PLANADVISER: Tell us about your practice and how you and your team members got into advising retirement plans.
Plan Sponsor Consultants: Having sold my large financial services practice to MetLife, with over 450 brokers and management personnel at the end of 1999, I retained my pension plan practice, which consisted of 17 qualified and non-qualified pension plans, and a number of large employee benefit plans.
All of our consultants have 25 years of plan experience and multiple professional designations. Two consultants were added in 2011, one in 2012, one in 2013, and one in 2015. Our consultants all had previous wealth management advisory experience.
PLANADVISER: What is your mission statement?
PSC: Our mission at Plan Sponsor Consultants is to create an exceptional retirement plan experience for employers and their employees. We help plan sponsors deliver the highest-quality program by providing services that save time, help manage exposure to fiduciary liability, and address both IRS and DOL requirements. Through our unique financial wellness benefit, we assist participants in improving their financial literacy and retirement outcomes.
PLANADVISER: How is your team/process/structure unique? How has it evolved?
PSC: We like to reference four key differentiators – our team, our awards, our proprietary RFPs, and Financial Wellness. As years have gone on, this has become more robust, adding designations to the team as well as adding awards. Recently, we have developed a Financial Wellness RFP with 10 Financial Wellness providers, which is something we have not seen in the market.
PLANADVISER: What areas of service are customized for each client? What are the same across your book?
PSC: Our brochure describes our services. Customization comes in with the schedule the plan wants for both committee and education meetings, and any additional unique projects that a plan sponsor may need. Lastly, while we offer financial wellness to all clients, not all accept it – primarily due to cost. This impacts the Financial Wellness piece as well as education and communication plans.
PLANADVISER: What do you consider the most significant challenge facing retirement plan participants? Facing retirement plan sponsors? Facing retirement plan advisers?
PSC: For participants, it’s being financially and psychologically prepared for retirement. For sponsors, its handling fiduciary and retirement readiness issues for participants. And for advisers, it’s becoming competent retirement plan advisers through a developmental program, which includes professional designation acquisition and continued education.
PLANADVISER: Describe any particularly noteworthy initiatives you have led with your customer base in the past 12 months (investment, education, plan design or communication).
PSC: In the past 12 months, we have focused heavily on financial wellness with our clients. Some have opted for our full financial wellness suite, while others have utilized services offered by their recordkeepers. We have worked with all clients on utilizing data mining available through their recordkeeper to produce targeted campaigns for various categories of employees.
For example, this year, campaigns have addressed participation, increasing deferral, and diversification. We have also spent time on QDIA’s and assessing whether that the QDIA is appropriate for the plan’s demographics, utilizing a glide path optimization analysis. In some cases, this has led to a re-enrollment, as well.
Our proprietary Financial Wellness RFP, which we believe to be unique in the industry, has been answered by 10 prominent vendors: Edu(k)ate, Everfi, Financial Finesse, Four Seasons, Guidespark, Hello Wallet (Morningstar), LearnVest, Merit, RetireMap and Smart Dollar.
PLANADVISER: As a retirement plan adviser, what do you take the most pride in?
PSC: The greatest pride comes from knowing that we have helped the ultimate end consumer – participants – so they pursue a successful retirement. We do this through committing to the goals outlined in our brochure and our value proposition.
We also demonstrate through metrics the improvements in participant financial literacy and retirement readiness. When a client can honestly answer, “they do everything they say and more,” we know we can be proud of the service to that plan sponsor.
PLANADVISER: What benchmarks do you use to measure plan and client success?
PSC: Participation, deferral percentage, one-stop professional asset management, either through managed accounts or target date investments. We also measure debt reduction, cash flow, emergency funds, and certain risk management categories in those plans that have adopted financial wellness.
PLANADVISER? How do you grow your business? What changes to your practice or service model are you planning for 2017 and beyond?
PSC: We have grown our business by adding consultants, and organically until 2017. We have made one acquisition in Virginia Beach, and are in the process of closing another in March in the southeast.
BUSINESS AT A GLANCE:
Plan assets under advisement: $1.5 billion
Median plan size (in assets): $15 million
Total plans under administration: 157
Total participants served: 42,500