Meet an implementation partner
Suja Joseph, implementation partner, discusses her role at Lincoln, smooth retirement plan transitions and strong consultant relationships.
Q: What’s your role at Lincoln?
A: My title at Lincoln is implementation partner. I work with plan sponsors and consultants to develop and execute a project plan. We then transition the plan and its assets to Lincoln, setting up the plan for future success. A vital part is understanding client and consultant needs, including the role the consultant wants to play. During a welcome call, I introduce myself and get to know the plan sponsor. I want to know what works for them, challenges they face, why they’re changing providers and what we can do to better serve their participants. Ultimately, my goal is to lead a smooth and seamless transition for the client.
Q: How do you work with your team?
A: Something unique to Lincoln is that we get the entire service team—relationship manager, account manager, retirement consultant (RC) or enrollment team, and communication consultant (CC)—involved early in the transition process. This informs the team and makes the transition seamless from implementation to ongoing service.
Q: How do you interact with the plan sponsor and consultant?
We have weekly meetings with the plan sponsor and consultant. We ask the consultant how involved they would like to be in the project. In some instances, the consultant would like to be the primary contact to discuss concerns before we address them with the client. In other cases, the consultant just wants to be informed and leaves Lincoln and the client to resolve issues. We can accommodate both cases.
Q: How do you help drive better outcomes?
A: Transitions are an opportunity for change. Recently with one plan, we discovered the prior recordkeeper had classified it as an ERISA plan, but it was actually governmental. Changing the plan’s status reduced costs by eliminating unnecessary testing and allowed more flexibility in plan design.
Another client hadn’t changed its plan for decades. The plan sponsor selected Lincoln to transition the plan from a balance-forward environment to a daily value platform. Participants didn’t have access to accounts and couldn’t see daily balances. We held educational meetings for participants and their families, even on Saturdays. We also held group and one-on-one meetings in Spanish for participants whose first language wasn’t English. Our goal is to help clients administer their plan the best way possible.
Q: How does your work help meet plan sponsor goals?
A: Usually, the plan sponsor is transitioning for a reason, so I make sure we address specific needs. One plan’s vesting wasn’t being tracked accurately, so the match payouts weren’t correct. We created a platform that allowed the plan sponsor to monitor vesting, which reduced expenses, since corrections cost money.
Sometimes we need to help participants understand the value of a retirement plan, and that’s where the CCs and RCs come into play. If a goal is to increase participation, we put a strategy in place to help the plan sponsor succeed.
Q: How do you retain great relationships with your clients?
A: We build strong relationships with consultants. Some consultants request the same service teams again and again because of the great service they have received and the value they bring.
Q: What’s your favorite thing about your role?
A: I’ve been doing this for more than 20 years, and no two implementations are ever alike. It’s like a puzzle—it helps you keep thinking outside the box.