ASK THE EXPERTS – TRA @ 25:  Strategies for Success

The Retirement Advantage, Inc. (TRA) celebrates its twenty-fifth anniversary in 2021. In an exclusive interview, TRA President Matt Schoneman shared how TRA has grown from a Midwest company to the nationwide retirement industry leader it is today — and how the company plans to keep on growing strong.

When did you join The Retirement Advantage, Inc. (TRA) … and why?

I’ve been with TRA almost from it’s beginning — 2021 marks my twenty-third year with the company.

TRA started small: A spin-off of an independent insurance agency, which had outsourced its third-party administrator (TPA) business to a CPA. I had been with Principal Financial Group on the servicing side of their pension business, but was looking for an opportunity that had great long-term growth potential.

TRA was that opportunity. The company was ready to build out its TPA business from scratch and I was ready for a role that offered a lot of autonomy and opportunity for success.

Looking back over the last 25 years, what accomplishments at TRA are you most proud of?

It’s still hard for me to believe that it’s been 25 years — and, for me, 23 years with TRA. There’s a lot that I’m proud of that our team has accomplished during our first quarter century.

First is our ability to continue to grow consistently each year through a combination of acquisitions and organic growth. We started as a one-person shop with 75 clients and now we have over 250 employees serving 11,000 clients nationwide.

Speaking of challenges: What are the biggest challenges or developments you see shaping the retirement industry over the next 25 years?

In addition to fee compression and regulatory changes  — and both we know are going to continue — there’s consolidation. Which means more acquisitions among recordkeepers and expanding private equity interest, as well. The roster of industry players will look very different in the years ahead.

Technology and software will provide us with new ways to engage with clients and plan participants, in addition to helping us manage costs. But no matter how great the promise of artificial intelligence, machine learning, or robotics, at TRA we’re always going to be a consultative business with a personalized service model. We know that people will always need people to talk to when it comes to saving for retirement.

Finally, there’s cybersecurity. Unfortunately, the threats are here to stay and will only increase. Like many in the retirement industry, we’ve made a commitment at TRA to do all that we can to guard against current threats and be prepared for future ones.

Looking ahead, how do you and the TRA team plan to keep on growing?

We’re focused on making smart, strategic business decisions both in terms of our current lines of business and areas where we may expand.

This means we’re always asking ourselves: Is our current business model good as is, or do we need to make additional services available? That’s how we’ve successfully expanded into 3(16) administrative services, defined benefit, cash balance, and multiple employer plans. Some of these new lines of business started with acquisitions and have gone on to contribute to organic growth.

We also want to continue as the partner of choice on distribution side, providing service to our partners while we drive business to one another. How we’ve positioned ourselves as a partner helped us get to where we’re at today. I’m proud that we’re working with firms like Empower Retirement, Lincoln Financial Group, Principal, John Hancock, Transamerica and American Funds, to name just a few. Together, we’ve got over $11 billion in assets under administration in partnership arrangements — and an ongoing commitment to our mutual success.

And we’re going to continue to acquire TPAs.

Any final thoughts you’d like to share with us on TRA’s 25th anniversary?

From the start, TRA’s mission has been designing, implementing, and securely administering retirement  plans —  and to deliver exceptional service at every touchpoint for our clients and partners. That’s what team TRA is going to keep on doing!

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