Effective Participant Education Increases AUM

Jonathon Schultheiss, Partner at Gate City Advisors, uses TRAK retirement planning software’s participant and plan sponsor solutions to engage participants and provide added value to plan sponsors. Effective participant education has also increased AUM.


Tell me about yourself.
I’m Jonathon Schultheiss, Gate City Advisors, I’m the Partner in charge of our corporate retirement plan division. I’ve focused on retirement plans for about 12 years now.

Tell me about Gate City Advisors.
Gate City Advisors has two core focuses: one is our wealth management practice and the other side is our corporate retirement plan division. [Edward Dressel asks: “And they’ve done well?] Very well! We’ve done very well.

What is some evidence of success?
I’d say some of the evidence is, when I first came to Gate City Advisors, our retirement plan practice was probably five, six plans. Today we’re over 60 retirement plans so we’ve seen a large growth in our wealth management side too. When I first came we were only two advisors on our wealth management practice and now they’re up to six.

What are some awards you have received?
We’ve been recognized multiple times as a “Top 100” through PlanAdviser. We’ve been recognized for the last couple of years from the Financial Times as a Top 100 advisor from them as well. [Edward Dressel: “Congratulations”] Thank you.

How do you use TRAK with your participants?
The main way we use TRAK is the one-pager and I find the one-pager to probably be the most impactual thing that I can use. So, we try to change the conversation away from investments and those types of things to “Can I retire?” I love to come into a group meeting and ask the first question I say, “What’s the most important thing about your retirement plan?” I get all kinds of different answers and I say, “Well, how about ‘Can I retire?’” And so I’m able to tell people “When you leave this meeting, you’ll know if you can retire.”

How do participants respond to the one page Gap report?
You know, it’s always interesting, I love to get feedback and a lot of times when you come to a 401(k) meeting you go “Oh gosh, another boring 401(k) meeting.” Right? So I tell people at the beginning of the meeting, “You know what? I promise you one thing: I’m only going to bring you things that are relevant.” So I think once they see that and they look and they go, “Wow! You mean if I just increase my contribution X amount or percent I can be on track for retirement?” So I think TRAK really helps our participants have that “a-ha” moment.

Why is TRAK different than other software programs?
I think why TRAK is different is really, I feel like it’s advisor-driven. I think there are a lot of tools and a lot of vendors will offer something. “Hey, we have this tool, go to the website and use it.” And I get that question a lot from plan sponsors. They’ll say, “My vendor has this, my record keeper has that.” And we know statistically that only 10% of people actually go and use the website. With us as the advisor being proactive, we’re bringing it to participants every year. It’s interesting, we’ve seen multiple years now that we’ve used the TRAK tool that we’ll have some participants show up and they’ll bring their statement from last year and they go, “Here’s where I was last year. Here’s where I am this year.” And they can actually see that they’re moving the needle. [Edward Dressel: “That must be encouraging to see that.”] I think it’s pretty neat and to see those people who, they look forward to us coming back, they look forward to being closer to retirement. I think it’s pretty awesome.

Tell me about a TRAK experience.
I have tons of stories. One of my favorites stories is, I went through a group meeting and I talked about TRAK and I handed the report to this younger lady, she was probably in her mid-30s and I said, “You have done a fabulous job, you are on track to retire at 67.” It’s funny because she looked at me and she goes, “Sixty-seven? I don’t want to retire at 67.” She said, “I want to retire at 55.” And I thought, “Wow, 55, OK, let’s sit down.” So we sat down, I went into the TRAK software, I plugged in all her information and I tried to get her as close as I could to 55. The closest I could get her was 58, it was reasonable. But at the same time 58 versus 67, it’s a huge difference. You know, the interesting thing was, she was putting in 10%, she was contributing 10% and she increased her contribution by 2% more so that she could be able to retire at 58. So it was pretty awesome.

Do you have a participant group success story?
Absolutely. You know, we use the one page report and then we also use the plan level report. One of the things that’s exciting to me about TRAK is, I was in a competitive situation where we were competing against multiple advisors. And so I came in and I showed them a plan level sample report and I said, “Our goal is to come in and show you where you are now and then come back in twelve months and show you how much better the plan is.” I said, “I’m the only advisor here that has been able to show you beyond a shadow of a doubt that your participants are better off having hired me than the other advisors.” [Edward Dressel: “And that won you the plan?] And that won us the plan. Absolutely, it was pretty exciting.

How does TRAK compare with other software options?
One of the things I like better about TRAK, a lot of times, and we use other tools too, the thing I like best about TRAK is it’s a simple one page report. We’ve got other tools that are so complex and I think sometimes it confuses people. Where TRAK is just a one page, simple report that I can put in people’s hands. I don’t have a lot of time when I’m meeting with participants. I have to be conscious of their time being at work and the cost of taking people out of production. But if I can give them something simple, one page and they can look at it, that’s where we find a lot more value in TRAK than some of the other tools.

What would you tell other advisors about TRAK?
I guess if I was going to explain TRAK to another advisor I’d say the way that it’s helped us discover outside assets. Discover outside assets that we can use to help participants get on track. And also bring other outside assets into our firm. I think that’s huge.

Have you ever contacted Trust Builders’ support?
A lot. You know, there was a time that I bet I called you guys at least once or twice a week. I had a challenge one time and so I called multiple times because I had a plan that had an ESOP plan. And so trying to figure out how to calculate the growth of the ESOP and you guys actually walked me through some ideas and suggestions to be able to put that on the one page report. That was actually Sean who’s not with you guys anymore. We talked a lot. Now since Jenna at our office, my assistant, handles a lot of that stuff, she calls a lot. She’s on a first name basis with some of the ladies at Trust Builders.