News

Ascensus Appoints Two New Regional Vice Presidents

Elice Lee and Linsi Wolfe Join Retirement Plan Sales Team to Support Financial Advisors and Their Clients

Ascensus—whose technology and expertise help millions of people save for retirement, education, and healthcare—is pleased to announce the appointments of Elice Lee and Linsi Wolfe as regional vice presidents on the firm’s retirement plan sales team.

Lee and Wolfe are tasked with building and maintaining Ascensus’ retirement plan distribution networks by working with financial advisors, third-party administrators, and financial institutions—including institutional and DCIO (defined contribution investment only) partners. Both will report to Lori Zeman, retirement sales divisional vice president of the western region.

Lee will serve the North territory, covering Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wisconsin. She brings nearly 20 years of financial industry experience to her role, and most recently worked as a regional sales consultant for the North territory at Ascensus. She has also held retirement sales positions at CUNA Mutual Retirement Solutions and Genworth Financial Wealth Management.

Lee earned her Bachelor of Business Administration degree in Marketing from DePaul University. She also holds FINRA Series 6, 63, 66, and 7 designations along with life and health insurance licenses.

Wolfe will continue to build upon her eight years of financial industry experience by representing Ascensus in the Pacific Northwest region, covering Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Washington, and Reno, Nevada. She previously held multiple positions at Fisher Investments, most recently serving as vice president of institutional business development in support of their managed account offering.

Wolfe earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Human Resources Management from University of Phoenix and her Associate of Arts degree in Human Resources Management and Services from Clark College.

“We’re extremely pleased to continue to provide advisors and their clients with high-quality support and expertise by welcoming Elice and Linsi to the Ascensus team,” said Jason Crane, Ascensus’ head of retirement distribution. “Both bring exceptional relationship building and business development skills, along with an unparalleled commitment to serving our partners, that will allow them to excel in their new roles.”

About Ascensus
Ascensus helps millions of people save for what matters—retirement, education, and healthcare. Through co-branded, private-labeled, and other governmental partnerships, our technology, market insights, and business knowledge enhance the growth and success of our partners, their clients, and savers. Ascensus is the largest independent recordkeeping services provider, third-party administrator, and government savings facilitator in the United States. For more information, visit ascensus.com.

Get the latest trends and insights based on our proprietary data from more than 114,400 retirement plans, 6.2 million 529 accounts, 417,000 health savings accounts, and 23 ABLE plans.* Inside America’s Savings Plans highlights average savings levels across these tax-advantaged accounts and showcases plan features that drive participation and growth. The State of Savings report outlines how plan contribution and withdrawal behaviors have shifted over the course of 2020 and since the passage of the CARES Act.

*As of September 30, 2020.


IRS Clarifies Extended Due Date for Single-Employer DB Plan Contributions

The IRS clarified today in IRS Notice 2020-82 that contributions to single-employer defined benefit plans due January 1, 2021, under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act are considered timely if they are made no later than Monday, January 4, 2021.

The CARES Act delayed both the annual and quarterly minimum funding contributions for single-employer defined benefit plans to January 1, 2021. While plan sponsors appreciated this delay, this raised a concern, as January 1, 2021, is a federal holiday falling on a Friday. While tax deadlines falling on a federal holiday generally are considered performed timely if they are performed on the next day that isn’t a Saturday, Sunday, or legal holiday, it was unclear if this extension to January 1, 2021, would be considered performed timely if completed on January 4, 2021.

 


Pooled Plan Provider Registration Regulations Published

The final regulations from the Department of Labor (DOL) outlining registration requirements for pooled plan providers of pooled employer plans were published today in the Federal Register. These regulations are effective upon this publication.

The DOL received many comment letters identifying concerns with the timing of registration relative to being able to offer these arrangements, as well as questions regarding specific data required in the filings. Of primary interest are the following changes from the proposed rule released by the DOL in August.

  • The meaning of “beginning operations as a pooled plan provider” was modified to mean “when the first participating employer executes or adopts a participation, subscription, or similar agreement for the plan specifying that it is a pooled employer plan or, if earlier, when the trustee of the plan first holds any asset in trust.” Previously, this definition was linked to marketing and other activities.
  • A special provision was added that allows initial registration to be filed any time before February 1, 2021, provided it is filed on or before the initiation of operations. This effectively waives the otherwise applicable 30-day waiting period to begin operations after registration for plans intending to operate before this date.
  • Several clarifications to the data required in the initial and supplemental filings was provided.

