Business Enterprise Consulting | Cowden Associates

Retaining the optimal level of staffing and ensuring an orderly succession is an ongoing challenge. As a result, alternate arrangements must be developed to retain or when necessary, eliminate employees or executives. An operating facility may also have to be ramped up properly or embark on an orderly shutdown. Each situation requires an independent and objective review, which could include creating special retention arrangements, severance, or early retirement/window options.

In order to compete in today’s completive market place, a company must have the right tools to analyze each situation in order to act reasonably in retaining and adjusting staffing levels. Understanding all aspects of compensation, benefits, and retirement is an ideal combination to design the optimal arrangements for each situation. This is where Cowden shines in customizing programs that meet your particular circumstances.

Enterprise Risk Management

Cowden utilizes predictive analytics to solve our clients most challenging problems. We use our proprietary tools to provide clients with financial modelling of their health and welfare, and retirement plans, educate employees of clients looking to retire on understanding the full cost of benefits in retirement and provide complex quantitative analytics to help clients measure and understand the risk of varying future outcomes.

Our tools are developed by senior underwriters and actuaries and are reviewed quarterly for any needed updates and adjustments.

Through engaging us to provide the analytics needed, clients are able to make educated and informed decisions that are backed by solid determining factors.

Labor Management

Approaching the Table With the Goal of a Successful Conclusion

Collective bargaining negotiations can be a stressful and tension-filled process for both sides of the table. Cowden is aware of not only the time and effort involved with such negotiations, but the importance as well.

We provide strategic advisory services to clients involved in collective bargaining negotiations, helping them prepare for, as well as actually engage in those negotiations. Historically, our involvement includes the following

  • Assisting a client prior to the commencement of negotiations, developing economic proposals and determining the estimated cost and liability impact
  • Assisting a client during the actual negotiations with preparation of responses to various proposals, as well as modification of initial client proposals as needed
  • Evaluating health, benefit and retirement plan alternatives for active and retired employees and
  • Once any agreement is reached, working with a client in communicating new plans, as well as providing implementation assistance.
Economic Cost Model Tools

Cowden’s involvement in the negotiation process can also extend to the preparation of an economic costing model. Our models utilize historical demographic and cost information to illustrate the total economic impact of any company and/or union proposals. The model details the costs expressed as total dollars, cost per hour and cost per equivalent unit. The benefit of this arrangement provides a single source of economic information with a detailed breakdown of each component of cost (e.g. base wages, overtime pay, premium pay, holiday pay, vacation pay, and health, benefit and retirement plans). The following is a brief review of the process

  • Request and gather all necessary detailed information to construct a labor cost model
  • Design model(s), including assumptions for the future
  • Present costing alternatives to management
  • Evaluate cost of changes in the program

Merger & Acquisition Due Diligence

Deferred compensation, retirement plans, employee benefits and related items are complex and important considerations in corporate transactions. It is imperative to review and evaluate all Human Resources programs to find hidden problems and to devise a strategy for solving the cost and balance sheet impact – usually all within a short period of time. A qualified Human Resources, compensation, and employee benefits adviser can make the difference between a smooth transition and failure.

Primary Compensation and Benefit Considerations
  • Understated or underaccrued liabilities (of specific concern are special pension provisions that may be invoked as a result of layoffs or plant shutdown provisions)
  • Allowance for benefits or liabilities resulting from sale
  • Employment/union agreements
  • Executive compensation agreements
  • Understated or underaccrued liabilities associated with sick pay or accrued vacations
  • Understated or underaccrued retirement plans (significant restrictions apply)
  • Unfunded retiree medical or death benefits (a substantial liability in many industries)
  • Special executive needs and agreements
  • Potential non-compliance with federal laws and regulations
  • Failure to communicate with participants on a timely basis resulting in significant penalties

How Cowden Helps

Senior members of Cowden staff, with broad generalist experience and specialties in compensation, executive compensation, actuarial, retirement and all areas of employee benefits, are available to

  • Consult with management regarding general issues and delve into specifics of the corporate transaction as appropriate. It is of particular use to be included in strategic discussions related to the background of the merger/acquisition and the identification of key talent targeted for retention.
  • Assist in gathering and analyzing data.
  • Provide modeling as appropriate related to costs, liabilities and potential savings or pitfalls.

Reduction in Force

A Reduction in Force (RIF) is typically needed to lower costs, realign the business, and retain the people who are best qualified to position the company for the future. Most RIFs will be effective only if there is adequate management planning. Early Retirement windows are generally structured in a similar fashion.

Early Retirement windows are most often structured by viewing a combination of age and service to determine eligibility. In addition, a window can be targeted to just specific business units or positions, as additional criteria.

A few key considerations which help frame the offering include

  • Is the RIF or window necessary to reduce costs, increase productivity or efficiency, or address other financial/operational issues?
  • What organizational changes are required?
  • What facilities, departments, or functions will be affected?
  • Is a pure headcount reduction warranted with no structural or organizational changes?
  • How will the organization best assure key internal and external functions continue?

As a starting point in the process, it is vital to identify key management personnel to formulate procedure/criteria and to manage the process, including

  • Key executives from affected business departments
  • Human Resources representatives
  • Communications
  • Legal counsel
  • We work with our clients in every aspect of this analysis.

Retiree Medical/Life Analysis

In today’s competitive environment, companies are struggling to find the balance between providing adequate levels of benefits for current and future retirees with reasonable costs. Cowden provides the following analytical services

  • Review of the entire existing medical and life insurance programs for current retirees in order to determine what alternatives exist that would make the plans more effective. This process includes a detailed examination of plan designs, administration, funding and communications.
  • Analyze the existing contribution levels for current hourly retirees. We review the historical methodology utilized in applying contribution levels and determine if a more efficient approach could be applied.
  • Determine options that should be considered for future retirees (including those who are currently retirement eligible) in order to determine if an alternate plan or plans should be considered.
  • Identify options that should be considered for new hires

Our analysis of each of these phases details the impact on the company from a financial statement basis (P&L and balance sheet), cash flow and taxes. Furthermore, our analysis includes a review of the impact of any proposed changes on current and future retirees. Where the analysis indicates change, we will provide you with expertise and assistance implementing alternate programs.

Contact us for more information: