Mid Atlantic Welcomes BlueStar and Vantage

Mid Atlantic is happy to bring on board its newest business partners:

BlueStar Retirement Services has a singular focus of making retirement plans simple and effective for employers and advisers.  The company services a variety of retirement plan types and is a national specialist in Multiple Employer Plans.  By utilizing an open architecture platform, BlueStar provides plan access to a nearly limitless menu of investment options.  And as an integrated recordkeeper and Third Party Administrator (TPA), BlueStar delivers the most efficient and effective model for servicing them.  BlueStar was founded in 1997 and is based in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida.

Vantage Benefits Administrators is a full-service employee benefits consultant, TPA, and professional fiduciary based in Dallas, Texas.  The firm specializes in comprehensive, cutting-edge corporate benefit program administration, offering fiduciary services as needed.  Independent of all carriers and investment product providers, Vantage is unbiased in its pursuit of its clients’ best interests.  The company emphasizes transparency, integrity, responsiveness, and cost efficiency.

Mid Atlantic Hosts Its Second Annual Non-Perishable Food Drive

Last month, Mid Atlantic, in conjunction with loyal business partner Derek Fiorenza and his non-profit organization Fiorenza’s Food For Friends (F4), hosted its 2nd Annual non-perishable food drive to help alleviate hunger in the nearby community.  Over the course of seven business days, the Pittsburgh office was organized into three separate teams as staff enthusiastically came together in the spirit of service, teamwork, and competitive fun to donate items such as canned tuna, canned fruit, beans, grains, pasta, and personal hygiene products.

We are thrilled to report that employees raised over 2,800 items overall, which more than doubled last year’s tally!  These donations were promptly picked up by the Oakland CHS Food Pantry for distribution to local area residents in need.  We are truly grateful to everyone involved for making the Mid Atlantic Pittsburgh Office’s 2nd Annual Food Drive its most successful yet!

Mid Atlantic Welcomes Model Managers Glovista, GeaSphere, and Epic Trust

Mid Atlantic is pleased to welcome the following ModelxChange™ managers to its 401(k) ModelxChange™ platform:

Glovista Investments is an advisory firm formed by seasoned finance professionals with decades of market experience spanning many geographic regions and products.  The firm seeks to provide investment management services to both institutional and high net worth clients, including state and municipal pension funds, endowments, RIAs, family offices, and high net worth individuals.  Glovista’s core values are integrity, independence, innovation, and intellectual commitment and is committed to creating value for its customers, employees, and shareholders.

GeaSphere Advisors in Cranston and Warwick, Rhode Island, is an independent advisory firm that recognizes the importance of its fiduciary responsibility to provide clients with prudent investment management and unbiased advice.  The GeaSphere proprietary research study and technical methodology is the first step to its portfolio construction and management of its model portfolios.  The firm’s portfolio construction begins with its 60 year empirical research study and investing philosophy rooted in the relationship of free cash flow to the stock price.  GeaSphere’s rules-based diversification method alongside the proprietary stock valuation philosophy gives its investors uncompromising value for true piece of mind investing.

Epic Trust Advisors is an independent financial services firm serving clients throughout Washington state.  It primarily helps individuals create retirement strategies using a variety of investment and insurance products customized to their personal needs and objectives.  The firm has developed its business by reaching out, nurturing, and maintaining close, trusting relationships with each client.  Epic’s mission is to simplify the finances of its clients and help them to enjoy the people and causes in their lives that matter more to them than their money.

Mid Atlantic Recordkeeper Spotlight: Vertical Management Systems

Mid Atlantic wants to welcome to its roster of valued business partners Vertical Management Systems (VMS) in Pasadena, California.

Vertical Management Systems (VMS) is a technology innovation firm bringing best-in-class solutions to a financial services industry in need of change.  The firm prides itself on providing easy-to-implement, integrated solutions that solve for today’s key issues like fiduciary risk, fee transparency, and revenue reconciliation.  VMS has worked with top-tier financial services firms for over 20 years, and processes over $600 billion in assets.

