Case Study: Retirement service business divestiture

Leading Financial Services Firm Divests Retirement Business in Accelerated Timeframe

Partner protects their brand, monetizes a non-core asset, and regains focus on core business.


A top-10 commercial bank that had merged with a leading financial services firm

1,400+ retirement plans

170,000+ plan participants

Approximately $7 billion in assets under management(AUM)

Speed, efficiency, and quality were key to a successful divestiture. To achieve their aggressive transition timeline, the partner needed an expert with deep domain expertise and conversion experience.

The Challenge

Divest non-core retirement business quickly while protecting key stakeholder experiences through an efficient transition.

A leading financial services company, now a top 10 U.S. commercial bank, faced serious technology gaps and mismatched internal systems inherited during a merger.

Following a strategic review in 2020 that assessed the future viability of their retirement plan services business, the company’s executive leadership decided to exit the business, allowing the company to refocus on their core banking and wealth management practices and clients.

Consequently, they needed a partner to address critical requirements such as:

  • Minimizing disruption for advisors, plan sponsors, and participants—effectively protecting their brand image with stakeholders who have other business with the bank
  • Moving forward in a thoughtful way that allowed them to overcome regulatory hurdles
  • Completing the conversion within six months from signing so they could move off an existing trust system
  • Building technology to accommodate unique service and operational needs
  • Transferring employment of retirement-focused associates to the partner when the divestiture was complete—known as "rebadging"—ensuring these team members would be welcomed into an organization with a similar culture and ethos

The Solution

Transfer small and mid-market retirement clients to Ascensus.

Working with Ascensus was a natural fit, partly because one of the partner’s merged entities had a longstanding retirement plan sales and servicing relationship with Ascensus for a block of small market plans that dated back more than 12 years.

For the newly transitioning block of mid-market plans, Ascensus listened, diagnosed, and mobilized—and thanks to its flexibility and technology-enabled solutions, was able to:

  • Unsaddle the partner from resource constraints and mismatched technology
  • Draw from a proven model to offer business scale, deep expertise with conversions, a methodical integration plan, and a Project Management Office (PMO)
  • Provide trusted stewardship to the partner’s clients
  • Enable the partner to execute the transition within six months at a competitive valuation
  • Provide minimal to no changes to offerings and the same or lower pricing
  • Rebadge key employees, which was critical to supporting high levels of service and continuity
  • Leverage automated block transition capabilities, enabling all plans to move to the Ascensus platform over a weekend

The Results

A record transition timeline, client service continuity, and the ability to focus on core business.

Ascensus successfully converted 1,400 plans, 170,000 participants, and $7 billion in AUM, providing continuity and enhancements to advisors, plan sponsors, and participants, including:

  • Retention of 9 out of every 10 plans, including nearly all the largest clients
  • Enhancements to the plan onboarding experience, delivery of a custom transition microsite for both plan sponsors and participants, and creation of a new participant education library featuring a suite of multimedia tools and resources

A seamless conversion experience helped maintain positive brand association for clients that had business with the partner outside the retirement services space.

The partner was extremely pleased with the transition of key employees, and Ascensus continues to support its legacy client services representatives. Most importantly, the partner could invest more deeply in their core business after the sale of a non-core asset.

plan retention
after one year
19 of the top 20
largest clients

<6 months
record transition time

weekend for
rebadged key employees
Ascensus Key Deliverables   Partner Benefits
Programmatic integration plan with rigorous PMO   Seamless execution of technology development, plus full oversight of the transition to meet milestones and deadlines
Data history capture   Peace of mind, with Ascensus capturing all elements for an efficient, successful conversion
Cycle 3 restatement   Compliant and timely plan document restatement, combined with required notice delivery for efficiency and value to clients
Streamlined plan migration   Effective communication and simplified workflows, ensuring client success and satisfaction during the transition
Smooth employee transition   Open engagement and support for rebadged associates, creating optimal client and employee transition experiences
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1 Footnote goes here of May 31, 2022.
2Net Promoter Score® (NPS) is a well-established metric that gauges client satisfaction by comparing the percentage of very satisfied customers (called Promoters) to the percentage of very dissatisfied customers (called Detractors). NPS ranges from -100 to +100 with 70+ considered world class. Ascensus' overall client satisfaction has a +80 NPS for employers. Source: Ascensus NPS Data. July 2022.