ASC Spring 2006 Newsletter
In this issue:

Rebuilding After Katrina

Sarah Simoneaux, VP ASC Recently, a traffic light blinked from yellow to red to green, a trash truck picked up garbage, and a new supermarket opened its doors. Ordinary events that go unnoticed in any other community, but extraordinary ones that are cause for celebration in New Orleans. We have all learned to cherish these ordinary events as the city recovers in fits and starts. Despite the discouraging news delivered to the outside world, those who have returned to the city feel passionately that it can recover. However, they know it will largely be their grass roots efforts that will bring the city back to life, despite the David versus Goliath feel to the work. The debris struck those of us traveling between New Orleans and our Katrina diaspora, especially in contrast to the cleaner cities where we had our temporary homes. From the four story mountain of trash at the edge of the hard-hit Lakeview neighborhood to the windblown bits of paper in every yard, the city appeared even more deserted and hopeless than it was. It took our children, both literally and figuratively, to bring us back. Schools reopened in January, allowing those of us who had enrolled our students in schools elsewhere to return. Return to this, we asked? Becky Zaheri, a resident of the unflooded “sliver by the river”, remembered the adage “A long journey begins with a single step.” She organized her neighbors to clean up their common areas, which expanded into a cleanup of nearby streets where residents had not yet come home. Several of us joined the weekly Saturday Katrina Krewe cleanups–even my reluctant teenagers. Now over five hundred strong, we are helping to organize local businesses to join in the effort. Check out the progress at www.cleanno.org. In mid-city and uptown, hundred-year-old homes are getting long overdue facelifts, New Orleans style. New roofs are laid in bright colors instead of charcoal gray, and the architectural details that make New Orleans unique have been spruced up and colorfully painted. The oaks that line many of the main streets made it through the three weeks of brackish water and punishing winds without a scratch. The zoo and aquarium have reopened, JazzFest miraculously went on as before, and the first large convention (the American Library Association with 20,000 attendees) met in the newly revamped convention center. Over twenty charter schools are enrolling students for the fall in the formerly physically and academically dilapidated New Orleans public schools. However, as summer and its storms approach, large swaths of the city, particularly the lower ninth ward, New Orleans East, and even affluent Lakeview, remain trapped in the Groundhog Day-like replay of August 29th. As a stubborn optimist, I choose to believe that this gives us a special opportunity to start over. As the “we pay $12 an hour and a $6000 per year signing bonus” signs at Burger King tell us, a city needs all levels of inhabitants to keep it running. New Orleans’ location, squeezed between the Mississippi River and Lake Pontchartrain, is particularly suited to neighborhoods of mixed use housing with accessible public transportation. However, as the Dutch pointed out when they visited the hardest hit areas this spring, we will have to make some hard choices about where that housing is located, and what must be left to its pre-development wetlands status. Those of us who live here know the reality of what can be saved and what can’t; listen to us and not the media on this issue. On the home front, we reflect much of what the city is going through, with some days better than others. The kids finished off their second semester at the their original schools, but extracurricular activities never resurfaced, two classes were taught without textbooks, and the sounds of construction on the gutted first floors wafted through the rest of the building all semester. Although there are fewer people in Orleans parish, the surrounding parishes of Jefferson and St. Tammany (where we live) have both doubled in population. Add to that the influx of out-of-state contractors and intermittently working traffic lights, and you have the bizarre phenomenon of less people and worse traffic. The kids made me give up cursing at out-of-state trucks for Lent–if only Lent lasted all year! And yet… my daughter Nicole wrote an essay for her English class about the close relationships she now has with friends and family that lived with us while my son William and I were away. William remains tight with the small group that went to “night school” in Houston. Both appreciate how fortunate they are when we drop off two of their classmates at their small uptown apartment, their home while their destroyed mid-city home is rebuilt. Just a couple of weeks ago, their mom stopped at the car, a sheaf of papers in her hand (the real legacy of Katrina), to tell me that she was so grateful to get to bake brownies for the end of year school party. It was the first non Katrina-related things she had done in months. My husband Peter’s practice perversely benefited from the storm, because the two other skin cancer surgeons left town. He is actually looking at additional office space, and is committed to staying in the area for the long haul. I have the benefit of both ASC and ASPPA, the only things in my life untouched by Katrina. What a haven of normality and routine they both are, as chaotic as their activities must seem sometimes to outsiders. We still visit Sheryl and her family (recently went for Audrey’s graduation) and consider them part of our extended family–we just hope that we continue to visit and don’t have to move back in this year. Most of all, thanks to all of you who have sent words of encouragement and hope. Every one of those emails buoys our spirits and keeps us focused on what is important–the people, not the things, in our lives.

New AIM Features!

