Written by Keith Clark, Managing Partner
The end of the year is a time for reflection, and this year we have a lot to look back on.
We entered our 20th year of business this past May. Eleven years ago, we started our TPA practice with the goal of differentiating ourselves from the standard industry model. Our emphasis was understanding that we are a professional services firm, and that means providing consistently excellent service. Our clients, advisors, and recordkeeping service providers must always come first.
I never understood why I had to sit in a waiting room when I visited a doctor or dentist when I had a pre-established appointment. The old school service model where their time is more important than mine does not work anymore! We know our clients’ time is valuable and they should never have to wonder when we will respond to them or be in doubt about the status of their deliverables. This is why we developed the DWC Way - our service expectations and basic tenets:
- As originally published in our Q4 2019 newsletter. Didn't get it? Sign up here.
The DWC Way
- Communication Response Time: We respond to all incoming communications, whether phone call or email, as quickly as possible. Our management expectation is two business hours, but we manage to as close to instantaneous as possible based on availability, i.e. in the office and not on phone calls or in meetings. This is a key part of our culture.
- Annual ERISA Compliance Review (AECR): Our compliance report provides clean and concise action steps for our clients, making sure it is crystal clear what is required to close out the plan year. We developed our report for those that want a macro and micro analysis, including an Executive Summary and detailed chapters for every compliance and contribution component. Our detailed sections work great with auditors (government or plan). Our Executive Summary and cover letter make sure our clients and their advisors receive the proper summary including ideas for process or plan document improvements.
- Delivery Time for our AECR: Our typical delivery time for AECRs is lightning-fast by industry standards. Many in the industry manage only to the latest possible government-imposed deadlines, which could be as late as October 15th, while our median turnaround time this year for delivery of the AECR (including Form 5500) is less than 10 business days.
- Service Guarantees: We provide a service guarantee on all work and back it up for a lifetime. We have never understood how service providers will only back up their work for 30 – 90 days when it is their work. Plan sponsors should not have to review every word of every report in this time frame!
- Fee Disclosure: Even before it was legally required, we have always been transparent with our fees. Our fee schedule is our fee schedule. If we become eligible to receive revenue sharing, we disclose it in writing and offset our fees by the amount we receive. We don’t keep anything beyond what is shown in our fee schedule. Sure, all firms are required to disclose that they receive revenue sharing, but you might be surprised how many are less than forthcoming about keeping anything that exceeds their normal fee schedule.
20 Years of Lessons
We've grown a lot over the last 20 years, and we've learned a lot too. Our culture is not for everyone – although we are building up a nice waiting list of consultants hoping to join our firm. It took us a few years to figure this out, but there are five main themes that have worked well:
- Client and Advisor Feedback: When requesting feedback from clients, investment advisors, and recordkeepers, listen and constantly improve. We have no sacred cows.
- Process, Process, Process: Implement strong repeatable processes with the absolute minimum benchmark as excellence every day and on every task. This includes peer review of all reports and communication by a teammate with the appropriate level of expertise given the situation.
- Consultant Workload: When asking our teammates to perform additional work beyond their assigned caseload, we ask rather than demand, meaning it is okay to decline. If a consultant agrees to help out, we pay our teammates extra for their extra work! No teammate should be surprised with additional work.
- Positive Energy: Make everyone around you look good. Positive energy breeds positive energy.
We do not believe in industry awards or “top ____” lists. We don’t accept firm nominations or apply for awards. We simply want to deliver excellent services at a fair price.
On behalf of DWC, thank you to our investment advisors and recordkeepers who make serving our mutual clients fun and rewarding. Most important, thank you to our clients!
Happy Holidays from the DWC family - we'll see you next year!