Since being named the 2018 PLANSPONSOR Mega Team Retirement Plan Adviser of the Year, Everhart Advisors in Dublin, Ohio, has certainly lived up to its “mega” status. The practice has been adding about two to three team members and 25 plans a year on average, says Brian Hanna, a partner and executive vice president, retirement plans, at the practice.
“Most of that is support or non-consultant positions,” Hanna says. “We have also built out our employee education team a good bit. They are dedicated to travel to perform on-site employee engagement.”
Everhart’s assets have also grown considerably in the past three years. The practice had $1.5 billion in defined contribution (DC) assets under advisement (AUA) in 2018, and that has since doubled to $3 billion. As well, Everhart’s core market plan size is between $2 million and $75 million, and that continues to move up market, Hanna says.
Everhart’s service model, however, has not changed, he says.
“We continue to do the right thing by our clients in terms of bringing the best practices to them,” Hanna says. “We focus primarily on 401(k) plans, but we also have a significant amount of cash-balance expertise. Scott Everhart [the firm’s founder] is a top expert in that world.”
As to how Hanna views the changes the retirement plan industry has seen in the past decade, he remarks, “Obviously, there are more advisers who are now focusing on the space, or at least offering and pursuing opportunities in the 401(k) consulting space versus a decade ago, and that would include more retirement plan specialists. Obviously, that is paired with plan sponsors having a greater understanding of their responsibilities and liabilities as fiduciaries, which creates great opportunities for us as advisers. Sponsors are also much more aware of fees, and, as such, we try to help our clients realize that should not be their sole focus. Rather, they should also consider the value, service and capabilities of their providers. That said, I will note that recordkeeping fees have dropped dramatically in the past decade. Today, almost all recordkeepers are open architecture with fixed fees.
“There has also been a considerable shift in plan sponsors’ focus from simply their fiduciary liabilities, investment selection and prudent process toward their employees’ financial wellness, toward one-on-one engagement and offering their workers comprehensive financial advice,” Hanna continues. “However, this is something that Everhart has always offered our clients in our 20-plus years of doing business. For a long, long time, that was a significant differentiator for us, whereas today, more of our competitors are now offering employee engagement. This new emphasis on holistic financial wellness—including assistance with debt reduction, help with college planning, insight into the best Social Security strategy and help with retirement income solutions—is a positive development for our industry, for sponsors and, mostly, for participants.”
Hanna says he is very optimistic about the future for Everhart Advisors and the industry at large. “We are confident that we have a wonderful industry, providing significant and important services with respect to helping people successfully retire. I have no concern about the future.”
As to what retirement plan advisers can do to improve defined contribution (DC) plans and participant outcomes, Hanna says, “Keep the message simple for both the employer and the employee. Help employees focus on what they can control: being in the plan, saving to an appropriate level, being invested appropriately, understanding their retirement needs and developing a written retirement plan based on sound analysis of their individual situation.”
Hanna says he is also hopeful that the new preponderance of pooled employer plans (PEPs) and multiple employer plans (MEPs) will expand retirement plan coverage to millions more deserving American workers.