10 Terms You Need to Know (to Understand the 5500)
January 21, 2019

If you are new to the market and the 5500, there are likely to be a ton of terms that you may be unfamiliar. Before you dig too deep into your 5500 research, review the below ten terms. Whether you are in the retirement or group insurance market, studying the below terms will help you prepare for prospecting.

1. ERISA

The Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974. This law sets minimum standards for most voluntary health and retirement plans offered in the private sector. Yearly completion of the Form 5500 is one part of this law.

2. Sponsor

A Sponsor is a company that provides a retirement plan to their employees

3. Provider

A provider is a company or agent who services a retirement plan for the sponsor. These services can be anything from investment management, to recordkeeping, to third-party administration. You can view the providers for a plan on the Schedule C of the 5500, where you’ll find information on the company, services provided, and the compensation they’re required to disclose.

4. Participant

An employee of a plan who is part of a plan. They may be active or retired.

5. Plan Number

Each ERISA qualified plan is assigned a three-digit plan number. Together with an Employer Identification Number (EIN) and Plan Year, a specific plan may be identified. Plan numbers from 001 to 500 are Retirement plans. Plan numbers from 501 and 999 are Health and Welfare plans. A Plan number provides no other additional data.

6. Plan Year

This is the year of which the plan covers. For instance is a plan’s term runs from January 1, 2017, to December 31, 2017, the Plan Year is 2017. Much like an individual’s income tax filings, these forms are submitted yearly for the previous year. As a sponsor has 201 days to file a 5500, and they may apply for a two-month extension, a 5500 may be made available to the public up to 10 months after the plan renews.

7. Plan Type

Plan types on the 5500 are indicated by a code consisting of a number and a letter and denote the features of a plan. This could cover anything from whether a plan is a defined benefit or defined contribution plan, whether a plan is a 401(k) plan, 403(b) plan, etc., and other features of the plan like having automatic enrollment and allowing participant directed accounts. It is not uncommon for retirement plans to have several of these plan type codes listed, and understanding them is key to understanding the structure of a retirement plan.

8. Defined Benefit

A defined benefit plan are employer-sponsored retirement plans where the retirement Benefits owed are calculated using a variety of factors such as length of employment and compensation history. They more commonly referred to as pension plans. The company invests in a pension fund and pays the retirees their benefits out of that fund. Defined benefit plans used to be the more popular type of retirement plan, but 401(k)s and other defined contribution plans have swiftly become the preferred choice for retirement plan sponsors.

9. Defined Contribution

A defined contribution plan is a retirement plan paid for in contributions directly from the employee’s pay, instead of the employer. These contributions are typically tax-deferred and employers generally choose to match varying percentages of employee contributions. While the benefit from a pension plan is precalculated, and the employer is on the hook for that amount no matter what, defined contribution plan benefits ultimately depend on the level of employee contributions and the rate of return on the investments made by the plan.

10. Corrective Distribution

Every year a plan’s participant may contribute up to $18,500 into their 401(k) plan. Contributions above this amount are not allowed by the IRS. When a participant, often a Highly Compensated Employee (HCE) contributes over this amount, this overage must be corrected.

 

THE JUDY DIAMOND ADVANTAGE

Now that you are more familiar with these foundational terms, put them to use looking at some 5500s. You can find 5500s either of Judy Diamond Associate’s sites, FreeERISA and Retirement Plan Prospector.

Posted in: Blog
Prospecting the Federal Form 5500 – Finding Your Target
January 14, 2019

Using 5500 Data for Offensive and Defense Business Development (Part 2): Finding Your Target

Now that the east coast is covered in snow, it’s the perfect time to continue my series on Prospecting the Federal Form 5500, this time focusing on how to find the targets you identified in the first post of this series.

With hundreds of thousands of plans out there, it can be hard to find those plans that are right for you to reach out to. Instead of spending time, effort, and even money contacting leads with little chance of conversation, you need to focus your attention on leads that would be more receptive to your approach.

WHAT ARE RED FLAGS?

Red flags are a series of indicators the experts at Judy Diamond Associates identified to aid in locating “in trouble” plans. These red flags not only identify a potential issue in a plan, they also act as tags which can be searched for. Which 19 separate Red Flags to choose from, it is easy to tailor one’s research. Included in our red flags are:

  • High Average Account Balance
  • Corrective Distribution Issued
  • Insufficient Fidelity Bond Coverage
  • Highest Admin Fees

For more on our red flags, check out Michael Iapalucci’s outstanding new series focusing on our Judy Diamond Associate’s red flags.

