Wichita retirement planning firm ranks in nation's top 1%

Tucked away on the third floor of an office building off Rock Road, Retirement Plan Solutions looks unassuming enough. But with more than 50 clients and $120 million in assets under management, the three-person firm ranks in the top 1 percent of advisers for defined-contribution retirement plans, according to national statistics.

Owner Michael O'Bryhim credits experience and narrow focus for the firm's success.

"I feel these days you've got to be a specialist," he said. "You can't be all things to all people."

O'Bryhim started RPS in 2002 after working 30 years for the Principal Financial Group, for whom he directed employee benefit sales and service in Kansas.

"I was what they called a wholesaler in the business," he said. "I called on independent agents and brokers and consultants and tried to convince them to use my company's services for their clients."

When Principal Financial Group went public in 2002, O'Bryhim figured it was time to strike out on his own. "I always wanted to be independent and work with a client," he said.

O'Bryhim's son, Brendan, joined the company in 2006, and Heather Haines, another former Principal Financial Group employee, came on board the next year.

RPS handles only 401(k) and other retirement plans. Clients include Ritchie Exploration, Cox Machine, Metal Fab, a law firm, lodging chain and other companies across the business spectrum.

"A large part of what we do is educate the employees on diversification — retirement planning, basically — and also give them a realistic idea of how much they need to save to bridge the gap between social security and whatever pension plans they may have," Brendan O'Bryhim said.

"Manufacturing tends to be where we can provide a lot of value. Employees of manufacturing firms tend to be underserved by the financial industry. We do a lot of one-on-one and group education with those employees. We have clients in white-collar and blue-collar (jobs) alike."

For the companies, he said, "Our value is really helping them stay out of trouble with the Department of Labor and minimizing fiduciary liability."

Good retirement plans also help with companies employee retention, he noted.

RPS recently affiliated with the Retirement Plan Advisory Group, an alliance of 256 similar firms in 45 states serving 15,000 plans sponsors with $50 billion in collective assets under advisement. RPS plans to the use the group's technology and training to better serve clients.

Just don't look for a flashy headquarters with a big RPS sign any time soon.

"I think we deliver greater value because we have lower overhead," Michael O'Bryhim said. "Value means you get as much or more for less."