Spotlight on St. Louis....Harry James, Sr. VP, Producer
Harry James, St. Louis Producer, and his team provide consulting services to 401(k), pension and other types of retirement plans. He believes a concentrated customer focus is what sets his Lockton Retirement Services team apart from others in the retirement industry.
Lockton Retirement Services St. Louis offers a unique approach that is tailored to each client. The St. Louis staff has extensive industry knowledge in its office, with most associates holding 15+ years in the trade. Working in a variety of industries and with different-sized companies gives his team practical knowledge and the ability to consult clients on what trends in automatic enrollment, employer contribution levels and what types of funds to include compared to a variety of similar-sized clients or other companies. He says this adds a lot of value to his discussions.
To James, success in this business means making plans as efficient and effective as possible, and driving successful outcomes for participants. He cautions employers, “What you don’t know can -- and probably will -- hurt you,” he says. “We’re here to prevent that from happening.”
Q: How do you help clients meet their goals?
A: I think we are really focused on a handful of factors. First, we are keeping them out of trouble. By this, I mean we are making sure they are doing the things necessary to stay compliant from a regulatory standpoint. More and more lawsuits are arising from 401(k) plans, and we want to help our clients avoid these issues.
Second, we are here to increase outcomes for their employees. We want to make a plan that is designed to the best possible extent to allow participants to retire comfortably and at an appropriate age.
Most plan sponsors realize this is not a do-it-yourself task. They need professional assistance in a manner similar to the way they rely on their accountant or attorney.
Q: What changes do you anticipate in participant attitudes in 2012?
A: I think they are more perceptive to automatic features. The more I’m in this business, the more I learn it’s not as much about educating our participants, but taking action for them. The vast majority don’t want to make their own investment decisions. Some may not be able to afford to invest properly for their retirement; however, you can’t let perfect be the enemy of the good. We may have to focus on the larger part of the population and understand there are some we may not be able to help.
Q: How does the Lockton culture affect how you handle clients?
A: The “We Live Service” model certainly applies. We are accessible to clients, and therefore, their needs. We don’t bill by the hour so we are willing to commit whatever amount of time it takes to get problem solved.
Q: What are the biggest challenges facing employees today?
A: Budget issues are one of the biggest concerns for employers. We all talk about “Retirement Readiness” and about how much better off participants were 25 years ago. What many people don’t realize is employers used to sponsor traditional pension plans and were spending a significantly higher percentage of payroll on these plans than they do for their 401(k) match. Companies that may have been contributing 10 percent of compensation to their defined benefit (DB) plan, are now are only contributing 3 percent (or even less). This has shifted the burden of funding a successful retirement from the employer’s shoulders to the employees’.