Recently, Mid Atlantic caught up with the VMS team to get a more in-depth perspective of their underlying business principles and philosophy:

What do you believe your clients find most unique (or surprising) about working with your firm?

We are a cost-effective, feature-rich retirement solution that is easy to use.  Our cutting-edge technology allows our recordkeeping platform to be fully automated, enabling greater efficiencies and important features such as 100% fee transparency, true open architecture, and customized model portfolios.

What led to your decision to partner with Mid Atlantic on their Custodial platform?

VMS consistently strives to provide its clients with the highest-quality services available.  As one of the nation’s premier providers of trust and custody services and trading, settlement, and payer services, Mid Atlantic was a natural choice as a partner.  They share our dedication to providing the best financial products, services, and technology.  They provide a wide array of trust, brokerage, and advisory services all available on a single platform.  Lastly, the people at MATC are innovative as well as solution- and customer-driven.

How would you describe the underlying philosophy, principles, and/or strategies you implement when working with your clients?

At VMS, we are dedicated to helping Advisors and TPAs implement best-in-class solutions for the plan sponsors, and ultimately the individual participants, they serve.  We are masters in developing cutting edge technology that solves for deficiencies often found in legacy systems.  We offer easy to implement, integrated solutions that solve today’s key issues:

  • Fiduciary Risk
  • Revenue Reconciliation
  • Fee transparency

What are some of the greatest challenges you face in serving the 401(k) space?

One of the biggest challenges in serving the 401(k) community is that the requirements and demands of the space are continually evolving.  For this reason, Retirement Revolution was built from the ground up to provide greater operating flexibility to allow us and our clients the ability to adapt to a changing environment.

Of late, we have seen much press about lawsuits being filed against plan fiduciaries and their providers.  What are some of your top suggestions in making sure an employer stays out of these headlines?

We recommend that employers manage their fiduciary liability associated with recent DOL regulations by switching to a platform that provides 100% fee transparency and open investment architecture.  The ability to clearly communicate what the plan and participants are paying, and having unrestricted investment options to choose from are two critical elements in upholding fiduciary responsibility.

Unlike many legacy recordkeeping solutions, Retirement Revolution accrues and allocates revenue at the participant level which enables 100% fee transparency.

For more information about Vertical Management Systems, you may visit the firm’s website at:

* Please note that the views expressed by our business partners do not necessary constitute the views of MATC.

Mid Atlantic Recordkeeper Spotlight: Certified Benefits Corp

Chris Staton
Certified Benefits Corp

Mid Atlantic is pleased to take this opportunity to spotlight valued business partner Certified Benefits Corp (CBC) in Altamonte Springs, Florida.

CBC was founded in 1996 as a member of Certified Financial Group (CFG), with the express purpose of creating a lower cost, customized retirement plan solution for its personal wealth management clients. As an independent recordkeeper and plan administration service provider, CBC’s primary objective is to offer an open-fund lineup not commonly offered by insurance companies and mutual fund providers. The firm partners with major custodians, independent investment advisors, and other third party administrators (TPAs) to provide unbundled, investment-independent retirement plans.

After several years working for another service provider, Christopher Staton, Vice President of CBC, joined the firm in 2003. In addition to performing a variety of roles with CBC and experiencing the many levels of services provided to clients and participants, Chris has been overseeing firm operations since 2007. Mid Atlantic recently spoke with Chris to get a more in-depth perspective of the CBC’s business philosophy:

What do you believe your clients find most unique about working with Certified Benefits? What, if anything, are clients most surprised to learn about your firm?

The most unique feature about Certified Benefits is our willingness to tailor our service to meet the client’s needs. We understand that our clients span different industries, different locations, and each has its own unique company culture. We tailor our service to the client and what they need.

What led to your decision to become a recordkeeper on Mid Atlantic’s custodial platform?

The Mid Atlantic platform has additional features that we will be able to bring to our clients.

How would you describe the underlying principles behind Certified Benefit’s most successful strategies?

Our service comes first… This allows us to create a long-lasting partnership with our clients. This is the main reason that a majority of our clients have been with us for 10+ years.

