Since its inception, WTIA has leveraged the collective bargaining power of our members to deliver high-value programs, services, and partnerships to the broader ecosystem. The in-house benefit and workforce solutions we’ve created for our members, such as the Association Health Program (“AHP”) and nationally registered apprentice program Apprenti, have shared a handful of core characteristics: they’ve offered unique, in-house solutions specifically designed for technology companies, addressed workforce voids in the marketplace, improved customer service and support options for employers, and reduced or eliminated employer fiduciary responsibility, set-up time, and administration of employee benefits. In recent years we’ve used these core characteristics to guide us in creating something new for our members: a 401(k) Tech MEP (multiple employer plan).
In 2010, WTIA first started to receive feedback from its members around their retirement program challenges. After six years of survey data, the feedback was clear: members either weren’t able to start a program on their own as national 401(k) providers are hesitant to bring on a new plan with zero assets, or were unsatisfied with their retirement programs and wanted more options. Specifically, they called for the following:
- A simple plan designed allowing for unique plan selections and quicker implementation
- More service and expertise than what was available in an online and PEO solution
- Access to a high-performing fund lineup with multiple options
- A dedicated HR resource to help them navigate the delivery of the 401(k) benefit to their employees
- Cost relief from administration, advisor, audits, and fidelity bonds
- A scalable solution (Some members started with a PEO or online solution and outgrew it only to be faced with significant costs associated with changing to a stand-alone plan with a registered investment advisor.)
We began using the proven formula we had established in our other programs to address these needs, and leveraged the learnings from our WTIA AHP to create a similar value in the retirement space. In 2016, the Tech MEP 401(k) was formed, allowing us to serve many employer groups of all sizes throughout their life cycles.
For Mark Peck, HR Manager at Emergency Reporting, choosing to join the MEP made financial sense for his company.
“We researched quite a few of them. It came down to cost and the fact that we already had a relationship with WTIA and knew they were a good, reliable company,” he said. “Because they could do it as a conglomerate, instead of 2 million in assets now it’s like we have 300 million…it was an easy decision.”
This was Peck’s first time going through a 401(k) changeover, and he reported that it was an easy process.
“On a scale from 1 to 10, and 10 means I don’t have to do anything at all, I’d give it an 8. They were great about communicating with us and walking us through what needed to happen,” he said. “The interface is also easy to use. It’s easy to figure out, make changes, and update the amount you want to contribute.”
Rober te Winkel, WTIA’s CFO who is also a program member, also found onboarding to be a relatively simple process.
“It was simple and easy to understand, and I was talking to a human being right next to me based in Seattle,” he said.
He also believes the reduced workload to be a major benefit of joining the program.
“It takes administrative work from the employer and the employee side,” he said. “Our 5500 tax return gets done by the MEP and the audit is handled by the MEP…even the fiduciary responsibilities you have to have in place when you’re running your own plan go away because the MEP does it for you.”
Member company AllStar Directories joined the Tech MEP in 2017. Michelle Ferris, the company’s director of finance, says it took a massive weight off her shoulders.
“The MEP has saved me time because I don’t do a quarterly review with a fiduciary any longer…and I don’t have to have people fill out 401(k) paperwork and hand it back,” she sid. “It’s auto-enroll. I also don’t have to do any of the administrative stuff in terms of managing an audit.”
“We just make sure we make our contributions on time, pay our invoices, and forget about it,” she added.
In addition to subtracting fees and responsibilities, the MEP creates something: a network.
“I don’t feel like I’m on my own. There are 24 other companies I could get in touch with to ask how they’re handling the process,” te Winkel said. “The MEP makes you part of a group you can ask questions to and network with. It feels like a co-op of people working together.”