PLAN SCORES

Knowing how a plan stacks up against other plans in a state or industry can be critical in identifying trends in your market. Therefore, having access to tools that quickly aid in plan comparison is a must! Plan scores provide you with seven metrics by which a plan can be compared to other plans. Additionally, JDA includes an overall umbrella score for a more high-level analysis. These scores help you understand the landscape around the plan so that you are better able to develop your pitch, or guide your business development efforts.

ADVANCED SEARCH

Now that you know what your current clients look like, you can use the advanced search feature to find other companies that match! This may seem a challenge since there are over 450 fields of data in a 5500 form. There are many options including Participant or Asset Total, to specific Red Flags, to Broker or Vendor Names. However, the advanced search box allows you to quickly narrow the field of leads from hundreds of thousands to a more manageable number of perfect leads.

PERFORMANCE BENCHMARKING

Knowing how a plan performs against other plans very helpful. It is a good idea to research a plan to determine if they really are a good lead for you. Performance-based benchmarking is a great way to accomplish this. Identifying a plan that historically underperforms plans in your region or your own book of business helps you focus your attention.

 

THE JDA ADVANTAGE:

These are just a few of the tools within Retirement Plan Prospector Prospector Plus tool designed to bring the experience of the JDA Team to your office. These tools are easy to learn, quick to use, and, most importantly, they provide results. There is a reason our clients stay with us year after year.

Posted in: Blog
Red Flags – A Powerful Tool for Prospecting
December 24, 2018

 

In this post, we are going to focus on one of Judy Diamond’s proprietary data points – Red Flags and how to use them in prospecting.  Red Flags are an innovation pioneered by JDA based on 30 years of experience with the Form 5500.  The idea behind Red Flags is to identify retirement plans that have a noteworthy characteristic that is not entirely obvious.  While many of the Red Flags point to potential problems, whether it be with performance, plan design or administration, this is not always the case.

There are nineteen Red Flags identified as important relative to prospecting.  Over the coming months, we will focus on one or more of these flags to provide a more detailed explanation along with some tips on how to use them in your practice.  For a complete list of the 19 Red Flags, click here.

The first Red Flag we will consider is High Average Account Balance.

Most Frequently Occurring Red Flags

High Average Account Balance

High Average Account Balance is the most widely occurring Red Flag showing up in 401(k) plans.  This accounts for nearly 200,000 plans in the 2017 plan year.  This is not surprising considering the median number of participants (10) and the median participation rate (100%) for plans with this flag.  So what is going on here and is it good or bad when focusing on prospecting?

High Average Account Balance is an example of a Red Flag that can be considered a positive screen.   This Red Flag helps to find plans with few participants and participants with a higher than average 401(k) balance.  The average 401(k) balance is $106,000 according to USA Today.  Plans tagged with High Average Account Balance in the JDA Retirement Plan Prospector database have a median account balance of $182,778 – a staggering $77,000 more.

What Types of Plans Have this Red Flag?

What types of firms make up these plans?  Physicians, Lawyers, Dentists, Financial Advisers, and other professional services firms comprise the majority of these plans.  This includes wealthy professionals with small group practices or partnerships that are able to save the maximum in their retirement accounts.

Knowing how to find these types of plans can be helpful in two ways.  First, the business owners and participants are one and the same with these plans. As a result, it is much easier to get their attention regarding plan design or performance issues.  Therefore, whether it is high fees, poor fund selection or performance, you should be able to make a strong case to one of the business owners that it is in their best interest to meet with you.  Secondly, these companies and individual participants are not only valuable retirement prospects but can also be targeted for wealth management services.  As a result, since there are so many plans with this flag, it is relatively easy to find them in most geographic locations.

In future posts, we will take a look at some of the other most prevalent Red Flags.  These include Bottom 10% in Employer Contributions and Insufficient Fidelity Bond Coverage.

Posted in: Blog
Prospecting the Federal Form 5500 – Identifying your Client
December 17, 2018

Using 5500 Data for Offensive and Defense Business Development (Part 1)

This article is the first in a five-part series devoted to helping you more effectively use the 5500 for prospecting. By the end of this series, you will learn:

  • Steps to locate viable new business
  • Defense strategies for your book of business
  • How to approach your first meeting with a potential client

Identify your Clients

There are over 1 million ERISA qualified plans active nationwide each year. Nearly 800,000 plans in the retirement space alone. Finding the plans that fit well into your business model can seem like a daunting task. The first step in business development is often research. Here are 3 questions to ask yourself:

Who Are My Current Clients?

Knowing who you currently work with is a great indicator of where you should be looking for new business. Consequently, as no one knows your client’s as well as you, it is always a good idea to dig deeper and see if there are unifying traits that you may not be aware of. The 5500 form provides a ton of information that, when analyzed, can reveal trends and traits that may not have been uncovered by your face-to-face interactions.

What Are My Strengths?