What are some of the greatest challenges you face in serving the 401(k) space?

Our greatest challenge is to provide efficient services without sacrificing the 5-star service we’ve become known for.

For more information about Certified Benefits Corp, you may visit the firm’s website at:

* Please note that the views expressed by our business partners do not necessary constitute the views of MATC.

Mid Atlantic Welcomes Gebhardt Financial Group

We are pleased to welcome Gebhardt Financial Group to the Mid Atlantic family.  Gebhardt is a wealth management firm based out of Sugarcreek, Ohio.  The rep group consists of Phil Gebhardt and junior advisor Brooks Numbers, both of whom are affiliated with Mid Atlantic Capital Corporation and Mid Atlantic Financial Management.  Phil was formerly with LPL for 15 years as a financial advisor and an OSJ Branch Manager/Registered Principal.

Gebhardt will be managing its assets through Mid Atlantic via direct business, brokerage, and fee-based accounts.  The firm will also be creating models through ModelxChange for its accounts, in addition to conducting general wealth management for individuals and overseeing qualified plans.

Mid Atlantic Welcomes Kerns Capital Management

Mid Atlantic would like to welcome Kerns Capital Management to our family.

Kerns Capital Management is headquartered in Houston, Texas and was founded in 1996 to provide fiduciary investment services to 401(k) retirement plan sponsors, including oversight, and investment management.  The firm’s attention to prudence and its appreciation for the wealth devastation of bear markets has guided its evolution in the development of product designed to help investors grow and protect wealth.  Today, KCM provides investment management and advisory services to mutual funds, hedge funds, high-net worth individuals and corporate retirement plans.  KCM utilizes “intelligent” Smart Glide retirement target date strategies that are adjusted periodically and managed “To Retirement,” which is a glide path targeting the retirement date as the point where the portfolio risk is at its lowest at the end of a plan participant’s Wealth Accumulation Stage where participants are entering the Distribution Stage.

Mid Atlantic Welcomes GeaSphere Advisors

We are happy to welcome GeaSphere Advisors to the Mid Atlantic family.

Based in Cranston, Rhode Island, GeaSphere Advisors is an independent and privately owned registered investment advisory firm providing comprehensive investment research and analysis, professional money management for financial advisors and individuals, and long term financial and income planning to individuals and corporations.  GeaSphere builds investment portfolios using its proprietary research philosophy called the GeaSphere Analysis System.  This is a three-part system in which the first two parts are based in the research of a company’s free cash flow (current and historical) and the third part is based on a company’s price action as a gauge of investor sentiment.  The GeaSphere system’s main goal is to buy securities priced at a discount to the historical relationship of the company’s Price to Free Cash Flow, which allows for determining the current buy price and future sell price based on the same relationship.  All of the firm’s model portfolios use its own exclusive methods and historical data base as the basis for portfolio construction and management.

Business Employees Should Beware of Rising Cybercriminal Activity

It is well documented that cybercrime attacks are rapidly on the rise, especially against small businesses.  And as cybercriminals continue to develop increasingly stealthy and sophisticated tactics, unsuspecting employees are among the most frequently targeted victims.

Business Email Compromise (BEC) schemes, also known as CEO fraud, are a cybercriminal favorite.  Through a successful phishing scheme or by simply visiting a public domain, scammers typically familiarize themselves in advance with knowledge of a target business’ policies and management roles.  They will often then attempt to first gain the trust of an employee before eventually duping him or her into transferring fraudulent payments.

Using any inside information they’ve obtained, scammers will generate a fake email designed to appear coming from a senior management member requesting a financial transfer be made to a private account, while promising to send an invoice at a later time (which never comes).  The scammers will often even ask victims if they are in the office or sitting at their desk before engaging in a discussion on how to complete a transfer.  Once this occurs, the money of course does not get transferred within the organization, but rather into the accounts of online criminals.  According to the FBI, CEO scams have resulted in an estimated loss of $3.1 billion.

