Today, Alliance Benefit Group Rocky Mountain (ABGRM) services over 300 advisors. These advisors have trusted the company with more than 1,300 plans which contain approximately 40,000 participants. ABGRM provides jobs to 50+ employees between its Salt Lake City, Utah and Denver, Colorado locations.
Despite its current size, ABGRM started off like many other mom and pop shops in the valley.
On April 1, 1980, Dennis Zobell and his wife Cher Zobell founded Rocky Mountain Pension Services. Dennis’ decision to leave his former employer was fueled by his desire to progress his career.
“It was family operated and I was told that I would never have control because I was not family,” Dennis told me during our phone interview.
Dennis and his former employer parted on good terms, and the change created many new opportunities for him.
“In 1990, Dennis came together with Gordon Hammer and they brought their two companies together. They also bought the building which was gifted to Gordon’s wife and to me,” Cher said.
The merger that Cher referenced led to the creation of Rocky Mountain Employee Benefits, Inc. in 1990. The company expanded its business to cover defined benefit and cafeteria plans. It also became one of the largest TPA providers in Utah.
In 1997, Rocky Mountain Employee Benefits joined ABG National. The reverse franchise allowed the company to receive better pricing and leverage. With this change came its current name Alliance Benefit Group Rocky Mountain (ABGRM).
Today, ABG National manages over 20,000 plans, $76 billion dollars in assets, and services over 1,178,000 individuals.
“A lot of it was a good boy get together. We would share ideas and drink,” Dennis said.
Dennis loved his relationships with the members of ABG National.
Current ABGRM CFO Chris Mautz told me; “One year he came back from one of those meetings and found out that one of the guys was terminally ill…He came back and said, ‘Okay guys, we’ve got to figure out a way to help this guy out.’”
Chris Mautz and Shawn Oram (two of today’s owners) were put to work onboarding plans to reduce stress on this man’s employees.
Dennis is respected for his contributions to the company’s structure and culture.
“He never got flustered over the big stuff. If somebody made a big mistake then he just took it in stride,” Chris told me. “He was very paternalistic. If you worked for him then you were a part of his family and he was going to take care of you.”
During Chris’ first supervisory role at the company, he learned about an employee that was unable to replace their family’s furnace.
“It was the middle of the winter and they were burning wood to heat their home. This was 2005 or ‘2006,” said Chris.
When Dennis learned about the young family’s situation, he loaned the employee the money and helped to organize the furnace’s replacement.
In writing their story, it would be remiss for me to not mention Cher’s contributions.
“She was the glue. Mom did everything from receptionist to HR to filing… she did a little bit of everything for 20 years,” said Jeff Zobell, ABG Rocky Mountain’s current CEO.
Cher’s responsibilities extended to managing the building and handling accounting. She was also recognized for her care of the employees.
Jeff said, “She knew what was going on in people’s lives and did what she could… while still keeping it professional.”
In 2009, Dennis began the process of shifting company leadership to the next generation. The final adjustments were made on August 14, 2012.
It is interesting to note that Dennis did not opt to keep the company entirely within his family.
Instead, he sold ABGRM to today’s five leaders:
- Jeff Zobell- Chief Executive Officer
- Shawn Oram- President of ABG Rocky Mountain
- Larry Solomon- President of ABG Consultants
- Dallin Zobell- Chief Technology Officer
- Chris Mautz- Chief Financial Officer
Each of the current owners has worked in the company for 16 or more years.
With his final executive decisions, Dennis created a company culture where the driven and hardworking could create life-long careers for themselves.
This culture of career-development and mentoring continues in ABGRM today.
“There are young women who are starting families and still have the opportunity to have a profession while being a mom,” Fran Mulgrew, ABGRM’s Director of Business Development said.
She is one of many employees who have started at ABGRM in an entry-level position and worked their way into meaningful careers. ABGRM’s flexibility with its employees has enabled Fran to work from home while providing for her family.
“You don’t necessarily need to have a background, but you do need to have drive,” Fran said.
Fran’s mentoring has continued on to the next generation of hires. She is often heard to say, “I want you to be successful here.”
Recently, employees who were interested in increasing their knowledge of industry regulation and jargon were able to participate in a weekly study group to help them prepare for the American Society of Pension Professional and Actuaries DC-1 exam, the first step in earning professional credentials from the retirement industry’s top credentialing body. The company paid for the employees to prepare and take these exams.
Finally, ABGRM is starting a community outreach program called ABGives. Through this program, office departments will find service opportunities in the community where they can make a difference.
Alliance Benefit Group Rocky Mountain has a rich history. The combined efforts of Cher and Dennis Zobell, today’s team of owners, and a host of other individuals have driven ABGRM to become what it is today while opening doors for the future generations to succeed.