Fresh off of celebrating its twentieth anniversary, Advanced Plan Designs is growing. The TPA (Third Party Administrator) firm, which designs custom retirement plans and provides ongoing administration for qualifying plans, opened its second office in Kansas City in June. The new office will serve northern Missouri, Kansas, Arkansas, and Oklahoma.
The expansion was a logical move according to Managing Member Susan Marler. “We have always done business in Kansas City but we’ve never had boots on the ground there,” she says. But as of June, Advanced Plan Designs has a Vice President of Sales and Marketing who is based in Kansas City full-time. “The goal for us in the next three to five years would be to have an even larger office in Kansas City and then a satellite office in northwest Arkansas,” says Marler.
Things are already taking off since opening the Kansas City office. “We’re really competing very well in Kansas City because we offer some things from a service standpoint that other TPA firms don’t offer,” says Marler. “For example, we offer a 3(16) fiduciary services program. A normal TPA has limited liability if they make a mistake on the plan sponsor’s retirement plan. Under the 3(16) program, we’re taking on fiduciary responsibility and saying that we’re liable for all of the work we do for you, in the event that the client were to undergo an audit or something of that nature. We share that liability with the plan sponsor 50/50.”
Another service created by Advanced Plan Designs, Payroll Plus, allows the TPA to interface directly with the plan sponsor’s payroll provider. Marler explains, “Any change that happens to payroll in regards to their retirement plan, we will communicate directly with their payroll company. So instead of the plan sponsor saying ‘Oh, I have to go make a deposit today,’ we’re actually uploading that for them, or if they have several people that want to make changes to their 401(k), we actually go in and make those changes. The plan sponsor doesn’t have to touch it or worry about whether it’s implemented in a timely manner.”
Marler says no other TPA in the region is providing these services for their plan sponsors.
Advanced Plan Designs also services defined benefit plans, which allow much higher contribution levels than a traditional 401(k). These tend to be used by people who may not have saved as much as they want for retirement. “A lot of TPA firms won’t do defined benefit work. This has made us unique in the region and also in Kansas City. A lot of firms just don’t offer these services like this or the 3(16) or payroll services,” says Marler. “Because of our unique offerings we’re able to go in and compete for business that we’ve never had the opportunity to compete for.”
While sales staff is branching out into new territories, professional and clerical staff will continue to be located in Springfield. “The great part about what we’re doing is that even though we’re selling plans in Wichita or in Kansas City, the work is still all being done right here out of the corporate headquarters in Springfield,” says Marler. “This means that we will continue to hire additional people here in Springfield to service plans that are being sold in all these other locations.”
Marler has hired 3 people in the last six months due to growth and says she’ll be hiring at least one new employee next year. “In a small company, that’s a lot of people.
We feel like we’re really in a growth mode and there will start being more jobs as a result of the effort that’s being made in these other territories.”
Even with expansion into new markets and the addition of unique services, Marler says the focus continues to be on the customer experience. “We’re growing in a manner that won’t allow our service to suffer.” Marler explains that her staff is the reason she’s so confident in saying this. “I still have a very solid staff because nobody leaves. I’ve never had a termination and over half of the staff has been here over 10 years.”
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