Q: Your company ranked fourth on CPBJ's most recent Registered Investment Advisors list and sixth on the 2012 Asset Managers list. Many other firms on the list have been around a lot longer. To what do you attribute the firm's success and rapid rise?
A: I believe we are in a unique position and our clients have come to appreciate the value we bring to them. We are independent consultants that have no tie to any financial institution, allowing us to make recommendations in our clients' best interest.
We receive no commissions from any of the investments that we recommend. As a result, I believe our clients have come to rely on us as their trusted adviser. The depth and experience our parent company brings around retirement plan design has enabled us to provide a broad range of consulting services.
You provide investment consulting services for retirement plans. What challenges do clients face in this economy?
The first challenge is that they are extremely busy dealing with their business. This can include being short-staffed due to layoffs, trying to increase marketing efforts because of increased competition, or a decline in business activity. They know the responsibility they have to their retirement plan is important, but they just don't have a lot of time for that now.
With the required fee disclosures that came out a few months ago, everyone seems to be inundated with information. Most do not know how to interpret the data they now have or what they are supposed to do with that data. We provide value to our clients by providing the right kind of detail. It's important for them to be able to quickly review reports and in minutes know exactly where they are, what changes if any need to be made and how they stack up to other plans.
How do you help educate employees on their company's investment choices?
We provide content that is important to them in a clear and concise manner. For many employees, their company-sponsored retirement plan is their only form of savings and only avenue for investment education. We provide periodic updates as to how they are doing and what changes they might consider.
It's important to recognize that different employees digest information in different ways. Employees need to have various ways to learn about their choices. It's good to offer one-on-one time with employees, printed materials to reinforce basic investment principles and online tools so they can access information when they want.
Are there different nuances when working with your varied client base?
While performance and expense are important to all investors, it's not uncommon for us to find that high-net-worth clients often like more detail and want to drill down on the performance of one particular investment. Our 401(k) clients often want to talk about employee education and current market trends, and defined-benefit clients often want to talk about overall asset mix and historical returns.
We understand these differences, and that is why we have specialists within the firm.
What is the best advice you can give for weathering these tough economic times and volatile market conditions?
For individual investors and employees, the best advice is start saving early and be broadly diversified in many segments of the market. While it might be tempting to stop saving, whether it's hard to find the extra money or you are scared because of market declines, it pays to stay the course.
You should make sure your mix of investments is appropriate for your risk tolerance and goals. While you want to periodically reassess where you are at and make changes based on new goals or the simple fact that you are getting older, you don't want to make rash decisions based on current conditions.
For retirement plan sponsors, the most important thing you can do is make sure you are offering your employees prudent investment choices. This includes a menu of easy options like risk-based or retirement date portfolios. These are important because most employees want someone else to make their decisions for them. These investment choices should be broadly diversified and carry low expenses. Investments that carry lower expenses often outperform those that have higher expenses.
Mashack-Behney, 41, lives in Lebanon with her husband, Sean, and their daughter, Dawson, who
will turn 7 this summer. She earned her bachelor’s degree in economics from Dickinson College, graduating magna cum laude, and is a CFP professional and a charted financial consultant.
Outside the investment consulting world, Mashack-Behney enjoys reading and cooking, “but most of all spending time with my family.”
Conrad Siegel Investment Advisors Inc., headquartered in Susquehanna Township, is part of Conrad Siegel Actuaries. It was founded in 2002 and has grown from $21 million in assets under management in 2002 to more than $725 million today.