Great-West Financial rebranding its retirement businesses

New combinations with J.P. Morgan Retirement Plan Services and Putnam Investments gives the firm broader market access

Sep 2, 2014 @ 1:44 pm

By Darla Mercado

A broad rebranding effort is under way at Great-West Financial as the company wraps up its acquisition of J.P. Morgan Retirement Plan Services.

The deal with J.P. Morgan Retirement Plan Services, which was announced in April, brought with it 1.9 million participants, 200 plan sponsor clients and $167 billion in assets. The combination raised Great-West's profile in the defined-contribution market, bringing its participant base to nearly 7 million and raising its record-keeping assets to more than $400 billion. Based on the number of DC participants, Great-West would be the second-largest service provider of retirement services.

Just before the J.P. Morgan and Great-West tie-up, Great-West also combined its retirement business with that of its sister company Putnam Investments.

The end result? The three entities together provide broader access to the market, covering 457 government retirement plans, the 403(b) nonprofit market and 401(k) plans of all sizes, plus record-keeping services.

(More: The case against state-run retirement plans)

Next up for the three entities is a rebranding effort that will bring the trio of businesses under one banner, said Great-West Financial chief executive Bob Reynolds. “All three brands meant something different in the marketplace,” he said. “We want them all under one brand; we want to be in the marketplace as America's retirement company.”

Indeed, all three of the firms had varying specialties. Great-West works more on the government retirement plan side, with a foothold in the nonprofit plan and small to midsize 401(k) markets. Putnam serves the midsize-to-large plan market. J.P.Morgan, meanwhile, brings large-plan record-keeping heft to the equation.

There is no word yet on what the new name of the combined entity will be, but Mr. Reynolds says he'd like to get things wrapped up fairly quickly. “We'd like to have it done so we can have a major campaign around it going into the fourth quarter,” he said.

Mr. Reynolds said that Great-West will be announcing in the next two weeks a number of organizational changes it's made among the personnel in the three companies.

As part of the integration of the J.P. Morgan and Great-West businesses, the firm has made additions over the last six to nine months to ensure a smooth transition for J.P. Morgan's clients. “One thing we wanted to be very sure of in this whole process is that the existing clients of all three firms not only maintained a level of service but the goal is to enhance the level of service,” he said.

(More: The 401(k) retirement complex: Retooling Americans' nest egg)

Combining the businesses has been particularly useful from a technological standpoint, for example in assessing the best participant website. While Putnam came out ahead in that analysis, the firm is still reconciling how to put all of its strengths first, according to Mr. Reynolds. “It entails a variety of things from the tech front: the participant experience, the plan sponsor experience, the adviser/consultant experience,” he said.

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