Business at a Glance as of 12/31/21
- Plan assets under advisement: $503 million
- Median plan size (in assets): $12 million
- Plans under administration: 42
- Total participants served: 13,520
PLANADVISER: Tell us about your practice and how you got into advising retirement plans.
Compton: I started my career in 2004 at AXA Equitable in the Retirement Benefits Group. I worked primarily with public school districts assisting faculty and staff members with establishing and managing their 403(b) accounts.
After spending a short amount of time at AXA Equitable, I became an internal wholesaler for Seligman Advisors, where I spent a year on the desk before being promoted out into the field where I covered Upstate New York and Northern New England.
In 2008, I was given an opportunity to interview with Principal as the director of business development in the New York Metro Region. The hiring manager at the time, Brian Walker, took a shot on me, as I did not meet the experience requirement that they were looking for. At this point in my career, I had some experience in the corporate retirement plan space, but still had much to learn.
For the next 12 years, I represented Principal in a number of different roles. I moved from director of business development, where my primary responsibility was identifying retirement plan advisors in the wirehouse channel, to senior sales representative, where I became the point of sale contact on all opportunities below $10 million in plan assets, to director of sales, where I partnered with retirement plan advisers and consultants that had opportunities ranging in $10 million to $250 million in assets.
Throughout the roughly 12 years that I spent at Principal, I had the opportunity to work with some of the brightest retirement plan advisers in the country. Principal also provided me with a unique opportunity to become an expert in a variety of plan types, which included defined contribution, defined benefit, non-qualified deferred compensation plans and employee stock ownership plans.
While I did have the opportunity to work some of the brightest retirement plan advisers, I also recognized that for many of the generalist advisers, there was lack of specialization and an opportunity to take what I had learned to lead my own advisory practice.
I met my two partners at Brio Benefit Consulting all the way back in 2008. They had been experiencing tremendous growth as one of Inc. 5000 Fastest Growth Companies, and they were looking to really grow their retirement practice. In 2019, Brio presented the perfect opportunity to start having a greater impact on clients and plan participants moving forward.
PLANADVISER: How is your team/process/structure unique? How has it evolved? Where will you be in five years?
Compton: My experience in working on the plan provider side for 12-plus years provides me with a unique understanding of the retirement plan business. I understand the approach providers take in an effort to drive revenue. I also have a unique understanding of roles and responsibilities of our provider partners and believe that we are well positioned to leverage the tools and resources available to employers and plan participants.
Since joining Brio in 2019, our retirement plan advisory business has grown from approximately $70 million in AUM to over $500 million in AUM. We have added 31 new clients. We have built out our fiduciary process using Fi360’s Firm Plus software. Additionally, we offer customized participant education materials and make ourselves available for one-on-one education meeting. We have guided our clients on plan design best practices that will lead to greater retirement readiness outcomes.
We have added two additional team members in the last 12 months. Our goal is to double in assets under advisory and revenue by 2024 and I envision Brio having over $2 billion in AUM by 2027.
PLANADISER: As a retirement plan adviser, what do you take the most pride in?
Compton: My favorite part of my job is having a positive impact. That can be with an employer, investment committee or a plan participant. There’s nothing that makes me happier than receiving a thank you email or phone call from a client that appreciates our commitment to serving them. As a part of this process in becoming a finalist, the number of encouraging emails and LinkedIn messages that I received from our clients was truly humbling.
PLANADVISER: How do you grow your business? What changes to your practice or service model are you planning for 2022 or 2023?
Compton: Our business is grown in a few key areas: 1) referrals from existing clients; 2) referrals from provider partners; 3) existing employee benefit clients that are not yet retirement plan clients; 4) Brio’s employee benefit producer’s that now highlight our retirement advisory capabilities in their prospecting discussions; and 5) prospecting.
Our service model and team continue to grow. We are leveraging our financial wellness partners and bringing creative and innovative solutions to our clients. We are breaking away from the traditional advisory model of simply reviewing investment options and performance. We take a holistic approach to our responsibilities and focus on plan design best practices, fiduciary oversight, participant education strategies and deployment and cost controls.
PLANADVISER: What challenges do you think the retirement plan industry faces and what role do you have in addressing and confronting those challenges?
Compton: I expect that we will continue to see consolidation across the industry, which in time, will lead to only a handful of recordkeeping providers. I fear that will result in a reduced service model with providers trying to maximize their margins.
If this comes to fruition, then I believe it will only further promote our service model. We position ourselves to always be the primary contact for our employers and plan participants. We believe that by positioning ourselves as the primary contact, we can lead to quicker resolutions for our clients which enhances our value.
PLANADVISER: Why do you feel it is important to work with plan sponsors and companies offering retirement benefits to their people?
Compton: Studies are showing that more and more of today’s workforce is placing more of a value on employee and lifestyle benefits above traditional compensation.
Retirement is a major life event. Everyone wants to be able to retire with dignity and enjoy that stage of their lives. The sooner an individual starts planning for it, the greater the outcome that they can expect to achieve. I take a lot of pride in doing whatever I can to help as many people achieve as comfortable a life as possible in retirement. Often times this begins by taking a strong stance with investment committees when it comes to plan design recommendations. We are in a unique position in partnership with our plan sponsor clients to positively impact our plan participants savings rates.
For years, I think it was easy for plan sponsors and plan advisers to shy away from the tough questions around automatic enrollment and automatic increases. The excuse of “we can’t do that, it’s up to the employee to sign up for the plan,” is no longer valid. The fact is that employees and plan participants still have the same decisions to make (i.e., do you want to participate in the plan or not). The difference is, by using auto features, we are able to take the work out of the equation for them. Over time, they see their balance growing and they start to feel more empowered and want to learn more about what other steps they can take to further enhance their retirement readiness.
PLANADVISER: What are the most important issues that your plan sponsor clients face with their company retirement plans, and what particularly effective or unique actions do you take to assist them in overcoming those issues?
Compton: For our newest clients, I find that they choose to engage us because they recognize that retirement is not necessarily their area of expertise. They have heard a lot of the terms that are used in the industry like fiduciary, process, IPS, etc., but they don’t have a true expertise in the field. Much like other areas of their life, they feel more comfortable knowing that they are partnered with an outside expert that can help mitigate their fiduciary risks, improve the participant experience and ease their administrative burden.
For our clients, retirement is just one of the employee benefits and job functions that they are responsible for. We do everything in our power to make sure they know that we’ve got this covered. We strive to make their plans air-tight from a fiduciary process standpoint, but also by engaging them on the participant education strategies, and technology integration with the payroll and benefit admin systems. The more we can assist them with making their systems speak to one another, the easier it makes their everyday work lives.