Stories

How do you create an aligned retirement plan when the company was formed through multiple acquisitions?

The challenge

When we began working with one of North America’s largest energy solutions companies, we initiated an audit of their retirement program. Since the company was formed through multiple acquisitions there were several retirement programs, along with multiple investment menus. This made it tedious and difficult for the company’s pension committee to manage and ensure consistency across the chain of legacy organizations.

The Accompass touch

Accompass led the pension committee through a needs analysis and they determined that the purpose of their retirement program was to truly contribute to their employees’ retirement. This resulted in the legacy organization joining the Defined Contribution Pension Plan from a contributory Group RRSP. We then reviewed all investment options available and came up with a best-of-breed investment menu that was consistent across all plan types and legacy organizations. The company had also inherited a Defined Benefit (DB) plan through one of their acquisitions – which the majority of the pension committee members had little experience in managing. We educated the pension committee about managing the plan and helped them decide to de-risk and reduce the funding volatility associated with the DB plan.

The outcome

Not only were we able to align the retirement programs of the legacy organizations, creating consistency for the committee, through extensive education they also became more comfortable with managing the aligned plans. With our help in providing oversight the client continues to manage the plans with due diligence and ease.

What can you do when an employee value-add program is expensive and time consuming?

The challenge

One of our clients offers employees who are close to retirement a full-day session, providing them with information and resources to help them determine what their retirement might look like. However, organizing the sessions was time consuming and costly for the client, and the content needed to be current and relevant for the participants.

The Accompass touch

We could see the effectiveness in these sessions and knew it was a valuable offering for their employees, but a burden for their HR team. As part of our consulting arrangement, Accompass took on the sessions, building out an agenda, and working with providers to develop fulsome presentations and materials, creating and delivering content that not only educated on the financial aspects of retirement, but addressed the emotional ones that can often be overlooked.

The outcome

Our client can continue to offer their employees these sessions. However, the improved sessions provide employees with even more helpful tools and resources as they near retirement. The icing on the cake – we’ve taken much of the heavy lifting off our client’s shoulders, providing time and cost savings for them.

What happens your employees’ retirement savings are inadvertently invested in the wrong fund?

The challenge

Recently, a client made a change to the composition of the pre-packaged portfolios in the investment menu they offer to employees in their retirement savings plan, resulting in the transfer of assets from one fund to another. Accompass conducts an independent reconciliation when changes are made to an investment menu to ensure member accounts are updated correctly. In this case, our reconciliation determined that some of the members had their assets inadvertently transferred to an incorrect fund.

The Accompass touch

We quickly worked with the record-keeper to correct this issue and after the quick resolution we helped prepare a communication informing the affected employees.

The outcome

By conducting our independent reconciliation the error was caught early, preventing any major issues for the client or their employees and transparency and employee trust were preserved through strong and open communication from the outset.

How can you align two benefit plans but keep the two companies as separate entities?

The challenge

A client recently acquired a new company and needed program consistency across their separate benefits plans and reduced costs for both organizations.

The Accompass touch

We were able to harmonize our client’s benefits plans for a number of different offerings while still keeping each company’s plan independent. We also took the opportunity to streamline some financial aspects of their plans, while maintaining different designs so that each company’s plan continued to fit the unique needs of their differing employee population.

The outcome

Now our client maintains an independent service offering for each of their companies while still enjoying the benefits of a simplified vendor management process. Because of this they’ve also seen considerable financial savings while ensuring their experience at each company still meets the needs of their greatest asset – their employees.

How can you use compensation to build a performance culture?

The challenge

Under the spotlight of government oversight, in a highly regulated industry facing extreme challenges on numerous fronts, a company needed to reinvent itself and its culture. It had to retain key people through a period of transformation, build a culture of performance, and create new affinity for the organization – all without increasing costs.

The Accompass touch

Working closely with our client, we designed and implemented a three-pronged compensation program for senior executives, incorporating base salary, annual bonus, and a long-term incentive. While many executives’ annual base pay remained flat, the long-term incentive ensured they stayed engaged and reinvigorated their focus on sustainable performance.

 

Meanwhile, we put measures in place to reinvent the culture at all levels. For instance, gift cards for the company’s own services became a common reward for employees – and, for the first time, many staff experienced first-hand what its customers did. We also implemented a new performance evaluation and development program, which made every employee eligible for promotion.

The outcome

Inside the company, fixed attitudes and notions of entitlement have given way to customer-centricity and fresh thinking. With its new compensation and incentive programs, employees at all levels are more engaged and thoughtful about the role of the company in its customer’s lives – and they are successfully repositioning themselves as an entirely new kind of player in the industry.

What can you do when the wrong contributions were made to employees?

The challenge

At a manufacturing company, an error was made in the communication of contribution amounts to its insurance company’s record keeper. As a result, the wrong contributions were made to most employees over a number of months. Some received too much, while others received too little. The problem had to be resolved swiftly, in a way that complied with legislative guidelines and minimized consequences to employees.

The Accompass touch

We took the issue off our client’s desk. First, we crunched the data, creating a detailed spreadsheet that itemized every employee, the amounts they’d received, and the amounts that should have been contributed. For the first time, our client could see the impact on individual employees. Next, we developed a strategy to resolve the issue. For employees who had received too much, contributions would be suspended for a period of time; for those who had received too little, we determined the interest rate that should be paid on missed contributions, and confirmed that they had contribution room.

 

Based on this, a file detailing go-forward contributions was transmitted for the record keeper.

Finally, we created personalized communications that automatically pulled in each employee’s relevant amounts. The letters clearly explained what had happened, what the impact was on their retirement account, and what they could expect to see on future statements as the discrepancy was corrected.

