Improving Plan Operation in the Higher Education Marketplace
(Private University)

A Multnomah Group Case Study
July 2017


Our client was a private university with more than 2,500 account holding participants and $140 million in plan assets currently allocated among three different recordkeeping vendors. The University had three primary concerns it intended to correct as part of the process:

  1. Developing a formal fiduciary process for plan management and investment analysis.
  2. Managing the requirements of the new 403(b) regulations in light of changes to the Internal Revenue Code and greater accountability for the plan's sponsor to ensure regulatory compliance.
  3. Minimizing the internal and external costs of complying with new Form 5500 and audit requirements.

The University hoped to achieve these goals while improving plan operation and cost structure; and with minimal disruption and full transparency to the Plan’s participant population.


The Multnomah Group conducted an initial audit of the plan’s operation, including fiduciary plan governance, plan document and compliance, investment policy statement, investment performance, plan cost, and plan communication / education.

This analysis helped the University objectively evaluate the structure of the Plan and the current vendors servicing the plan; enabling them to identify where current practices would present regulatory or operational gaps under the new regulations. The results of this analysis led to a process by which our firm helped establish a Board-authorized Retirement Plan Committee.

The Retirement Plan Committee, in consultation with the Multnomah Group, outlined how a successful vendor might better support the University and its participants. To ensure that the wishes of the participant population were also represented in the process, our firm facilitated focus group meetings where participants could express the features they wished to see in a new retirement solution.

Based on that feedback the Multnomah Group drafted a formal Request for Proposal (RFP) focused on the University’s specific needs. Responses were solicited from the current vendors and a solution was identified that significantly improved sponsor and participant service levels.


As a result of this process, the University achieved all of their initial goals, including:

Consolidation to a single-vendor solution. The University’s chose to use a sole provider for compliance testing services and a sole provider of consolidated year end 5500 filing. We assisted them in document modifications to ensure proper administration of loans, hardships, in-service withdrawals from that vendor. They also transitioned from Individual to Group contracts (owned by the University). These group contacts ensured that the University would have the necessary authority to act in their role as plan administrator under the terms of the plan document.

Expanded Participant Communication Services. We assisted the University in creating customized employee communication materials that addressed unique issues related to their plan. By expanding their communications services, they saw a 1200% increase in on-campus education,

Expanded investment universe. The University added non-proprietary investment options to augment or replace current under-performing proprietary options.

Streamlined implementation process. We assisted the University in the negotiations with a new vendor to pay surrender fees on individual contracts subject to participant surrender charges, as well as the negotiation of a group transfer of participant assets from individual contract arrangements to the new vendor.

Improved costing / service structure. Through this process, the university saw full transparency of vendor revenues; created a revenue offset account if vendor revenues exceed planned targets; negotiated fee caps; and reviewed fees at risk for statement delivery, remittance processing, distribution processing, web availability times.

At the conclusion of the project all of the above were achieved merely by restructuring arrangements with existing vendors. In aggregate these changes will significantly empower the University to fulfill their fiduciary and regulatory responsibilities as plan sponsors.

To find out how the Multnomah Group can help your organization achieve its goals please contact one of our consultants.

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