Table of Contents

Program Outline

Richard Phillips Updated by Richard Phillips

An ERISA Client Relationship Manager is a liaison between the client and service providers; tasked with achieving successful outcomes for the client. To do this, they must be able to comprehend the client’s needs, goals and objectives, understand the implications for all courses of action, apply internal processes and procedures, and effectively engage with the client. 

1. Communication / Building Relationships

Effective communication and client engagement is essential to building a long-term relationship with the client. There are no short-cuts, and can be time consuming. 

  1. Building Client Relationships
    1. Direct client relationships
    2. Partners
      1. Payroll providers
      2. CPAs
      3. Financial Advisors
  2. Fundamentals of Client Communicatiion
    1. Identify the Issue(s) - Recap/summary of the problem
    2. Analysis - Briefly describe the analysis, review, research, findings, etc. 
    3. Recommended Action - Explain your recommendations and rationale. 
    4. Participant Communication - Focus on the positive elements, actions that benefit them
  3. Effectively Engaging Clients - Meaningful conversations builds trust and loyalty with clients. 
    1. Know as much about the client as possible!
    2. Actively engage the client - Know what they want!
      1. Be attentive
      2. Ask open-ended questions
      3. Ask probing questions
      4. Request clarification
      5. Paraphrase
      6. Be attuned to and reflect feelings
      7. Summarize
    3. Simplify! Less is more. 
    4. Use positive language
    5. End every interaction with an invitation
  4. Identify the value prop

2. Client Assessment

The overarching objective is to ensure that everyone in an organization has the opportunity to properly save for retirement. How we achieve that depends on what’s important to the client, and their primary motivation for having a plan. It has been our experience that employers offer a plan for the three following reasons. 

  • Successful retirement outcomes for all employees
  • Recruit and retain key employees
  • Tax deduction / Executive compensation for C-suite

In order of importance to you, how would you rank them?


  1. Identify motivators (i.e. what’s important to them)
  2. Categorize employees by groups
    1. C-suite executives
    2. Key employees (not the IRS definition)
    3. All other employees not in (a) or (b)
  3. Identify tolerance/threshold/range of employer contributions for each group

3. Technical / Applying ERISA Procedures & Processes

Technical proficiency is a must. You must have a deep understanding of the regulations and how to apply them to achieve the client’s goals. 

Order of Testing

  1. IRC 414(s) - Compensation Test
  2. IRC 410(b) - Coverage Test
  3. IRC 401(a)(4) - Non-discrimination Tests:
    1. ADP - Employee Contributions
    2. ACP - Employer Match Contributions
    3. IRC 401(a)(4) - Employer Non-Elective Contributions
    4. Benefits Rights & Features
  4. IRC 402(g) - Employee Contribution
  5. Plan Limits - typically not used in our plans, but could be to limit the deferrals for example by HCE, etc.
  6. IRC 415 (c) Contribution Limits
    1. IRC 415(c) - IRS limit on contributions ($ amount and % of plan covered compensation)
    2. Annual Additions Test - total contributions posted to a participant’s account, including catchup
  7. Top-Heavy Test - IRC 416

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