Interview Conducted by Roberta Hess of Princeton Marketing
Building Business at TRA
In an exclusive interview, Jeff Schreiber, Vice President of Distribution at The Retirement Advantage, Inc. (TRA), shares his insights on TRA’s success in meeting the needs of partners in the retirement and wealth management industries.
Can you share some of the highlights of your career prior to joining TRA?
There’s a common theme among the positions I’ve held: building businesses for companies, both through their existing lines of business and expanding into new areas, as well. Whether I’ve been at an investment management firm, building the third-party administrator (TPA) business for a recordkeeper, or growing a defined contribution investment only (DCIO) business, what I’ve enjoyed most is consistently coming together as a team to accomplish challenging goals.
When did you decide to join TRA, and why?
I had the opportunity in the past to work with TRA President Matt Schoneman. When he was looking for someone to head up Distribution at TRA, we got together. The decision to join a leading TPA like TRA was an easy one for me.
Can you give us an overview of how Distribution is organized at TRA?
Basically, we’re organized into different components to match up to our partners’ needs.
First, we have our Regional Sales Consultants who work in geographic territories, serving financial advisors and recordkeepers. They are supported by the second component, which consists of our Internal Sales Consultants, who handle plan proposals, among other responsibilities.
Next, we have the Marketing and Communications team, which builds our brand and overall presence in the market. They create and publish all our marketing — including our website — and support the distribution team with sales enablement tools and with advisor and sponsor events.
The fourth component is the Business Development team, which ensures that we’re working with our partners as effectively as possible. Finally, Advisor Development works on expanding relationships with financial advisors.
You’ve got wide-ranging responsibilities as Vice President of Distribution at TRA. Do you have some guiding principles that help you manage it all?
First and foremost, I’m lucky to have a very good team, with a diverse balance of skills as well as industry and entrepreneurial experience. We don’t let the formal structure of an organization chart get in the way of what we’re trying to accomplish as a team, taking care of our partners and clients. Talented people gravitate to this kind of an organization.
How have the salespeople been navigating the largely virtual meeting environment during the pandemic? Do you have any success stories to share?
2020 was an odd year — and in 2021, the trend continues, as they say. No doubt that the distribution team benefited from the support they have from Marketing and IT, ensuring they have everything they need to operate. And everyone — advisors, recordkeepers, and so forth — have been in the same boat. If we didn’t know the ins and outs of WebEx before, we certainly do now!
No doubt our biggest success was the fact that we kept to our original sales goal and met it. We finished 2020 achieving record revenues for new plans written. That’s a tribute to our team’s ability to strengthen relationships with our recordkeeper and investment advisor partners. Everyone adjusted to the virtual work environment.
Do you think TRA learned important lessons during this time that will influence your distribution strategy going forward?
We all learned lessons that we’re taking into the future. People are more comfortable with virtual work technology and recognize that it’s an extremely efficient way to disseminate information as well as receive it.
Even as we’re starting to meet face-to-face again, elements of the virtual work environment are going to continue to be an important part of building relationships, especially where we’ve already established the requisite rapport and trust. This will expand our ability to connect with partners who have been historically hard to reach because of geographic location. We’ll also be better able to define the most productive balance between in-person and virtual meetings. We’re taking all of this into account in our planning for 2022 and beyond.
Acquisitions have been a big part of TRA’s growth in its first 25 years. But organic growth has also made a strong contribution to the company’s expansion. How do you plan to keep the momentum going?
Yes, acquisitions have been a big part of our growth strategy and will continue to drive TRA’s expansion. But staying in step with our partners’ strategies and providing what they need has fueled our organic growth, such as expanding our range of plan types and sizes.
One trend we’re seeing now that we expect will continue is the demand for “white label” products for wealth management and advisory firms. We work with our recordkeeper partners to ensure we are part of preferred 401(k) plan solutions that meet the advisory community’s needs.
For financial advisors who are considering partnering with TRA, what are the most important things they should know about working with your company?
First, we won’t work with a plan sponsor unless they work with a financial advisor. With ever-increasing fiduciary investment concerns, we know that we’ll be better able to do our job as a TPA when an advisor is taking care of the investment end of a retirement plan.
Second, advisors should know that we have a commitment to real and measurable results. As we say: We make your job EASY, we make you look GOOD, we help you WIN more business!
Finally, the retirement industry is constantly changing. At TRA, we’re committed to evolving along with the industry. We’re diverse enough to be there for our financial advisor partners over the long haul.
For financial advisors who aren’t yet working with TRA, what’s their best next step?