The outcome

Without requiring substantial amounts of our client’s time and resources, we resolved the issue. Our solution relied heavily on granular analysis of the data and automating processes to simplify communications. What might have been a disastrous situation garnered not a single employee complaint or comment.

They make my life easy by bringing all the elements through, whether they’re big or small, repeatedly, time and time again.

Brett Abram

Vice President Human Resources, Sleep Country Canada

Nail every detail

Anytime that we ask for the near impossible, they find a way of making it possible.

Jennifer Irwin

Vice President, Human Resources & Communications, Allied Properties REIT

Yesterday was not good enough

I can’t honestly imagine a time when I have not heard back from someone on the team within hours, never mind days.

Glen Collins

Chief Financial Officer, Angus Systems Group Limited

Turn gracefully on a dime

How can you launch a new benefits and retirement plan when you only have a month?

The challenge

In the deal for a major acquisition, it was agreed that the level of health and retirement benefits offered to employees would remain unchanged under the new owners. The plan would have to be up and running before the deal closed, or employees would be left without coverage. We had exactly 35 days.

The Accompass touch

The benefits and retirement plans we were matching had been designed for a large corporation. We needed comparable benefits for a smaller group. Working closely with the carrier, we obtained rates and negotiated plan design in a matter of days. Where we couldn’t provide identical benefits, we delivered creative solutions. For example, the new plan offered a lower level of critical illness, but provided it to every employee instead of it being optional.

 

Twenty-two days after opening the case, members of our Benefits & Health and Investment & Retirement practices met directly with employees to walk them through their benefits. Just over a week later, new drug cards were mailed directly to employees’ homes.

The outcome

In just over a month, our client accomplished what normally takes 60-90 days – including negotiation, plan design, setting up administration, enrollment, and employee education. When the company changed hands, the transition to their new benefits and retirement plans was seamless. In fact, employees said that, due to our face-to-face education, they clearly understood their benefits for the first time.

How do you manage benefits after a large acquisition in the U.S.?

The challenge

A multi-national company headquartered in Canada acquired a company in the U.S. The acquirer has a strong, unified culture; their benefits plan for U.S. employees would have to be consistent with that philosophy. At the same time, their program needed to reflect the competitive realities of the U.S.

The Accompass touch

Because of the unique circumstances facing our client, we undertook an extensive search of U.S.-based consulting firms. We interviewed firms under consideration, made recommendations on short-listed finalists, and flew in to meet final candidates.

 

When the decision was made and the acquisition was completed, we joined the new U.S. consultant and our client at the table to discuss plan design, financial management, and other details.

The outcome

Rather than simply “handing off” our client to partners in the U.S., we remain an active participant in the design and management of U.S. benefits, relying on the U.S. consultant to contribute their local perspective and expertise. We closely oversee the plan to ensure it’s in line with our client’s larger objectives and performance expectations. And, with our cross-border knowledge, we’re able to ensure U.S. terms are put into Canadian standards, including preparing executive summaries for senior decision-makers in Canada.

How do you respond to a letter from the Pay Equity officer?

The challenge

A company with 2,500 employees received a notice from the Pay Equity Officer, inquiring about potential violations. Their queries applied to a large portion of the company’s workforce, and the potential liability was substantial. At the same time, the company was committed to compliance with the Pay Equity Act.

The Accompass touch

On behalf of our client, we engaged directly with the Pay Equity Officer.

 

We took care of every detail, including what information was delivered, how and when it was communicated, and the format in which data was presented. At every step, we worked to ensure that our client’s liability was minimized and they remained compliant. Perhaps most important, we cooperated fully and proactively.

The outcome

The Pay Equity Officer was satisfied, and no further action was taken.

Where do you look when your increase in LTD is unsustainable?

The challenge

Shortly after we began working with one of Canada’s largest retailers, they were struck with a substantial jump in Long-term Disability premiums as part of their renewal. The increase was based on the incidence and duration of claims. If the trend continued, the company could be forced to either slash benefits or share more of the burden with their employees.

The Accompass touch

We undertook a comprehensive review of disability claims processes both within our client’s organization and within the insurance carrier.

 

How were files processed? What forms were submitted? How were return-to-work opportunities handled? Within our client’s organization, one department handled disability claims, while another handled plan design and financial management. We worked with both to help them understand how their work impacted each other.

The outcome

Changes to processes both within our client’s organization and within the insurance carrier are now driving reductions in the incidence and duration of disability claims. Employees are getting back to work sooner, and feeling better supported – and the company’s disability benefits are on stronger financial footing.

What can you do when employees were promised a retirement benefit that doesn’t exist?

The challenge

A professional services firm had a Pension Protection Option (PPO) attached to their disability contract. If employees were disabled or absent from work, they could expect employer contributions to their retirement savings to continue.

But when an employee fell ill shortly after we began working with our client, the carrier said the PPO didn’t apply, because the company had discontinued its registered pension plan years earlier in favour of a different retirement vehicle.

In other words: since there was no pension plan for the money promised by the PPO to be deposited to, the benefit could not be paid.

The Accompass touch

Leveraging our knowledge of the legislation and our expertise in contracts, we worked directly with the CRA and the Registered Plans Directorate to find a solution. Within the confines of the Income Tax Act, the benefit could not be paid into a Deferred Profit Sharing Plan. It could, however, go to the employee’s RRSP. With this knowledge, we worked closely with the carrier to explore adjustments to their process.

The outcome

A unique arrangement now delivers the promise of the PPO, in compliance with the Income Tax Act: the carrier makes contributions to the disabled employee’s RRSP, up to the point that contribution room allows. After that, the carrier pays the employer any outstanding amount. In turn, the employer pays the employee.