According to Matthew Card, a spokesman with Bank of America, the previous moniker, Defined Contribution Designation program, never really took off with plan sponsors. “It just didn’t seem to resonate,” he tells PLANADVISER. The firm surveyed its designated advisers and asked them to come up with a name that best articulates how they support institutional plans, and Retirement Benefit Consultants was chosen from a half-dozen or so names suggested by the 220 advisers in the division.
The number of advisers looking to specialize in the institutional retirement plan space has definitely swelled, says Joe Mrozek, head of corporate market business development and adviser programs for Bank of America Merrill Lynch. The designation was established in 2010 with an initial group of 135 advisers and has grown 25% over the last two years.
“There’s more opportunity in the space,” Mrozek tells PLANADVISER, so it is not surprising to see more advisers looking to enter. He cites figures from the The Retirement Advisor University that show about 3,000 out of 300,000 registered representatives have more than $30 million in institutional retirement plan assets. Within the broader advisory industry, retirement plan advisers are a fairly small segment, Card says.
Most of the advisers work in teams, Mrozek says, which makes the transition to supporting institutional retirement plans more natural. “A very successful wealth management team or more family office types have a very institutional office model that plays well to institutional plans,” he says, noting the team structure, specific roles, and dedication to communication, education and ongoing client servicing.
Mrozek says the firm supports advisers with training, knowledge and materials that back up the investment products. “From our perspective, we know what the fee disclosure looks like, since we manufacture the products,” he says. “We have all the information readily available from our product team, so our advisers are well informed and well educated.”
The program originally was designed to recognize advisers with significant experience serving employers’ retirement benefit plans—aligning advisers’ specialized expertise to these clients’ more sophisticated needs. Advisers must meet specific criteria, including experience working with corporate retirement plan clients, as well as product and technical expertise. Advisers must then complete a nomination and application process, in addition to interviews with a panel of leaders from across the firm.
More information about Retirement Benefit Consultants is available on the website of Bank of America Merrill Lynch.