ASK THE EXPERTS – How TRA Met the COVID Challenge

 Interview Conducted by Roberta Hess of Princeton Marketing

Matt Schoneman Brink Wall
President/Owner Matt Schoneman

When the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic hit the U.S. in March 2020, The Retirement Advantage, Inc. (TRA) didn’t miss a beat. In an exclusive interview, TRA President and Owner Matt Schoneman shared his perspective on TRA’s response.

As the COVID crisis unfolded, TRA quickly — and successfully — moved to a fully remote work environment. How did TRA accomplish this?

Long before the pandemic, we were operating in a hybrid work environment, with 60% of our teams already working remotely.

So, thanks to the foresight of our Director of IT and Security Mark Ruhland and his team, we already had the remote access, phone system, and software we needed, vetted and in place. In other words, we had the infrastructure we needed to move to 100% remote, quickly.

How long did it take for TRA to get to 100% remote?

No more than ten days after I and the leadership team made the decision.

Are there any particular “wins” from the IT side that you can share with us?

Definitely. First, kudos to Mark and his team who made it easy for everyone to get the equipment they needed delivered to their homes — and set up so they could use it!

Second, we were extremely fortunate to have a strong, established partnership in place with the IP phone system RingCentral. An article on our website details how RingCentral was key to our success. Perhaps the biggest factor was RingCentral’s great mobile app, which allows people to forward their work calls to their mobile phones, with no additional costs.

But it took more than a great IT team and phone system to make sure that TRA didn’t “skip a beat,” right?

Of course. It wouldn’t have been possible without the commitment and collaboration of the entire TRA team to make sure that we continued to provide the best advice and service to our clients and partners, in a timely way.

It would have been enough if we had kept up with “business as usual.” But the TRA team was able to do more than that.

In what way? And how?

We knew that employers and advisors needed a one-stop resource for the latest — and fast-changing — regulatory developments. We had seen how successful this model can be with the resources we put together for the SECURE Act. Michelle Zentner, our Vice President of Operations, provided the guidance to build on this success with our Covid-19 Resource Page.

We included all the information we knew would be important to our partners and clients — everything from FAQs to business resources, to key deadlines. Basically, everything and anything that would give employers and advisors a good idea of how the CARES Act would impact retirement plans, their sponsors, and their participants.

Putting all this information together — not to mention making sure that our service teams, clients, and partners all had it at their fingertips — was accomplished by our Marketing and Communications Director, Bill Sunagel.

Looking back, what do you think enabled TRA to weather the pandemic crisis so well?

It’s the same thing that has made us a success over the past 25 years: teamwork. The TRA team proved that it could meet the challenges that the pandemic posed. We continued to give our clients and partners outstanding service and communication, without interruption. And we led the market with important and timely information.

I’m very proud of our team and what they accomplished!

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