The Spark Institute

Paul Karasik
Paul Karasik
Financial Advisor Coaching Institute and the Wholesaler Institute
  Paul Karasik is a leading authority in the financial industry. He has devoted 18 years helping America's financial professionals achieve their goals. Paul is the author of four all time business classics, Sweet Persuasion and Sweet Persuasion For Managers, published by Simon and Schuster, Seminar Selling: The Ultimate Resource Guide for Marketing Financial Services, published by McGraw-Hill and How to Market to High-Net-Worth Households, His most recent book is 22 Keys to Sales Success: How to Make It Big in Financial Services, published by Bloomberg Press.

He is regularly featured in the leading financial industry publications including: On Wall Street, Investment Adviser, CFP Today, Registered Rep, National Underwriters, and Bank Investment Marketing. Paul is the Founder of the American Seminar Leaders Association and a popular presenter at national meetings and conferences including the Million Dollar Round Table.

Terry Savage
Terry Savage
Nationally renowned financial columnist, TV commentator and author
  Terry Savage is a nationally known expert on personal finance and a regular television commentator on CNN, CNBC, PBS, and NBC on issues related to investing and financial markets. She is the nationally syndicated Chicago Sun-Times personal finance columnist and writes a weekly column for Her fourth book, “The Savage Number: How Much Money Do You Need to Retire?” has received praise from investment gurus like James Cramer, Jim Rogers, and Bob Brinker. Terry offers advice ranging from investments to withdrawal calculations to long term care insurance --to make sure your money lasts as long as you do!

Terry's financial expertise comes from experience. She started her career as a stockbroker, and became a founding member -- and the first woman trader -- on the Chicago Board Options Exchange. Savage was also a member of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange's International Monetary Market where she traded interest rate contracts and currency futures. She is a registered investment advisor for both stocks and futures.

Rebecca Ades
Rebecca Ades
Vice President, Institutional Sales for Corporate Markets
AXA Equitable
  Rebecca Ades serves as Vice President of Institutional Sales for Corporate Markets. Ms. Ades is responsible for growing, developing and managing the company's corporate client base. Initially, she will work with large corporations to create an enhanced awareness of the Corporate Markets offerings - guaranteed income products for employees, with education, service and ongoing support to help at every stage of the retirement planning process.

Ms. Ades has nearly a decade of professional experience in sales and management, and spent the last seven years with Hewitt Associates in strategy and business development for benefits outsourcing, including Hewitt's defined contribution services. Most recently, she led Hewitt's Global Benefits Business Development efforts. In this role, she was responsible for the strategy, solution development and sales of Hewitt's benefits outsourcing services to global companies.

Ms. Ades is a Suma Cum Laude graduate of Tufts University in Medford, MA.

Jason K. Chepenik
Jason K. Chepenik, CFP®, AIR®, PRP
Managing Partner
Chepenik Financial
  Jason oversees the executive compensation and retirement plan consulting for organizations spanning a wide range of industries, including several Fortune 1000 companies, encompassing more than 35,000 employees. A Certified Financial Planner (CFP®) since 2002, Jason became an Accredited Investment Fiduciary (AIF®) in 2007. In 2008, PLANSPONSOR magazine named Jason one of the most successful retirement plan managers in the country.

Beyond his work with Chepenik Financial, Jason is an active and respected member of the business community, contributing his financial expertise to various organizations, including private enterprise, non-profits and government agencies. In 2008, he had the honor of being invited to testify before the Department of Labor on matters pertaining to retirement plans, providing insight that will help shape the policies of tomorrow.

He earned a Bachelor’s Degree with concentration in Finance from Tulane University and holds Series 7, Series 63 and Series 65 registrations.

Marilyn R. Collister
Marilyn R. Collister
National Director of Regulatory Policy
Great-West Retirement Services
  Marilyn is an employee benefits attorney specializing in employer-sponsored defined contribution plans. Her areas of expertise include the tax and ERISA rules governing retirement plans, the unique rules applicable to governmental and church plans, state insurance department regulations, and the SEC rules applicable to defined contribution plans.

Marilyn is a contributing author of the 401(k) Answer Book and is a frequent speaker and has authored numerous articles on issues and legislation related to employer-sponsored retirement plans. She received the degrees of juris doctor and master of laws in taxation from the University Of Denver College Of Law. She has also been granted the Certified Retirement Administrator® designation from the International Foundation for Retirement Education, as well as the Fellow Life Management Institute, designation from the Life Office Management Association (LOMA). Marilyn chairs the 403(b) Plans Task Force for The SPARK Institute and is a member of the National Association of Government Defined Contribution Administrators (NAGDCA), the Group Annuity Pension Compliance Association (GAPCA), and the American, Colorado and Denver Bar Associations.