To avoid becoming a victim of business email fraud, always be suspicious of emails demanding action not in line with your company policy,including communication appearing to be sent and authorized by senior management.  Users are also urged to not click Reply if they believe the message looks suspicious.  Instead, write and send a new message directly to the known corporate address of the person claiming to have sent the original message.  This will remove any potential scammer from further communication.

Business Email Etiquette

Imagine finding yourself the guilty culprit of any of the following embarrassing, even humiliating, real-life situations…

  • Emailing confidential personal or salary information to your entire firm by accident.
  • Sending a job offer to the wrong person.
  • Making an inappropriate remark about a supervisor or a client and accidentally emailing your message to the maligned individual.
  • Typing a crude or off-color joke intended for a colleague, but mistakenly sending it to your entire department.
  • Inadvertently distributing an internal sales strategy to an outside email list which includes addresses of some of your firm’s competitors.

Though these are some extreme cases, it all still boils down to practicing proper email etiquette, an essentiality in today’s competitive business environment.  Here are some key points to consider when composing and sending emails:

  • Email communication vs. phone call.  Ask yourself if email is the most appropriate method of communication for contacting your desired recipient.  In other words, does the email contain sensitive or confidential information?  Would your manager, supervisor, or compliance office approve of the email if they were to see it?  Or would it be more prudent to simply pick up the phone and call the recipient directly?
  • Respond promptly.  It should go without saying that providing exemplary customer service requires responding to your client emails in a timely manner.  Most firms strive to reply to email inquiries within hours, the same business day, or by the following business day at the latest.  Slow response times not only can make you appear unorganized, uncaring, and/or negligent, but can also reflect poorly on your company and may lead to being outperformed by competitors that better understand the importance of high communication speed and efficiency.
  • Carefully consider the subject line.  It’s crucial to provide a clear, direct, and concise subject line for two main reasons: 1) It grabs the recipient’s attention, and 2) It helps summarize the email content and allows recipient(s) to better determine whether it’s worth their time to open the email and read further (i.e. “Meeting date changed”, “Quick question about your presentation”, “Suggestions for the proposal”, etc.).  Letting readers know how you are addressing their concerns or business issues should be clearly communicated in the subject line.
  • Use common courtesy.  All business related emails should open with an appropriate and courteous greeting (“Hello”, “Hi”, “Good morning/afternoon/day”, etc.) followed by the intended recipient’s name (unless it’s a group email).  The email should also conclude with a polite salutation (“Thank you”, “Sincerely”, “Best Regards”, etc.) followed by your name.  Not doing these simple things can lead to your emails being misinterpreted as demanding or terse in tone.  Make it a regular practice to imagine how the recipient might intend the tone of your message.
  • Keep messages clear and as concise as possible.  This includes keeping sentences short and to the point, while the body of the email should be direct and contain all pertinent information.  Unlike traditional written or typewritten letters, however, it costs no more to send several emails than it does to send just one.  So if you need to communicate with a colleague or client about a number of different topics, consider writing a separate email for each.  This not only can this help better organize your messages for future reference, but also allows your correspondent to focus and reply to each topic, one at a time.
  • Demonstrate professionalism.  Remember that your emails are a reflection of your professionalism, values, and attention to detail.  As an educated professional representing a company that’s providing products and services to paying clients, your email communication should reflect this.  This means typing complete sentences and using proper grammar, punctuation, and sentence structure.  Avoid abbreviating words… and always be sure to proofread and use spell-check!  Capitalize letters where necessary but never type in ALL CAPS as this can be misinterpreted as shouting.  Good communication instills further confidence in clients and encourages others to want to do business with you and your company.
  • Think twice about clicking “Reply All”.  Use this button with careful discretion and consider carefully whether everyone copied on the email really needs to be aware of your reply.  Remember, your colleagues already spend a significant portion of their day reading, composing, and sifting through emails.  No one wants to have to read multiple back-and-forth emails from multiple people over an issue that has nothing to do with them.  So please be respectful of these recipients’ time by not including them in group replies if no further action is needed from them.  Not to mention, refraining from using the “Reply All” button also helps prevent some potentially disastrous situations like the ones that began this blog!

For advisor use only.