I get along with people for the most part because I make the effort. It’s also a lot easier to function in the retirement plan business when you have more friends than enemies. Unfortunately, there have been a number of personal and business relationships that over the years that fell by the wayside and the common denomination between all of these relationships was a lack of communication. Aside from this job, I walked away from the greatest job I had because I couldn’t tell the guy who the company was named after that his partner of 20+ years was incompetent and held a grudge against me because he felt I was a threat to him.
As a plan sponsor, you can’t have relationships fall by the wayside if that’s going to hamper your role as a plan fiduciary.
The most important thing for a plan sponsor is to have communications with the plan providers and plan participants. Constant communication that is clear and understandable goes a long way to avoiding litigation or governmental penalties.
Working with your plan providers, make sure you understand your plan providers and if they speak gobbledy gook like many ERISA attorneys and actuaries, ask them to spell it out. If they are speaking in tongues, get them to speak in English. Let them tell you what you need to know to keep the plan running correctly and efficiently. If they can’t do it because they think they need to speak jargon to justify their bill, get providers who will speak in English.
Communicate with your plan participants, both with required notices and with an appropriate education. Giving out Morningstar profile like the h.r. director of my old law firm did, isn’t the right form of communication (sorry Pat, see you at soccer?). Getting them the appropriate education and advice is.
A constant stream of communication between you, your participants, and plan providers will go a long way to avoiding harm.