Frederick Conley
Frederick Conley
Institutional Retirement Group at Genworth Financial
  Fred is President of the Institutional Retirement Group at Genworth Financial. The Institutional Retirement Group focuses on products and services that provide lifetime income to participants in 401(k) and other defined contribution retirement plans.

Fred joined Genworth with 20 years of financial services and benefits consulting experience. Most recently, Fred served as executive vice president of institutional sales at CitiStreet, the second largest 401(k) service provider in the industry. Previously, he served as a regional vice president with American Express Retirement Services. Fred was also a business development consultant with Hewitt Associates.

Fred received his bachelor’s degree from Columbia University in New York City.

Peter Demmer
Peter Demmer
Chairman and CEO
Sterling Resources, Inc.

Peter has executive management responsibility for the firm’s strategic consulting practice. Sterling specializes in retirement services in the U.S. and international markets, providing financial and business analysis, merger and acquisition, and market research services. Prior to joining Sterling, he was the executive manager of Chase Manhattan’s Institutional Asset Servicing business lines, covering both domestic and international investment markets.

Peter has over twenty-five years of experience in the financial services industry and is a frequent speaker at national industry conferences. His strategic and business analysis of the roles that investment firms play in supporting domestic and global retirement programs has been extensively quoted. He holds a BS degree in Industrial Engineering and an MS in Operations Research and Economics from New York University.

Jamie DeRubertis
Jamie DeRubertis
Vice President, National Sales Manager
Matrix Settlement & Clearance Services
  Jamie DeRubertis is the Vice President and National Sales Manager of Matrix Settlement & Clearance Services, LLC. He is responsible for overseeing the long-term vision and strategy for sales and marketing initiatives.

Prior to joining MSCS, Mr. DeRubertis was Vice President in the Mutual Fund Services Division of the National Securities Clearing Corporation (NSCC). At NSCC, he served as Director of Bank Marketing, focusing on growing the use of NSCC’s automated mutual fund services. Mr. DeRubertis also managed the product marketing and rollout of NSCC’s Defined Contribution Clearance & Settlement (DCC&S) service, which has become the industry’s standard platform for retirement plan processing. Mr. DeRubertis also served on the American Bankers Association’s Mutual Fund Processing Committee, which assisted in developing NSCC’s Mutual Fund Processing Guidelines for banks. While at NSCC, he was a member of the Investment Company Institute’s Bank/Trust Advisory Committee.

Mr. DeRubertis received a B.A. from Manhattan College and an M.B.A. from Fordham University. He holds Series 6, 7 and 24 licenses.

Céline Dufétel
Céline Dufétel
Associate Principal
McKinsey & Co.
  Céline Dufétel specializes in life insurance and wealth management consulting. She has served a number of major financial institutions throughout the U.S. and Europe including life insurers, asset managers, brokerage firms and private banks on a variety of strategic, marketing, and distribution engagements. Her recent experience includes developing and implementing a go-to-market strategy for distributing employer sponsored retirement plans and individual retirement solutions (e.g., annuities, IRAs) for a U.S. insurance company, developing an independent financial advisor channel retirement strategy for a leading personal financial services firm and helping a major brokerage firm develop an alternative investments market strategy.

Céline earned her Master in Finance degree from Princeton University.

Dominic Falaschetti
Dominic A. Falaschetti, CFA
Vice President, Investment Strategies
Mesirow Financial
  Dominic is responsible for the development of fund specific model portfolios for Mesirow Financial’s risk-based managed accounts and target-maturity, retirement products. In addition, he provides extensive quantitative and qualitative fund research for the firm’s investment advisors as they develop asset allocation models and client portfolios. Dominic serves on Mesirow Financial’s 401(k) and the Investment Strategies investment policy committees. He has more than 15 years of experience in the financial services industry, most recently with Morningstar/Ibbotson Associates from 1994 to 2006, where he was a 401(k) Senior Consultant responsible for constructing asset class and mutual fund level portfolios for managed account clients with over $2.5 billion in assets. Additionally, he was Managing Editor of Ibbotson Associates' Stocks, Bonds, Bills and Inflation Yearbook. He holds a B.S. from the University of Illinois and is a Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) charter holder.

Larry H. Goldbrum
Larry H. Goldbrum
General Counsel
The SPARK Institute
  Larry is Executive Vice President and General Counsel of The SPARK Institute. As Chairman of The SPARK Institute Government Relations Committee, which is responsible for developing the regulatory and legislative priorities and positions of the SPARK Institute, Larry works extensively on helping to resolve critical industry issues.

