Super Wonder Tpa

Have you ever wanted to be a superhero? I have. When I was little, I wanted to be Wonder Woman. What girl wouldn’t want to have legs a mile long and not only get to wear American Flag colored armor that looks like a swimsuit but look amazing in it? She had a magic lasso that could not only bind her enemies but also forced them to tell the truth. She had amazing bulletproof bracelets that could deflect any projectiles. She also had a magic sword and her tiara also could be used as a weapon as well. She had godlike super strength, speed, agility, reflexes, and stamina. She was excellent at hand-to-hand combat, and was skilled at using most weapons. She was a master war strategist and mediator. If she happened to get injured, her regenerative powers would heal her wounds. She also had an invisible jet that she could fly anywhere. Finally, she fought all of her enemies while wearing a fantastic pair of red knee-high high-heeled boots. In fact, while I don’t have legs a mile long at the very tall height of 5’1”, and I don’t have armor decorated like the American flag, I do own a pair of boots that look very similar to hers, and I feel invincible when I wear them.

As third-party administrators (TPAs), I think that many of us get worn down by the pace at which we are expected to get our tasks completed, as well as the ever-growing rules and regulations that we must stay on top of. The amount of work we have to do for our clients to remain compliant can seem daunting, and it can seem that the services we provide are not appreciated as much as they should be for the value that webring to our clients, their participants, and their financial advisors. A few years ago, a friend of mine and marketing genius was giving a presentation that she had created for Transamerica’s TPA roundtable meeting. The presentation was a workshop that helped us determine what our superpowers are. This presentation is where I learned that my dreams of being a superhero had come true. TPAs are modern day superheroes. By now, you are probably thinking that I am delusional. I assure you that I am not. I will prove it to you. And, by the time you are done reading, you will be convinced that you, too, are a superhero, and, hopefully, you will be in love with your career choice again, realize how important you and your services are, and be ready to communicate your superpowers to people who should be utilizing your services. And, you will no longer feel tired, frustrated, and undervalued.

Super Strength

Our first superpower is Super Strength. You have to have Super Strength to perform all of the services that a plan sponsor and its participants need for the retirement plan to stay compliant and for the participants to be successful in saving enough to have a comfortable retirement. Any TPA firm owner you talk to will tell you stories of the endless hours we all work to make sure that our clients are taken care of. We also spend countless hours reading and studying so that we are up to date on all of the rules and regulations that govern the plans. We spend hours educating new financial advisors so that they can help us close the coverage gap by convincing more employers to start plans for their participants, as well as helping them learn how to be a good retirement plan financial advisor so that the participants are successful in saving for their retirement, thus closing the savings gap. Many of us who own our own firms spend numerous hours working on our companies, training our teams, bringing new team members into our industry, researching innovative tools to help us improve our services, researching innovative plan designs to improve the outcomes for our clients, running illustrations for potential clients so that we can find the best plan design for them, going to sales meetings with our financial advisor partners to help them better explain the complexities of our industry, and when the sale is finalized, we fill out the recordkeeper forms, design the plan, write the document, and attend conversion calls.

Many of us also volunteer in our community. We also volunteer in our industry. We write articles, create educational webinars or seminars, and speak at events when invited. Finally, many of us also have families to take care of and spend time with, and we might get to sneak in a little bit of selfcare. You have to have Super Strength do all of this heavy lifting for our clients, their participants, our financial advisor partners, our partners and employees, and our families, and we do it all with a smile.

X-Ray Vision

The second superpower a TPA has is X-Ray Vision. We are able to look through what is on the surface of a plan deep down into the information such as the employee census data, the goals of the client, the structure of the plan sponsor’s company, and its needs. By doing this, we are able to design the best plan for each of our clients. Our clients’ plans do not have to fit into a box. We design plans that meet the goals of the plan sponsors, which, in turn, makes them far more supportive of the plan. We can address complicated controlled and affiliated service group situations that arise by being able to see through the surface down into the depths of the situation.

Power of Regeneration

TPAs have the power of Healing or Regeneration. We all know that every plan will eventually encounter a problem (which was more than likely caused by a mistake, oversight, or misunderstanding of the law or guidance). The rules that govern these plans are complex and even the most experienced HR manager, plan sponsor, financial advisor, or even TPA can and will eventually make an error. TPAs have the power to assist our clients in correcting those errors and healing the plan in the most efficient, cost-effective manner.


Precognition is the power to know the future. TPAs spend a large amount of time studying rules and regulations, both those that currently exist and, perhaps more importantly, those that are proposed. This gives us the ability to look into the future and have a very good idea of what it might hold for our clients, potential clients, financial advisor partners, and recordkeeping partners in relation to retirement plans. Many of us are also involved in advocacy as it relates to getting new laws and regulations passed that will improve our industry and help to close the coverage gap.

Force Field

TPAs offer their clients the protection of a Force Field. We create a Force Field around their 401(k)plans to protect them, the plan sponsors, and their participants from qualification failures. By doing so, we protect the tax benefits for the participants and the employer sponsoring the plan. We offer them an independent level of protection by making sure they understand and follow the very complicated rules governing our industry. Through our partnerships with recordkeepers and our investment in cybersecurity and technology, we also use our Force Field to protect sensitive employee information from people who would steal it and use it for their own gain. Agility Shape Shifting and Agility are two of the very important powers that TPAs have. The retirement plan industry is constantly changing, as are the needs of our clients. First, we have to be agile enough to modify our procedures, the services we provide, and how we provide them as the rules and technology changes. We also have to be able to shift our shape as needed. What I mean by this is that we determine the needs of our clients and then we are able to reshape the services we offer to each of them based on their needs. For instance, one client may need only a plan document. Another client may need me to fix their plan. I have a client for whom we do only combined non-discrimination testing for their controlled group. I have done strictly consulting engagements for clients who are not going to engage us permanently but wanted another set of eyes to review their particular situations. By being agile and able to shift the shape of the services I am providing to my clients, I am able to meet their individual needs.


TPAs have the power of Invincibility. I have worked in this industry for more than 30 years. Every few years, there is a new law that is going to be passed that will “put the TPAs out of business. ”However, every time the law either passes or fails and goes away, TPAs continue to stay in business, offering the same amazing service that they always have. There always will be challenges in our industry and battles we must fight, but in the end, there always will be a need for TPAs, and we will use all of our other superpowers to continue serving our industry and ultimately improving the lives of millions of Americans as we do.

Go be the superhero you know you are, and make sure everyone knows the superpowers you have.

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