Practice Management

‘How I Boosted My Plan Practice’

What are some secrets to a thriving retirement plan business? Advisers share tips to increase this part of their book of business.

By Jill Cornfield editors@strategic-i.com | October 13, 2014
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Stay Ahead of the Curve

Seven years ago, just before fee disclosure was starting to gain traction, Brian Graff, executive director and CEO of the American Society of Pension Professionals & Actuaries (ASPPA), met with Rick Canipe, the principal and founder of MillenniuM Investment and Retirement Advisors, to discuss the implications of the upcoming fee disclosure regulations.

MillenniuM sat down to take a long, hard look at the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), recalls James Holland, the firm’s director of business development, and realized that compliance was the No. 1 issue they needed to get a grip on. “ERISA is complex,” Holland says. “We realized compliance could get folks into trouble, because a retirement plan has many moving parts.”

Noting that ERISA is a massively complex piece of legislation, Holland points out that the majority of the bill focuses on the compliance aspects of running a plan, not on the investments people choose. At the time, he says, much more attention was being paid to investment choices. “But the world is round,” he says. “Just because something happened a certain way for years, doesn’t mean it has to continue that way.”

Build Your Team

The answer? Assemble a skilled team. Holland says ERISA attorneys, an Internal Revenue Service (IRS) enrolled agent, compliance team, an auditor, and a certified public accountant (CPA) are some of the key players in effective client service. The team makes is easy to run a compliant plan, he says. Without the team, it’s very difficult to make it work.

First find your partners, Holland advises, and simply dipping your toe in the water is a waste of time. “Jump in the deep end and surround yourself with partners ready to help you,” he says. If you contact three leads and it doesn’t work out, you can’t throw up your hands and say it was a waste of time.

The time factor and level of commitment are critical. A few hours a week is insufficient. Holland recommends devoting a sizable amount of time—perhaps 25% of one's work week—to the development of the retirement plan practice.

These moves have resulted in solid, organic growth through client acquisition for MillenniuM over the past five years, which Holland estimates conservatively at 35% a year. “It’s only going to get faster as people understand this space,” he says. The firm operates under a flat-fee model only.