Larry has over 20 years of experience in the retirement plan industry, including six years of private practice specializing in ERISA matters. He is a frequent speaker at retirement plan industry conferences and is often quoted in industry media. Larry is a member of the Washington, D.C. Bar and American Bar Association. He received his law degree from the Vanderbilt University School of Law, and a Bachelor of Business Administration degree from The George Washington University.

William S. Harmon
William S. Harmon
Vice President, Corporate Markets
Great-West Retirement Services
  Bill assumed his current position in 2002, where he oversees the field distribution and servicing of the Great-West 401(k) product. He is also responsible for product development and overall business management. He joined Great-West in1988 as a sales representative and has been instrumental in the dramatic growth in market share in Employee Benefits products for Great-West, particularly 401(k) plans. Bill received his bachelor of business administration degree with an emphasis in marketing from Loyola Marymount University. He also holds NASD Series 6, 26, and 63 licenses.

Cynthia Hayes
Cynthia Hayes, CFA, CEBS
Managing Partner
Oculus Partners, LLC
  Cynthia Hayes is a nationally recognized leader in retirement related policy, business management, product strategy, marketing, and client management. She formed Oculus Partners, LLC in July, 2008, to bring specialty expertise to asset managers and advisors, brokers and distributors, product manufacturers and record keepers seeking to:
  • Accelerate their growth through product innovation, expansion of sales channels, sales effectiveness, or corporate acquisition activities
  • Re-invigorate their client or distributor relationships with leading edge thinking, solution based marketing approaches, and targeted success measures
  • Manage their business risks related to ERISA programs
  • Restructure their business to focus on the highest and best use of capabilities, reputation, and resources
She retired from Merrill Lynch as a Managing Director of their Retirement Group in June, 2008 where she held executive line management responsibilities including business and product strategy, sales, client management, marketing, product management. Prior to Merrill Lynch, Cynthia was Senior Vice President of NationsBank (now Bank of America) responsible for Institutional Trust Operations and launching the daily 401(k) business as the senior business line executive.

Mary K. Hollingsworth
Mary K. Hollingsworth
Senior Vice President, Director of Participant Solutions
Wachovia Corporation
  As Director of Participant Solutions, Mary is accountable for the overall participant experience. She oversees the call center, participant education and communication services, asset retention and overall quality measures for Wachovia Retirement Services. Mary joined Wachovia in September of 1999 as Manager of Performance Improvement with responsibility for Participant Account Services (Call Center), Client Services, Training & Development and Quality.

Mary came to Wachovia from Fidelity Investments where she served as National Director of Quality for Retail Operations. Prior to Fidelity Investments, Mary worked at Arthur Andersen as Quality Officer for the Chicago office operations.

Mary received her BS in accounting from Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She holds Series 63 and 7 licenses.

Jim Langenwalker
Jim Langenwalter
Chief Marketing Officer
Rollover Systems
  Jim Langenwalter is the Chief Marketing Officer of RolloverSystems, Inc. (RSI), an independent provider of rollover services. He is responsible for RSI’s marketing and product management functions. Jim has a 26 year track record of developing and marketing technology based business models in the investment services and banking industries. Prior to joining RolloverSystems, Jim founded Mid-Market America (MMA) and successfully managed the company through all phases of its development financing and exit. He also held Vice President level positions in financial services and technology services companies such as Mellon Bank, Federated Investors, Carnegie Group (now Logica), SMS Consulting (a.k.a. ISI) and the Mellon Bank Datacenter (now Fiserv). His experience centers around helping financial services companies leverage technology to improve service quality, increase sales or reduce cost from existing sales, marketing and service strategies.

Jim has an Executive MBA from the Katz Business School (University of Pittsburgh) and a Bachelors of Science degree from West Virginia University with a Major in Marketing Management and a Minor in Systems Design.

Thomas Loch
Thomas A. Loch
Wealth Management Systems
  Tom founded Wealth Management Systems Inc. (WMSI) in 2000 as an expert technology consulting company providing business analysis, design, development and deployment of Internet applications supporting financial service initiatives for the employee benefits industry. Today, WMSI web site technology and applications service over 20,000 plan sponsors and 8 million participants and coordinate the processing of over 20,000 daily transactions.

Tom previously held various executive level positions at SinglePoint Financial, Universal Pensions, Inc. and Preferred Benefits. As Co-Founder and President of Single Point, he developed an exclusive relationship with S&P Retail Brokerage to provide Customer Relationship Management (CRM) functionality including portfolio management, trade-order processing and customized financial planning tools to financial advisors. As CIO of Universal Pensions, Inc., Tom lead UPI's Technology Services Division and developed the industry's first ASP service for the banking and retirement industries. As Vice President of Operations at Preferred Benefits, he defined the company's technology strategy and programs for Benefits Claims Processing, Defined Contribution Plans and Health Care Network practices.

