ASPire Financial Services LLC (Private)
June 25, 2012 Issue
The Most Powerful Name In Corporate News and Information
As a Cost Effective Retirement Services Provider Offering an Open-Architecture Turnkey Platform for Small and Medium Sized Businesses, Non-for-Profit Organizations and Government Entities, ASPire Financial Services LLC is Well Positioned for Growth in this Large Industry
ASPire Financial Services is
an open-architecture turnkey provider of retirement plan solutions (e.g.
401(k), 403(b), 457(b) and IRA) to small and medium sized businesses,
non-for-profit organizations and government entities. The company leverages
its proprietary technology platform to offer cost-effective and fee
transparent services to plan sponsors, third party administrators (“TPA’s”)
and advisors through a web interface containing research, tools and access
to investment products. The company has approximately 100 employees and more
than $10 billion of recordkeeping assets, 8,000 plans and 275,000
Chief Financial Officer
Mark Agustin has over 21 years of financial and operational management experience working as a senior executive with public and privately held mid-market companies across multiple industry sectors. Mark possesses an impressive track record of successfully helping companies improve operational and financial performance through various stages of change and expansion.
As Chief Financial Officer of ASPire Financial Services, Mark is responsible for the overall strategy, direction, and leadership of the Finance and Accounting functions, as well as providing management oversight for a number of strategic growth initiatives. Since joining ASPire in January 2012, Mark was instrumental in leading the company through its recent equity financing with FTV Capital.
Interview conducted by: Lynn Fosse, Senior Editor, CEOCFO Magazine, Published - June 25, 2012
Mr. Agustin: ASPire Financial Services is a technology enabled retirement platform service provider. We work through Financial Intermediaries (e.g., third party administrators, retirement plan advisors, payroll firms, investment companies and others) to build customized turnkey processing solutions for defined contribution retirement plans across multiple tax codes (e.g. 401(k), 403(b), 457(b) and IRA) for businesses, non-for-profit organizations and government entities. We really take pride in building exceptional solutions that enable our partners to excel at what they do best, which is improving retirement investment outcomes for individuals and families.
Mr. Agustin: We believe our platform has a number of features that differentiate ASPire from other service providers in the market. First, is what we refer to as our open architecture framework, which gives us the ability to customize our solution to offer access to any investment product available in the market along with an integrated set of industry leading investment management tools. Second, is our ability to create user interface and access profiles – which we commonly refer to as gateways - down to the participant level. This provides every user group the ability to manage their programs and plans based on their specific criteria. As an example, investment advisors who have multiple plans with multiple service providers can consolidate and manage their clients’ plan performance through a customized view based on their needs. This capability is also critical in servicing 403(b), 457(b) and IRA investment plans, where activities are in many cases managed at the participant level. Third, is rich functionality – which is where we continue to invest significant capital. From Definitive DisclosureSM – which allows covered service providers to comply with 408(b)(2) and 404(a)(5) regulations - to Plan Goals – an integrated investment management tool – our platform offers a wide array of easy to use capabilities that enable users to proactively manage retirement investment outcomes.
Mr. Agustin: Our business is no different than other businesses with service oriented, data intensive, real-time access and multi-source environments; it centers around 2 fundamental things; 1) really understanding and working with our financial intermediary and investment product partners to build data exchanges that allow us to gain access to and exchange information and working with them closely to replicate the offerings on our platform to ensure products work as designed; and 2) having a flexible system capable of replicating and/or interfacing with multiple sources in a seamless, repeatable and scalable manner. We believe the open architecture design of our platform gives us a distinctive advantage in building replication and connectivity with our partners. As a best-of-breed service provider, our success and the success of our users relies heavily on our ability to seamlessly integrate, so our product development team spends quite a bit of time working with our partners to make sure we get this right.
CEOCFO: How do you ensure it is as user-friendly as it can be?
Providing a superior client experience is one of our core values and
something we focus on daily at ASPire. We are always thinking about
providing ways to enhance our user experience and work directly with our
partners to get their feedback, either through surveys or direct
interaction. We are expanding this process to include focus groups and
advisory boards to provide us the continued feedback we need to make the
ongoing improvements to our platform. We have a number of system
enhancements and new product offerings on our roadmap and will continue to
invest significant effort and capital in this area to bring these
enhancements to the market quickly. Continuous improvement is ongoing, and
the key is that we are getting the right feedback from the actual user
community around the things that they believe are what truly add value.
What is the competitive landscape in general?
What attracted me to ASPire is what attracted me to previous roles
throughout my career, the opportunity to help good companies with great
market opportunities successfully accelerate growth profitably in periods of
dynamic change. Whether it’s providing strategic oversight, implementing
scalable service delivery models, securing access to growth capital or
leading an acquisition effort, it’s the ability to have meaningful impact in
all phases of the business that really excites me. The opportunity with
ASPire fits that profile perfectly and aligns well with my experience and
skill set. The other thing that attracted me to ASPire is our leadership
team. I continue to be very impressed with the knowledge, creativity and
passion for success our Founders possess and exhibit daily. This, along with
the chance to work with a partner like FTV and our independent Board members
is another one of ASPire’s key differentiators. Since joining ASPire less
than 6 months ago, in addition to helping complete the equity financing
transaction with FTV Capital, my focus has been in three key areas; 1)
building out our operational management framework to support expected
growth. This includes creating and implementing repeatable processes to help
the leadership team manage, monitor and control our ability to execute and
deliver efficiently and effectively. 2) Working with our founders to expand
the depth and breadth of our team particularly in sales and IT and 3)
process automation; we are evaluating every process within our operation to
determine where we can refine through automation.
CEOCFO: What do you see a year or two down the road?
Mr. Agustin: With what we have planned in terms of system enhancements, new product launches and the expansion of our sales organization and leadership team, we expect ASPire to be significantly better both operationally and economically. What that simply means is that our sales model and the evangelization of the ASPire message will be fully deployed; the leap-frogging technology enhancements to our platform will be in place and many of the internal process automation initiatives behind us. What that allows us to do is to provide a better quality of service to our customers in a much more efficient way with greater reliability and security. The outcome of this will be economic growth and significant shareholder value gains.
Mr. Agustin: If I think about ASPire from an investment perspective, a number of things come to mind; 1) we believe the market dynamics are favorable. The market segments we primarily play in are large, fragmented, growing and facing significant regulatory change. 2) We believe there is a “scarcity of value”, meaning there are few established players particularly in the small/mirco retirement plan segment – which is our current “sweet-spot” – that are capable of providing a truly competitive solution. 3) We have a strong recurring revenue model with low concentration and attrition and price appreciation opportunity. ASPire’s top 10 customers account for less than 20% of our total book of business and our historical attrition rate is less than 5%. Additionally, as a low cost-to-value service provider, we believe there is real opportunity to increase our rates and still maintain a price competitive position in the market. 4) We believe our proprietary, open architecture platform uniquely positions us to provide value to all key constituents in the market, from financial intermediaries to investment product providers to plan sponsors and participants.
We are bullish about our
opportunity, but at the end of the day, we have to execute. We know what is
in front of us, we know what we have to do to get there, and we have the
leadership and growth capital to succeed.
“Providing a superior client experience is one of our core values and something we focus on daily at ASPire” - Mark Agustin
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