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Hall retirement plans may merge to cut costs

POSTED: July 22, 2014 1:09 a.m.

Hoping to cut costs and streamline services, the Hall County Board of Commissioners is prepared to select a new company to manage employee retirement plans when it meets Thursday.

Human Resources Director Bill Moats has recommended that Northwest Plan Services, based out of Washington state, replace GebCorp and Nationwide for management services related to 401a and 457 retirement plan accounts.

Moats said having two vendors is confusing for employees, increases overlap and redundancy, and makes management of accounts more difficult.

Moving to a single vendor, he added, helps reduce fees, improve education, employee participation, compliance and customer service.

Proposals from seven companies were scored and rated by a 15-person committee, which included employees from several county departments.

“I was kind of surprised at the direction they went,” Commissioner Craig Lutz said. “It’s not the direction I would have gone.”

Lutz added that his experience with larger firms, such as Fidelity, influenced his opinion.

Commissioner Scott Gibbs, one of two elected officials on the committee, said he thought the process for selecting a new vendor had worked well.

“I’m really excited because I think, for the first time, employees have had a voice,” he added.

Moats said bringing Northwest on board could cut costs for account management services from about $350,000 annually to less than $200,000.

“The rate that we are negotiating will be much lower than what we are paying currently,” Moats added.

Northwest was not the low bidder, but officials said that was not the only consideration.

“Cost is one factor we were looking at ... but there are other components to it,” Moats said, adding that record keeping, customer service and employee education were critical, as well. “It’s not just a fee-based decision.”

Northwest is expected to take over the retirement plans by Jan. 1, 2015.

The change in vendor impacts about 1,300 full-time county workers.

Northwest will be responsible for managing about $67 million in retirement plan assets.

“This is just the first step in this process ...,” Moats said. “The next step is to review plan design, which is how the plan operates.”

Changes to the retirement plan design could include the types of investment funds used and whether new employees should be automatically enrolled, among other things.

The Hall County Board of Commissioners meets at 6 p.m. Thursday at the government center, 2875 Browns Bridge Road in Gainesville.


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