Welcome to our blog!

One of the challenges we’ve faced during the 20 odd years we’ve presented our pension/retirement and healthcare conferences is how we can stay in touch with our attendees during the times when we don’t see you in person. How do we get you information and hear what’s on your minds on a more frequent basis?

Now, through the wonders of modern technology, I have the privilege of bringing you a “blog,” a two-way channel that gives us the opportunity to communicate when you are at your “day job” and not visiting with us at a conference. Just as importantly, the blog lets us hear back from you. We look forward to learning your thoughts, insights and ideas as you participate with us in this new world of social media. I am extremely excited by the possibilities this opens!

What will the blog consist of? I’m planning on a wide variety of discussions, with new posts on a regular basis. Some posts will be on specific topics, such as a discussion of the new fee regulations and its impact on plan sponsors and participants. Others will be more broad-based discussions, such as the one I will be posting in a few days relating to whether retirement and healthcare programs are still viewed as benefits, or if they are just being viewed as costs and entitlements. (During that post, we’ll also look at whether there might be a significant difference between how the HR/benefits folks view the value of these programs versus the perception a CFO or CEO may have today, and also explore what employee perception of these plans is today.)

The primary focus for blog posts will be either retirement plans or health/welfare plans, although I may stray into other issues involving human resources occasionally as well. The topics will be targeted towards the same audience that our conferences focus on, namely small to mid-sized employers. Suggestions for discussion topics are very welcome. I also plan to have “guest bloggers”– experts in the benefits field who we have come to know during the years.

As the Chairman of our conferences, I’ve been very fortunate to be able to speak with thousands of participants throughout the years. We’ve heard about many issues that people would like to discuss beyond a keynote or workshop session. These can and will be addressed through the blog.

The blog will be “moderated,” but only to make sure posts follow several basic ground rules:

First, this is not designed as a political forum. If I do my job right, you’ll never know if I lean right, left, up or down; and we would like responses to be structured the same way. (There are many topics, such as healthcare
reform, that often lead to political discussions. We’d like to keep our discussions here on the issues themselves, not the fights that surround them.)
Second, we do not want this to be a forum that is sales oriented, i.e. it’s not made to be endorsements for any individual company. Similarly we don’t want it to be a forum for griping about any individual company.
Finally, we want the posts to be clean—no obscenity, please.
We reserve the right to edit or strike a post if it is in violation of these rules, or otherwise, at our discretion. We intend for this to be an open forum, but want to ensure that it stays strictly professional.

As any of you who have attended our programs know, one of the things we strongly believe is that an important component of learning is networking with other plan sponsors/employers. I view this blog as an extension to the networking component we have at the on-site programs and am looking forward to see how this progresses. Stay tuned, the first benefits-oriented post will be out in a few days. Please chime in with your feelings and be an active participant. The more the merrier!

I look forward to blogging with you and, of course, seeing you in person at a conference soon.

Mark Friedman