Properly identifying your skill set is imperative when planning your prospecting. Perhaps you are a good educator and skilled at letting employees know the value of their plan. Maybe you are a data wonk and are skilled at identifying trends in large pools of data. You may have spent years in the 401(k) market and are known in your region for strong 401(k) performance.

Who Looks Like My Current Customers?

A good place to start are those categories of sponsors that are similar to what you work with and blend well with your strengths. Therefore, if you can find sponsors who resemble your client base, sponsors that also may have an unhealthy plan, you have yourself a beginning of a great lead list.

THE JDA ADVANTAGE:

The Retirement Plan Prospector database was designed not only as a lead generation service but as a tool to help you identify trends in large datasets.

 

Find the second post in this series Here!

Posted in: Blog
One Form 5500, Two Industries
December 10, 2018

Retirement vs. Health & Welfare when Examining 5500 Data

This article is going to focus on how the disclosure differs for two distinct industries, retirement and welfare. Sponsors fill out a different Form 5500 for these plans and may even file a separate 5500 for multiple types of retirement or welfare plans. A great example is that a Sponsor might have a defined benefit plan and a defined contribution plan. That would result in two different filings with the Department of Labor.

Despite being utilized by both retirement and welfare plans, 5500 data has a lot in common between these two distinct groups. The sponsors who file are primarily private sector employers. That means that government agencies and employers are exempt, whether it’s at the city, county, state, or federal level. There’s a gray area when it comes to non-profits. Those organizations typically file a Form 990 about their expenses and funding, but not a Form 5500. They can elect to file if they feel it is advantageous for them to do so. It’s always worth a shot to search for them!

Many Schedules are filled out by both retirement and welfare plans. The publicly disclosed Schedules are A, MB, SB, C, D, G, H, I, and R. Not every plan files each Schedule though. It depends on the services utilized by the plan, its funding, and how it’s structured. Below we discuss some of the significant differences between the two plans. Most of us are solidly working within one industry, such as retirement, so you can jump to the section that applies to you.

Retirement Plans

You may have noticed while researching prospects that a behemoth like Acme Explosives disclosed their schedule of assets, an auditor’s report, their annuity carrier and vendors like their record keeper, yet Mom & Pop Shop USA has none of that. Absolutely maddening!

What you’re seeing is the Form 5500-SF, an abbreviated version of the Form 5500. In 2009 the DOL created a short form version of the 5500 to reduce the burden on companies with under 100 participants. With the exception of the Schedule SB, filed by smaller defined benefit plans, sponsors are not required to fill out schedules.

The Schedule A

If a plan has an insurance contract, they need to complete this Schedule. It’s where a carrier and their brokers are disclosed. When disclosing annuity contracts, they fill out Part II for the value of their investments.

The Schedule C

Retirement plans often use this Schedule to list their record keepers, brokers, investment managers, accounts, and so on. Section 2 is where service codes describe what they’ve been compensated for and we can see how much they received. Retirement plans are also more likely to make use of Sections 1 and 3, where we can see if a provider was eligible for indirect compensation and the formula for it.

The Schedule H

Only plans with over 100 participants file this Schedule. It has the same financial disclosure questions as the Form 5500-SF yet many more. You’ve probably heard that these filings also have a Schedule of Assets. As of 2018, the DOL doesn’t have a standard document for this supplementary Schedule. Instead, Sponsors submit attachments which are viewed as PDFs. These are always available in the Retirement Plan Prospector tool once you are looking at the Plan Details pages.

Health & Welfare Plans

Health and welfare plans can cover a wide variety of benefits. As long as they’re ERISA-qualified, it’s likely you can find it. Unlike with retirement plans, the minimum to file is 100 participants. Note, it’s not employees, but the number of individuals in a plan. If a sponsor has under 100 participants in their plan, then they’re exempt from filing a Form 5500.

The Schedule A

Like many of the Schedules, this one can be filled out by both retirement and health and welfare plans. On welfare returns, the Schedule A is often the star. Plans with insurance policies file this schedule and report the carrier, lives covered, premiums, benefits insured, and, if applicable, the brokers who sold the policy.

The Schedule C

When a welfare plan has organizations or individuals who are not insuring benefits, yet providing services to the plan, they’re disclosed here. The most commonly filled out Section is 2, where we see provider service codes and compensation values. Typically this includes third-party administrators, consultants, ASOs, and accountants. Users who work with self-funded plans make more use of this Schedule because it provides clues as to how the plan is managing their benefits.

The Schedule H

Unlike retirement plans, this isn’t as commonly filed. Roughly 10% of the plans in American Directory of Group Insurance have this Schedule. The general rule of thumb, when a plan is unfunded, they’ll file a Schedule H.

 

Posted in: Blog