The Canadian Source Of Employee Pension Fund Investment And Benefits Plan Management

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Foundation For Industry Built in 1945

By: Jerry Loterman & Zahid Salman

In some circles, William M. Mercer is considered the father of the consulting industry in Canada.

In 1945, with $25 of capital and a $1,000 loan, Mercer, from his moveable office – his Austin Seven convertible – founded his pension consulting business in Vancouver, B.C.

At age 26, he believed that employee benefit plans should be individually designed to fit each client’s needs. He obviously identified a need as his business grew with an office opening in Montreal in 1946 and in Toronto in 1947.

This year, Mercer, who died in 1961 at age 43, was inducted into the Canadian Business Hall of Fame for his contribution to business in Canada.

His belief that employee benefits should be designed to satisfy the needs of each client is a foundation of the benefits and pension industry in Canada.

And while the task facing consultants remains the same, each year it gets more complex and harder to satisfy.

They are asked by their plan sponsor clients to help them find solutions to meet the increasing demands of employees – past, present, and future – thereby enabling them to retain the employees they have and compete for the best people in the labour marketplace.

Against this, they must overcome obstacles such as increasing costs, especially in the benefits field where prescription drug costs are having a dramatic impact, or face the challenge of pension plan design and pension fund deficits. Technology gets more complex and expensive, yet clients are demanding more technology which is easier to use.

Add in increased government legislation, rules, and regulations, plus the challenges of an aging workforce and it can be a daunting task for consultants to find these solutions and for sponsors to find consultants to help them satisfy their needs.

This year, Benefits and Pensions Monitor has changed the format of its Annual Report on Consultants to make it more useful, but easier to use.

To start, in previous years, we published two consultant reports – companies which offered benefits, healthcare, and third-party administrative services each April and investment and software service firms each August.

In the pages that follow, you’ll find a combined Directory of Consultants who do business in Canada providing pensions and benefits, investment, healthcare, recordkeeping and third-party administration, and software and technology services.

The Directory, which starts on Page 69, lists the key contact at each consulting firm. The new innovation this year is a Listing Of Consultant Services, see Page 60, which identifies each firm’s services at a glance. This enables plan sponsors who are looking, for example, for consultants to help them set up employee assistance programs to quickly identify those firms.

Our Annual Report starts with articles from Patrick Longhurst and Gerry Winters, of Watson Wyatt, and Robert J. Crowder, of Nelson B. Crowder & Associates Inc.

Following is a brief description of what each area of consulting provides:

Group Benefit Consulting Services

Group Benefit Consultants offer products and services to ensure a company’s objectives for its benefits and/or pension plans are being met and that the company’s arrangements are competitive in the market. Services include plan design reviews, analysis of financial arrangements, provider/carrier comparisons, management services, employee communication services, and governance and/or compliance assistance.

Investment Consulting Services

Investment Consultants or Advisers offer products and services to maximize returns on employers’ pension plan (or benefit plan) funds. Tools used would include advice on carriers, performance measurement, portfolio modelling, policy development, fund management, information/assistance on fiduciary responsibilities, and updates on regulation and compliance.

Healthcare Consultant Services

Healthcare Consultants, often boutiqueoriented, offer products and services to enhance and maintain the health of employees or the healthcare services department of a company. Focuses include disability and absence management, facilities operations and management, fitness and health programs, promotional programs, and advocacy.

Recordkeeping and Third-party Administration Services

Recordkeepers and Third-party Administrators (TPAs) provide the day-to-day administration of benefit and/or pension plans. Services offered may include eligibility verification, claims adjudication and payment, billing, and forwarding of premiums to insurance carriers.

Software and Technology Consulting Services

Software and Technology Consultants offer services and products to enhance the technological infrastructure of an organization. Aconsultant will visit the client, assess the current workflow, and recommend how that workflow could be improved. Once a system is decided upon, the consultant can integrate and/or implement the new system.

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