Interview Conducted by Roberta Hess of Princeton Marketing
Meet the New Head of Defined Benefit Services
Frances Rivera, Plan Administration Manager, Defined Benefit Services, came on board at The Retirement Advantage, Inc. (TRA) in late 2021. In this interview, she shares the career journey that led her to TRA, her plans for Defined Benefit Services, and why successful actuaries should join her at TRA.
You’ve spent most of your career in the retirement industry, in a variety of roles. What first attracted you to the retirement industry, and what has kept you in the business?
After I received my master’s degree in Puerto Rico, where I’m from, I worked at a private accounting firm for a couple of years. Then I got the opportunity to become the Director of Systems and Procedures Office and the Retirement Advocate Office, from the Retirement System Administration for the Employees and Judiciary of the commonwealth of Puerto Rico. From that point, I became part of the retirement industry and I’ve never looked back.
For me, the retirement industry has provided so many opportunities to keep improving professionally. Whether it was working on defined benefit for Mid and Large Market at ING and Voya Financial, or working as Defined Benefit Consultant for October Three Consulting, there’s always been new challenges, new knowledge to gain. And opportunities to develop my career.
What motivated you to join TRA?
From my first interview, it was clear to me that TRA truly cares about its employees. Yes, our clients are the most important part of our business, but we know we’ve got to develop and retain a dedicated team of people with the drive and enthusiasm to take care of those clients.
Another thing that impressed me about TRA was when I was asked during my interviews: How will I develop my team members to help them get to the next level? This showed me that as a manager at TRA, I would be expected to play an active role in helping people develop their careers. That’s extremely important to me.
Finally, in all my work experience, I’ve never encountered a firm more committed to listening to its employees and respecting their opinions than TRA.
One of your responsibilities at TRA is overseeing the Cash Balance Plans business. Can you share any specific plans you have to further expand TRA’s capabilities in this fast-growing segment of the retirement industry?
I want to see more business owners taking advantage of Cash Balance Plans to build wealth faster and maximize their tax savings. Yes, a business needs predictable and consistent cash flows to qualify, but there are more profitable business owners out there that could benefit from Cash Balance Plans that aren’t yet taking advantage of the opportunity.
As a defined benefit plan, there are a lot of regulations that come with a Cash Balance Plan. That’s where TRA comes in. We’re here to make life easy for Cash Balance Plan sponsors. We keep up with the latest regulations and make sure plans stay in compliance.
Our Cash Balance Plan team members are unbeatable in terms of their knowledge and ability to listen and respond to our clients. And we’re adding to their capabilities with new team members coming on board.
Another way we’re innovating is to automate as many processes as possible to expedite the services we provide while giving our professionals more time to interact with financial advisors and clients. We also plan on adding some additional defined benefit services — so, as they say, stay tuned! A lot of good things are evolving at the same time. We’re going to get better and better.
And a special note for financial advisors: You should know that we are committed to limiting risk for your clients and coming up with plans that best meet their needs. Advisors should know that in Defined Benefits Services, we live by the motto, “We are the faithful defenders of clients’ wealth!”
At TRA, you’ll be expanding the company’s actuarial team. Can you sketch out a brief profile of an ideal actuary job candidate for TRA?
First, we’re looking for people who have the right mix of “hard” skills. People who know all aspects of defined benefit funding and accounting and know how ensure annual compliance. Three to five years of experience is about right, but even more important is the right level of knowledge about defined benefit plans, especially the annual compliance workflow.
Then there are the “soft” skills, which are also very important. We want people who are team players. People who are highly motivated and have exceptional customer service skills. People who want to innovate and constantly improve.
Why would a successful actuary want to join the TRA team?
If you’re an actuary who wants to make the most of your career, you’ll want to work at TRA. Not only will you be part of a great company, but you’ll also enjoy a great work/life balance — not to mention the flexibility to work from wherever you want to live in the US.
People thinking about joining TRA should also know that TRA is committed to developing a diverse team and making everyone feel like they are a part of a winning organization.
So, my invitation to successful actuaries is: Isn’t it time to take the “big step” and join the team of winners at TRA? You’ll love it here!
Note: You can find current open positions and how to apply here on TRA’s website.