After just a few months with the Retirement Savings Plan, what had previously been a pain point for Brazos Presbyterian Homes is now paying off in a variety of ways for both the employer and its employees.
In 1958, the Presbytery of Brazos in Texas charged a committee to examine the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)'s responsibility to the aging, and to study living options for senior citizens. From the work of that committee, Brazos Presbyterian Homes Inc. was established. Today, the Houston-based not-for-profit continues its mission to serve the elderly by providing housing and care in a Christian environment.
Brazos offers a comprehensive benefits package to its employees; however, the organization had concerns about its retirement savings plan when it connected with the Board of Pensions at an annual conference of the Presbyterian Association of Homes & Services for the Aging. According to Angela Bryant, Director of Human Resources for Brazos, the plan was burdensome to both the organization and its employees because of expensive fees, and the plan’s provider didn’t offer administrative support to employers or educational support to participants.
“We really wanted to help our employees by offering a better plan,” said Bryant.
After meeting with the Board of Pensions, Brazos replaced its plan in September 2019 with the Retirement Savings Plan of the PC(USA), a 403(b)(9) defined contribution plan that the Board offers in partnership with Fidelity Investments. Currently, 453 Brazos employees participate in the plan.
The Retirement Savings Plan’s low fees were a significant factor in Brazos’ decision.
“The fees for both the employer and the employees were unbelievably low,” said Labinco Clarke, Chief Financial Officer for Brazos. “I hadn’t seen anything like it before.”
Another strong selling point for Brazos was Fidelity’s reputation as a leading retirement plan provider, establishing an instant level of trust. “Fidelity has a great reputation,” Bryant explained, “and many of our employees were already familiar with them from previous retirement plans they had participated in.”
When Board of Pensions and Fidelity staff visited Brazos to introduce the Retirement Savings Plan, more than 100 employees came out to learn about it.
At that orientation, staff from the Board of Pensions and Fidelity provided hands-on, in-person education about the plan to employees in both group and one-on-one settings. Additionally, the Board of Pensions and Fidelity provided a group presentation, one-on-one consultations, and printed materials in Spanish to assist Brazos’ employees who speak Spanish as a first language.
On the administrative side, the Board of Pensions walked Brazos staff through each step of the plan implementation. “The Board of Pensions staff were very patient and very knowledgeable, answering all of our questions throughout the process,” said Bryant. “They also mapped out for us how the plan would be implemented from start to finish — and that’s exactly how things went.”
Since implementing the Retirement Savings Plan, “it has eased the administrative load for me,” said Bryant. The Board of Pensions assumes the fiduciary responsibility for and handles most of the administration for employers, while Fidelity provides record keeping and reporting — making the Retirement Savings Plan a turnkey plan for employers.
The transition to the Retirement Savings Plan has also been beneficial for Brazos employees. Fidelity’s participant website, NetBenefits, has been a particularly useful tool, according to Bryant. “NetBenefits has been very helpful to employees as far as explaining their options and allowing them to easily make changes,” such as to the amount and which funds they are investing, explained Bryant.
The Retirement Savings Plan has also served as an effective recruitment tool for Brazos, particularly the 3 percent match that the organization offers to its employees participating in the plan. When a participant contributes up to 3 percent, Brazos contributes an equal amount to the participant’s account.
“The 3 percent match is a big selling point for prospective employees,” said Bryant. “It has even encouraged our younger employees — who aren’t particularly thinking about or planning for retirement — to start saving for retirement. They see the value in it.”
Moving forward, Brazos is excited to take advantage of other features of the Retirement Savings Plan, such as auto enrollment — another benefit of the plan that the organization didn’t have access to with the previous plan. This feature allows employers to direct a percentage of employees’ wages to the Retirement Savings Plan automatically, unless the employee opts out.
After just a few months with the Retirement Savings Plan, what had previously been a “pain point” for Brazos, according to Bryant, is now paying off in a variety of ways for both the employer and its employees.