Easier Annual Census Requests, Enhanced Tracking of Workflow and IRS Filing Due Dates

With AIM’s project and task tracking functionality, administrators will no longer worry about missing important deadlines. And with AIM’s new integration with ASC’s administration software, it’s now faster and easier to generate end-of-the-year census requests. These features are part of recent enhancements to ASC’s AIM Contact and Case Management system. AIM is updated several times a year, ensuring that users receive timely solutions to their changing needs. AIM is designed specifically to meet the needs of plan administrators, helping administrators take control of their caseloads, avoid missed deadlines, and make sure that no tasks are overlooked. With AIM, administrators can maintain detailed information on clients and cases, track the status of projects or individuals, and produce an extensive selection of reports and form letters. Included in AIM are customizable project and task checklists for annual administration functions such as IRS Form 5500 filing deadlines. This exciting feature enables administrators to be fully aware of upcoming plan due dates and allows managers to easily view progress of staff assignments and blocks of plans in a single report. In addition, AIM’s integration with ASC’s Defined Contribution/401(k) and Defined Benefit systems, enables administrators to easily generate batch census reports for end-of-year data collection. These reports can be generated based on plan type or plan year end. For more information about how AIM can help you, visit AIM – Contact & Case Management Database or email sales@asc-net.com.

ASCi’s DGEM Launch Successful Beyond Expectations

Administrators now create plan docs in minutes instead of hours!

ASCi’s Document Generation & Management (DGEM) system, launched just several months ago, has been an overwhelming success. “Beyond our expectations” says Alan Gould, President of ASC. The system is incredibly user-friendly, according to the many enthusiastic emails received by the ASCi support team. “We just finished our first interim EGTRRA document on DGEM,” writes David Bagley, Senior Pension Administrator. “I have to admit, it was fun…I can’t wait to do EGTRRA restatements in the client’s office! From the way the document went, this system will be a 100% improvement over our previous vendor!” DGEM is a result of ASC’s joint venture with Charles Lockwood and John Griffin, formerly of Global Benefits Advisors (GBA). Lockwood and Griffin draft the plan documents and related materials, while an ASC team designs and automates the system. Administrators now create plan documents in minutes instead of hours. Using .NET technology, DGEM is simple to learn and use. To create a plan document, administrators check the correct answers in a simple checklist and the document is generated without any additional input. Documents are easily edited if necessary, and historical documents are stored in the system, allowing easy retrieval of prior plan documents and amendments. DGEM can be used to create new plan documents, EGTRRA restatements, or plan amendments. An amendment wizard included with DGEM allows administrators to generate hundreds or thousands of amendments in a fraction of the time. The amendment wizard includes a status tracking feature, enabling administrators to easily track the status of each client’s amendments. Since the original launch date, ASCi has been updating DGEM regularly, rapidly expanding the list of available documents. DGEM currently includes Volume Submitter and Prototype plan documents for PS/401(k), PS, MP, and Standardized plans, and other plans are on the way. ASCi’s quick response to client requests is another oft-mentioned point in client emails. “Client requests are seriously considered and often implemented immediately,” says Lockwood. “We’ve built the system in a way that allows us to make changes quickly and efficiently in response to client requests,” adds Gould. For additional information on the DGEM system and its benefits, visit Document Generation & Management System or email asci@asc-net.com.

Defined Benefit System Users! Did you know…?

Answers to Your Frequently Asked Questions:
  1. The Update Routine now creates a backup portable copy of the case before updating. The user has the option of turning this feature off at the time of the update…
  2. In the employee history screen, you can delete an entire record by highlighting it and selecting “Edit/Delete”…
  3. Some Windows screens have been rearranged to simplify the checking of actuarial calculations. See the May Update Memo for details…
  4. You can “Name” portable copies by selecting “Setup” and entering a file name; this may make it more convenient for importing those copies if you can’t remember the old case number…
  5. When you delete employees only, you can then import a portable copy or copy an existing plan into that case. The plan specs will be replaced by the case copied…
  6. Plans now remain open after copying a plan, deleting employees only, importing a portable copy, or updating to a new period. You no longer have to reopen in these instances…
For more Defined Benefit FAQs visit ASC’s Online Customer Service Center! (Log in at www.asc-net.com).

Defined Benefit Helpful Hint (little known facts for unusual situations):

Schedule B attachments: If you need to include the Employer ID # and Plan # on reports to be attached to the Schedule B, simply enter those items on the third (and seldom used) line of the “Name” in Plan Specs. After printing the reports you need for the attachment, you may remove these items if you no longer want them to print. Several clients have found it useful to leave these items in the Name field for all reports. Need to send a table to a remote office? If you are using stand-alone systems (not on a network server), you can “send” a table by first entering that table as an item in a hypothetical plan in Plan Specs (i.e., mortality, turnover, vesting, and even benefit and cash balance formula tables). Send them a portable copy of the “plan” making sure you export tables, and have them import the “plan” making sure they import tables. Voila!! They will have your selected tables. In fact, if you need the new RP2000 and PBGC distress termination mortality tables, you can download and import such a portable copy from the Tables section on the ASC website.

DC/401(k) System Enhanced with Latest ASC Update

Based on client feedback and specific client requests, ASC’s May 2006 system update provides several DC/401(k) system enhancements. ASC’s system updates, released several times a year, generally include new features as well as enhancements to existing features. “We are always listening to our clients to see what we can do to make their workflow easier, ” says Sheryl Stucky, a member of ASC’s support team. “Sometimes it’s the small things that make a world of a difference.” The latest release includes enhancements to the Import Wizard, Interest from Balance routine, and Sole Prop/Partnership Budget calculations. If you have not yet installed the update or would like to view the complete update memo, you can download the relevant files from the Client Support Center, accessible by logging in from www.asc-net.com. If you would like additional information about the May 2006 update or other DC/401(k) system features, contact support@asc-net.com.