2012 Retirement Plan Adviser Survey

Advisers pick their favorite providers in our 2012 Retirement Plan Adviser Survey

By Alison Cooke Mintzer See Archive >
2012 Retirement Plan Adviser Survey

For nearly 17 years, PLANADVISER’s sister publication, PLANSPONSOR, has published its annual Defined Contribution Survey, which has become the industry standard for measuring (among other things) plan sponsors’ satisfaction with their retirement plan providers. Not long after the inaugural issue of PLANADVISER in 2006, we created a similar survey for retirement plan advisers. Advisers often have a better—or at least a more comparative—perspective than their plan sponsor clients on the relative strength of products and services offered by providers. Advisers can, and usually do, work ­concurrently with many of them.

This year’s Retirement Plan Adviser Survey will be published in two parts, as always. In this issue, we examine advisers’ favored providers, on both the investment and recordkeeping sides. Our next issue will feature adviser practice structure and experience, with the intent of helping advisers learn from, and benchmark against, peers. This year, we were fortunate to receive complete survey responses from 602 retirement plan advisers, enabling us to present data that is representative of the plan adviser community as a whole.

On the investment side, criteria for selecting funds have shifted. This year, as in 2011, performance versus benchmarks was the top criterion for selecting appropriate funds (90.5% of advisers ranked this first, second or third of 11 categories); five-year return was the next most important criterion (77.5% ranked it in the top three), followed by plan fee-structure (61.4%). In 2011, style drift and manager tenure were the second and third most important criteria.

When asked to list the top five fund family recommendations for plan sponsors, advisers chose PIMCO (56.6%), American Funds (48.4%), Vanguard (44.3%), Fidelity (32.4%), T. Rowe Price (31.1%) and BlackRock (30.6%).

Selecting specific mutual funds for a plan sponsor can be a daunting task, with hundreds of funds and share classes to choose from. Like last year, however, PIMCO’s Total Return Fund was the most suggested fund by advisers for plan menus (45.4%), and American Funds EuroPacific Growth Fund again the second-most recommended fund (21.1%). T. Rowe Price’s target-date suite was the most popular target-date fund (16.2%) and the third most recommended overall.