Practice Management

Adviser Marketing and Service Evolve With Plan Sponsor Demands

Elite retirement plan advisers are using new and proven tactics to meet the growing demands of plan sponsors in an evolving industry. 

By Javier Simon editors@strategic-i.com | July 27, 2017
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The ongoing implementation of the Department of Labor (DOL)’s fiduciary rule is reshaping the defined contribution (DC) adviser landscape, but some analysts say the space has been undergoing substantial change for quite some time.

Tom Woods, senior vice president of sales at Fidelity Investments, says he’s seen the role of advisers change significantly in the last few years. Woods observes advisers moving away from focusing on evaluating funds for a plan’s lineup and mitigating fiduciary risk. They are expanding the scope by offering a broader set of services to keep up with plan sponsor demands. These include playing larger roles in plan designs, educating and advising participants, and working with other plan stakeholders in a more strategic manner.

He says services pertaining to financial wellness and health savings accounts (HSAs) are also appealing more to plan sponsors today.

“Plan sponsors are more and more inquisitive about these things and looking to advisers for guidance,” Woods says. “This presents tremendous opportunity to differentiate yourself from someone who may be only focused on lowering fees and selecting investments.”

Donn Hess, senior vice president, Lockton Retirement Services, observes a similar trend. While he notes there’s still a great demand for basic adviser services like mitigating fiduciary risk, especially in light of ongoing litigation in the space, he sees a growing demand for advice on programs around executive benefits and financial wellness.

“Financial wellness is such a huge topic and has so many moving pieces,” Hess explains. “I think a lot of clients are turning to their advisers for help in defining what their issues are and then narrowing the scope of the solutions and providers available.” But given the industry’s heightened scrutiny on fees, sponsors also want the price tag for these services to remain relatively low.

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