June 2022 - Paving the Way
PLANADVISER -May/June 2022 - 21
PLANADVISER -May/June 2022 - 22
PLANADVISER -May/June 2022 - 23
PLANADVISER -May/June 2022 - 2022 DCIO Survey
PLANADVISER -May/June 2022 - 25
PLANADVISER -May/June 2022 - 26
PLANADVISER -May/June 2022 - 27
PLANADVISER -May/June 2022 - 28
PLANADVISER -May/June 2022 - 29
PLANADVISER -May/June 2022 - Fool's Gold for 401(k)s?
PLANADVISER -May/June 2022 - 31
PLANADVISER -May/June 2022 - 32
PLANADVISER -May/June 2022 - 33
PLANADVISER -May/June 2022 - Design and Stability
PLANADVISER -May/June 2022 - 35
PLANADVISER -May/June 2022 - A Collective Effort
PLANADVISER -May/June 2022 - 37
PLANADVISER -May/June 2022 - 38
PLANADVISER -May/June 2022 - Cryptocurrency In DC Plans
PLANADVISER -May/June 2022 - Real Estate Fund Investments
PLANADVISER -May/June 2022 - Cover3
PLANADVISER -May/June 2022 - Cover4