BofA Merrill Lynch: Educating Participants a Top Priority for Advisers in 2011

Education was chief among priorities for plan sponsors and advisers in 2011, according to Kevin Crain, head of institutional retirement and benefit services for Bank Of America Merrill Lynch.

In the past year, plan sponsors became increasingly focused on the success of 401(k) plans through educating their employees about the offered plans in an easy, effective manner that helped employees appreciate and understand the plans, Crain told PLANADVISER. 

“We have a great ability to educate employees very broadly on their today, their tomorrow,” he said.

Advisers also focused on education in order to garner interest and show incredible value to an employer, Crain said, adding that “both entities have been looking and pushing for the same things.”

Plan sponsors looked to advice programs, simpler utilization programs and easy ways to measure the success of their plans. With these tools, Crain said “the sponsor feels more comfortable in their role that the plan is advancing the way that it should.”

Education is an added benefit to employees at a time when they have many difficult decisions to make, he said. Although Crain thinks the economy is getting better, employees will still long for guidance on their plans throughout 2012.

“The employee longing for help… has become a very critical focus,” Crain added.

In 2012, Crain said he thinks fee disclosure and transparency will raise the bar for the employer who’s looking for providers, and for the employees looking at what they pay.

According to Crain, in the coming year providers must ask, “How do I look within myself to grow?”

“All providers are going to have to challenge themselves about how they grow their business,” said Crain, adding that growth must be generated through more benefits and services.

There will also be an increased responsibility to offer plans that are both effective and utilized.