For most of us with a retirement plan, we simply hope its balance, over many years, continues to tick upwards like the ever-rising mileage on our car’s odometer. At the same time, many of us give little or no thought as to whether or not our retirement account—our 401k, our company pension, or IRA—complies with the endless challenges of governmental regulations. We either take for granted that the people handling our long-term financial goals are following the law with our best interests in mind, or we don’t have enough hours in our busy day to sift through the fine print of those laws.
Luckily for their many clients, sisters Sharon McNish and Katie Walker, partners at SBC Benefit Consultants at 51 Chestnut Street in Rutherford, are there to make sense of it all. “Our job is to keep retirement accounts compliant with federal guidelines,” Sharon says of SBC’s central role of playing “watchdog” for the retirement nest eggs of their clients and the many employees that work for them.
Each with over thirty years of experience in this highly specialized area of the retirement services industry, Sharon and Katie see their roles as perfectly complementary. Sharon focuses on sales, marketing, and compliance, while Katie with a background in accounting runs the numbers and all business operations. In fact, rarely do you find two people so passionate about a line of work that so many others find so difficult to understand.
As the one who combs through clients’ accounts for any accounting and financial discrepancies, Katie adds: “We make sure everyone’s funds go into the proper bucket.”
The heart of SBC’s business is as 3rd-party administrators for small business retirement plans, and since Sharon and Katie bought the company in 1999 the client list has grown from 125 to 900. With most of their clients being small companies of less than 100 employees, that translates into many thousands of people whom SBC Benefit Consultants have helped achieve a secure financial future.
“What we do is so important to middle America,” Katie says about the people who work for the companies in SBC’s diverse client base. A list which includes the usual doctors, lawyers, accountants, and banks, but also building contractors, farmers, actors and actresses, and even a top-billed rap star. “Mom and Pop business are driving the economy,” she adds. “We give the people involved in these businesses some sense of security in their retirement.”
These days, after nearly seventeen years in business, all of SBC’s new clients come through referrals, primarily from financial advisors, accountants, and brokers. “Our business is a relationship business,” Sharon says about the company’s signature role as consultants that must process huge amounts of data and then advise on it according to stringent federal guidelines.
“The difference between us and payroll servicing companies is that we are consultants, not processors,” Katie adds. “We look at the data and scrub it, analyze and consult when needed for the ultimate benefit of the client.”
Despite what might seem like particularly complex and detail driven work for most of us, Sharon has a simple formula for the job SBC does and how she defines a successful relationship with a client. “Help deliver a retirement plan that meets the objective of the company, allows the employee to build a nest egg, and assists the owners in saving money on taxes.”
At SBC Benefit Consultants, Sharon McNish and Katie Walker really do make the complex seem that simple.
by Clifford Evan Weinstein