profile | PLANADVISER June/July 2011

HALL OF FAME - Adviser Teams of the Year

PLANADVISER honors previous winners of the PLANSPONSOR Retirement Plan Adviser Team of the Year awards

By | June/July 2011
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The STAR Group at Merrill Lynch (now part of CAPTRUST Akron), 2007 PLANSPONSOR Retirement Plan Adviser Team of the Year; FFoA (now part of StoneStreet Equity), 2008 PLANSPONSOR Retirement Plan Adviser Team of the Year; Fiduciary Investment Advisers, 2009 PLANSPONSOR Retirement Plan Adviser Team of the Year; and The Prince Group at Stifel Nicolaus, 2010 PLANSPONSOR Retirement Plan Adviser Team of the Year

Stephen Wilt – 2007 PLANSPONSOR Retirement Plan Adviser Team of the Year

Stephen Wilt is Senior Vice President at CAPTRUST Financial Advisors (far right in photo). In 2009, he left the STAR Group at Merrill Lynch, the winner of the 2007 Retirement Plan Adviser Team of the Year, to join CAPTRUST, creating the company’s Akron, Ohio, office.

What do you think are the most significant changes in the retirement plan industry over the past five years?

Fee compression: We are currently in one of the most competitive provider fee markets we have ever experienced. Plan sponsors now must consider cost in terms of how their plan has changed in composition and whether, as a result, the plan is competitively priced. When combined with the pending participant disclosure, plan sponsors will be more vulnerable to litigation if they cannot demonstrate documentation for periodic benchmarking and appropriately negotiated fees

Fee disclosure: For the last 10 years, I have worked with plan sponsors and providers to ensure full fee disclosure and have educated plan committees regarding its impact on provider fee negotiations and investment menu selection. We help provide transparency to sponsors who believe their providers are not collecting fees for services. Our practice requires all providers to declare their needed service fee separate from revenue-sharing agreements.

Automation: Auto plans have become the norm over the last five years and for good reason. We are seeing true results by combining auto-enrollment (with deferral increases), independent investment recommendations, and great education. Moving the needle is not difficult with an engaged plan sponsor, thoughtful plan design, and a little hard work.

What have been some of the most significant changes in your business/practice over the past five years?

Five years ago, I began a quest to achieve a level of independence in relationships and compensation that would raise the standard of care I could provide my clients and plan participants. After 18 months of research, I elected to move my practice from a wirehouse to CAPTRUST Financial Advisors. My goals were to have access to independent investment and plan research and comprehensive benchmarking capabilities, to serve as a co-fiduciary, and work with like-minded institutional advisers focused on the retirement industry. In our third year, my practice has grown significantly and the quality and depth of consulting we deliver have expanded our market focus and reputation both in our community and the industry. We have also moved from a national focus to a regional one. More than 90% of our clients are within an hour’s drive from our office.

What one piece of advice/information/caution would you offer to regulators/legislators?

Retirement is broken. It will become more of a front burner issue as the workforce gets older.

Real solutions are possible, but getting there will require an unprecedented level of collaboration between government and the private sector.

What one piece of advice/information/caution would you offer to plan sponsors?

There is significant value in partnering with a retirement-focused, independent consultant who can demonstrate the ability to solve for retirement success across a growing continuum of needs.

What one piece of advice/information/caution would you offer to other advisers?

Don’t go it alone. Being a retirement adviser is a heavy and laborious business. You will need the right support system that can deliver resources beyond you and your team.

Five years from now, what do you think will have changed the most in retirement plan designs?

Retirement advice, integrated as more front and center. In five years, I hope to see the continued implementation and integration of automated programs and savings and investment programs. Throughout one’s working life—from age 20 to age 70 and into retirement—retirement success will depend on features such as automatic enrollment, auto annual savings rate increases, professionally managed allocation solutions, portfolio risk management, and retirement income options. In my best outlook, every American will have access to, and engage in, basic financial health education.

What has being named a PLANSPONSOR Retirement Plan Adviser Team of the Year meant to your business?

Demonstrative credibility and referable clients have been the mainstay of my practice growth and reputation. Recognition through PLANSPONSOR provides me the ability to demonstrate, to prospects and clients alike, industry recognition for my careerlong focus on plan sponsor and plan participant initiatives.