Saving for retirement is critical, but often it’s left out of the conversation surrounding employee benefits. It’s even more important these days as more employers shift to defined contribution plans, says Dean Clune, area executive vice president at Arthur J. Gallagher & Co.’s Chicago office.

While Clune is focused on retirement, he often speaks with other Gallagher consultants who are handling a different aspect of a client’s benefits. “We work together to plan out our strategy,” he says. A joint approach to benefits builds a stronger relationship with clients, Clune says, and increases efficiency. “You’re looking at it more holistically,” he says.

Knowing all sides of a client’s benefits helps Clune make better recommendations about retirement. Having multiple specialists working with the same employer helps Gallagher retain more clients, he says. “We have more people working with them to keep a relationship,” Clune says.

Mark Skinner, president and CEO of U.S. Retirement Partners, also sees the advantage of offering both health benefits and retirement. USRP, a benefit and retirement firm, has more than 25 partner firms to help achieve its goal of being a single-source benefits solution mainly for public schools in the K-12 market.

One of those companies is United Specialty Benefits. In 2010, USRP purchased it from Gene Tyler, now a managing partner. Tyler says both sides of the business help one another. When he speaks with a prospective client, Tyler says in addition to discussing health benefits, he can also talk about the financial literacy program USRP has. “Their eyes light up,” he says. “It works very much hand in hand,” he adds. “It’s extremely unique.”

Quarterly meetings

Clune says he meets with other managing partners at least every quarter to review all sides of a client’s plan. This helps ensure a client’s total benefits package fits with the company’s culture, he says.

Using a workforce evaluation tool, Clune says he’s able to break down a client’s employee population into several categories – such as tenure, age, compensation, job title. He then looks at data related to an employer’s benefits plan. Data mining allows Clune and his associates to provide their clients accurate information and make the best recommendations. “Without data, it’s just an opinion,” says Rober Sloan, a Gallagher area vice president based in Chicago.

Data is a critical part of the conversation, Clune says, because a CFO always asks about the numbers. Recommendations are made based on data specific to each company, he says, adding that a one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t work for employee benefits.

Traditionally, most group advisers focus solely on employee benefits and leave retirement to someone else. They’re missing quite an opportunity, says Jack Kwicien, managing partner at Baltimore-based Daymark Advisors, LLC. Kwicien, who introduced Skinner and Tyler to one another, says advisers should be thinking about cross-selling retirement plans. “Those that execute it have been enormously successful,” he says.

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