DOL Final ESG Guidance Published

Today’s Federal Register includes the DOL’s final rule prescribing fiduciary obligations when selecting plan investments—guidance initially focused on restricting the use of environmental, social, and governance (ESG) investments. The final rule codifies several requirements for fiduciaries to consider regarding the promotion of non-financial objectives when selecting plan investments.

  • The final rule confirms that ERISA fiduciaries must evaluate investments based solely on pecuniary factors—financial considerations that have a material effect on the risk and/or return of an investment based on appropriate investment horizons consistent with the plan’s investment objectives and funding policy.
  • The final rule includes an express regulatory provision stating that compliance with the exclusive purpose (loyalty) duty in ERISA Section 404(a)(1)(A) prohibits fiduciaries from subordinating the interests of participants to unrelated objectives, and bars them from sacrificing investment return or taking on additional investment risk to promote non-pecuniary goals.
  • The final rule also includes a provision that requires fiduciaries to consider reasonably available alternatives to meet their prudence and loyalty duties under ERISA.
  • The final rule added new regulatory text that sets forth required investment analysis and documentation requirements for those circumstances in which plan fiduciaries use non-pecuniary factors when choosing between investments that the fiduciary is unable to distinguish on the basis of pecuniary factors alone.
  • The final rule indicates that the prudence and loyalty standards set forth in ERISA apply to a fiduciary’s selection of designated investment alternatives to be offered to plan participants and beneficiaries in a participant-directed individual account plan. A fiduciary is not prohibited from considering an investment fund or product merely because it seeks or supports one or more non-pecuniary goals, provided that the fiduciary satisfies the prudence and loyalty provisions in ERISA and the final rule. However, the provision prohibits adding such a fund as a qualified default investment alternative if the fund or product includes non-pecuniary factors.

The rule is effective 60 days after publication in today’s Federal Register: January 12, 2021.

 


DOL Issues Final Pooled Plan Provider Registration Regulations

The Department of Labor (DOL) Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA) has issued a news release and pre-publication version of final regulations on registration requirements for “pooled plan providers,” those entities that will administer the new retirement plan structure known as a pooled employer plan, or PEP. PEPs were created by the Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement (SECURE) Act, signed into law in December 2019.

These arrangements are expected to differ from similar multiple employer plans by being less likely to have common interest or common ownership among the participating employers. A PEP is intended to offer reduced burdens and costs for the participating employers, compared to an employer sponsoring its own separate retirement plan.

A pooled plan provider is the named fiduciary for a PEP, and must register with the DOL following procedures prescribed in this guidance. Registration will be accomplished with new EBSA Form PR, filed electronically. PEP arrangements can be offered beginning January 1, 2021.

These final regulations will become effective on the date of their publication in the Federal Register.

 


Federal Agencies Jointly Issue Final Rule on Transparency In Healthcare Coverage

In response to President Trump’s Executive Order, Improving Price and Quality Transparency in American Healthcare to Put Patients First, the IRS, Department of Labor, and Department of Health and Human Services have jointly issued a Transparency In Coverage final rule. This guidance is intended to make healthcare price information accessible to consumers and other stakeholders to permit comparison-shopping.

The final rule requires that most healthcare plans make available to participants, beneficiaries, and enrollees (or their authorized representative) personalized out-of-pocket cost information, and the underlying negotiated rates for all covered healthcare items and services, including prescription drugs, through an Internet-based, self-service tool and in paper form upon request.

The guidance also requires most healthcare plans to make available to the public, including stakeholders such as consumers, researchers, employers, and third-party developers, three separate machine-readable files that include detailed pricing information. The detailed pricing information is to include 1) negotiated rates for all covered items and services between the plan or issuer and in-network providers; 2) historical payments to, and billed charges from, out-of-network providers; and 3) in-network negotiated rates and historical net prices for all covered prescription drugs by plan or issuer at the pharmacy location level.


Updated Life Expectancy Tables Published

Today’s Federal Register includes IRS final regulations providing updated life expectancy tables. These tables are to be used when calculating required minimum distributions (RMDs) from IRAs and other tax-qualified retirement savings arrangements, such as 401(k) plans. Those affected will include IRA owners, plan participants, beneficiaries, and employer-sponsored retirement plan administrators.

These final regulations take effect today, with publication in the Federal Register, but the life expectancy tables they contain will not be used for calculations until distribution calendar years beginning January 1, 2022.

The purpose of these new life expectancy and distribution tables is to ensure that future required payments from retirement savings arrangements better reflect actual life expectancies of those who receive such payments.