Retirement Plan TPA Quality Service

March 19, 2013 at 2:20 pm Leave a comment

Since writing my book, I often hear from individuals, whether they be other retirement plan service providers or customers of TPA’s, about how they are confused regarding whether they are receiving quality service. Recently, I discussed the importance of customer service aspects such as returning your calls or not sitting on providing your reports after you submitted your annual information. I have to say that I am amazed at what some third party administrators do to their customers. At one shop, the owners allowed employees to falsify documents and even promoted and rewarded unethical employees. The owners’ attitudes were that the behavior was okay because the government auditors never caught anything when they came in. Although the unethical behavior had not yet been caught, their current manager, formerly a plan administrator, was caught falsifying documents and amendments in order to save her clients money by shorting the rank and file participants. The company’s CEO, HR, and partners were informed and actually promoted this unqualified employee with full knowledge of her unethical actions. How would you like a TPA like this to be working on your plan? The clients were often unaware of this employee’s actions, but they would likely pay the price. What can you do to protect yourself?

First, consider qualifications.  An Enrolled Retirement Plan Agent would be ideal for defined contribution plans.   An Enrolled Actuary is essential for defined benefit plans.  Both have gone through rigorous training and have strong ethical standards.  Unfortunately, organizational credentials are more questionable.  For instance, a QPA or CPC is generally a good sign as far as ASPPA credentials, but not very useful as a consumer since they are unable to represent you before the IRS.  The same is the case with a CEBS or ISCEBS Fellow credential.  Credentials such as QKA from ASPPA are not very valuable due to the limits of knowledge.

Second, consider looking for an independent TPA. Although I believe a client should consider whether or not the TPA can prepare the reports competently before looking at the company type, firms that are also providing accounting services, investment services or payroll services often have conflicts of interest. Often times these firms do not value TPA services and have an anything goes attitude.   A firm that makes all their money from third party administration cannot risk providing bad service or they will be out of business. TPA only firms have the incentive to allocate the resources to find the best staff and provide the best service for your plan. However, if you can find this type of service at a firm providing other services, by all means stay with them. The two do not need to be mutually exclusive, but unfortunately, my experience has taught me that firms who permit unethical behavior such as in my example are often providing investment or other services. To learn more about selecting TPA’s, please consider purchasing my book at one of the websites listed below.

Thanks for reading and have a wonderful day! Please sign up for my blog and follow me on twitter @ChristineGurney. Please like my facebook author page at If you have not already done so, please check out purchasing my book on amazon at or from the publisher at


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Christine Gurney

A pension professional who shares her thoughts and ideas about the pension world for industry members and anyone else interested.

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