Joan McDonagh
Joan C. McDonagh
Manager 401(k) Technical Resources
Great-West Retirement Services
  Joan received a J.D. from American University, Washington College of Law in 1985 and subsequently practiced law in the employee benefits area. She has worked with Great-West Retirement Services® since 2004 and with its wholly owned subsidiary, EMJAY Corporation, since 1988. Joan’s areas of expertise include ERISA compliance, with an emphasis on fiduciary requirements.

Joan is a member of the Milwaukee, Wisconsin and American Bar Associations. She is on the Government Relations Committee and the Legislative and Regulatory Task Force of SPARK, and is past Vice-President of Wisconsin Retirement Plan Professionals, Ltd. She has written numerous articles and presented a variety of seminars on issues related to qualified plan operation. She is a co-author of the 401(k) Answer Book in the Aspen Publishers Answer Book Series.

Thomas Peller
Vice President, Compliance
Fidelity Investments
  Tom Peller is responsible for compliance requirements affecting the design and administration of tax-deferred retirement and savings programs of tax-exempt organizations.

Prior to joining Fidelity Investments in 1996, he was a consultant with a major multinational employee benefits consulting firm. His retirement plan experience also includes plan administration with large plan sponsors and enforcement of the ERISA labor provisions at the U.S. Department of Labor.

Tom is the author of “Retirement on a One-Legged Stool” (Journal of Compensation and Benefits, March/April 2000), “Correcting 457(b) Plan ‘Excess Deferrals’ Under Final Regulations” (Journal of Deferred Compensation, Winter 2004), “Nongovernmental 457(b) Plan ‘One Time Elections’” (Journal of Deferred Compensation, Winter 2005), “Catching Up With Catch-Up Contributions” (Journal of Pension Planning & Compliance, Winter 2007), and “When is 403(b) + 401(a) = 415(c)?” (Journal of Pension Planning & Compliance, Winter 2008). He holds a BA from Yale University and a JD from Boston University School of Law.

Steve Saxon
Steve Saxon
Groom Law Group
  Steve heads up the firm's special practice groups on pension plan investments and on 401(k) plan administrative and investment management matters. These groups focus on the ERISA, securities, banking, and tax issues that arise in connection with the offering of investment products to employee benefit plans. He works on a wide variety of administrative, litigation and legislative matters involving tax-exempt organizations and ERISA, specializing in matters relating to Title I of ERISA. Steve received his undergraduate degree from Colgate University and his law degree from Georgetown University Law School.

Thomas G. Schendt
Thomas G. Schendt
Alston + Bird LLP
  Tom Schendt is a partner in the firm’s Employee Benefits and Executive Compensation Group. His practice focuses on employee plan litigation, agency civil and criminal audits, investigations and disputes and voluntary compliance initiatives involving the Internal Revenue Service, Department of the Treasury, Department of Labor, Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation, U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and the Department of Justice. Tom regularly assists clients with the execution of various plan administration and qualification requirements under Titles I & II of ERISA. He also focuses on fiduciary issues affecting plan providers, including plan fee disclosure, exemption issues, and implications of recent PPA provisions.

Prior to joining the firm, Tom had been with the Internal Revenue Service since 1988, where he held a number of positions. He received his B.S. degree in finance and his M.B.A. from Marquette University before receiving his law degree from Marquette Law School in 1985, where he served as an editor of the Marquette Law Review.

Charlies Wenzel
Charles Wenzel
Senior Vice President - Institutional Sales
  Charlie is responsible for the U.S. institutional business development efforts for Ascensus. Prior to this position he was in Distribution Support Services responsible for overseeing sales and marketing efforts for the benefit of Ascensus partners. Prior to joining BISYS Retirement in 2000, he served as National Sales Manager responsible for defined contribution and defined benefit product distribution for Seligman Advisors. In addition, Charlie worked for Trust Consultants as the National Sales Manager and as a Regional Managing Consultant supporting the distribution network of several mutual fund companies, assisting them in turnkey 401(k) and other retirement products. He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Public Finance from Indiana University.

Bob Wuelfing
Bob Wuelfing
RG Wuelfing & Associates
The SPARK Institute
  Bob is President of RG Wuelfing & Associates and The SPARK Institute. RG Wuelfing & Associates serves the retirement and investment management industries by providing strategic consulting, public relations, market research and M&A services. The SPARK Institute is the leading voice in Washington for the retirement services industry. Bob is also the founder and managing director of the Society of Professional Asset-Managers and Record Keepers (SPARK).

Bob has a Bachelor's degree from the University of Connecticut, an MBA from the University of Hartford and serves on the Entrepreneurship Advisory Council at Grove City College in Pennsylvania. Bob is a frequent speaker at industry trade association meetings.