Fiduciary Investment Advisors had $15 billion of assets under advisement and 25 employees when it won recognition as the PLANSPONSOR Retirement Plan Adviser Team of the Year in 2009. Today, it has 85 employees and $100 billion in assets, says Mike Goss, executive vice president and senior consultant.
And, in April, the practice merged with DiMeo Schneider & Associates.
“We have a similar client base and focus,” Goss says. “We service 401(k) and 403(b) plans and pensions in the mid- to large-plan markets.”
Since 2009, Goss says, the practice’s service model has remained steadfast. “We provide high-touch, proactive service emphasizing fiduciary governance as well as participant financial wellness,” he says.
Due to the DiMeo Schneider & Associates merger, Goss says, Fiduciary Investment Advisors now has the opportunity to forge strategic partnerships beyond the East Coast, where it has offices in Boston; Hartford, Connecticut; and Portland, Maine. The DiMeo operation has offices in Los Angeles; Chicago; Austin, Texas; and Washington, D.C.
At the same time, a lot has changed in the past 11 years for the firm and the marketplace. Goss says it has “grown up.”
“There are more large firms like ours that are specialists,” he explains. “There are far fewer individual advisers or brokers serving retirement plans today, and there is more emphasis on fiduciary services and holistic participant financial wellness.”
Asked whether he is hopeful about the future of the retirement plan industry, Goss is quick to say he is very optimistic.
“There is always a need for proactive advice and strategic financial partners to help businesses with their retirement plans,” he says. And as far as how well Fiduciary Investment Advisors is navigating the coronavirus pandemic and lockdown, Goss says the firm has successfully made the remote-work transition.
“We are all working virtually, which has been very effective,” he says. “Our transition to working from home was seamless. We are actually communicating more with our clients since the passage of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security [CARES] Act and the onslaught of the market volatility in February and March.”
He says one interesting point of business that has come up is speaking with law firms about their cash balance plans.
“They are either adopting new plans or tweaking existing ones,” Goss says. “We are also talking with many clients about their frozen pension plans and the best way to align those plan assets with liabilities. We have adapted well to provide more touchpoints with clients, through meetings or written communications.”
Had the pandemic erupted five years ago, Goss says, the firm would have been less prepared.
“Our IT [information technology] department has done a fantastic job keeping us on the cutting edge of emerging technologies,” he says. “We are able to trade remotely, and are using Zoom and Microsoft Teams. Our disaster recovery systems have been tested multiple times. We had decided to be prepared should a natural disaster occur. That preparation has paid off, and we are working flawlessly from home.”
As to how Fiduciary Investment Advisors is trying to help those struggling emotionally and financially due to the pandemic, Goss says, “We have always given back to the communities where our employees live and work. All of our advisers sit on nonprofit boards, and we contribute to those organizations.”
Also notable is that, this year, Fiduciary Investment Advisors has debuted an intern program called InTurnship.
“The goal is to offer a virtual internship for 50 rising seniors in college who might have lost an internship or job because of COVID-19,” Goss says. The practice has very deliberately sought out a “diverse population of all different races and backgrounds,” he says, adding that he hopes this leads to some of these students joining the industry and helping to diversify the workplace.
Reflecting on the arc of his career, Goss says success in this business starts with providing “good fiduciary governance and being proactive in encouraging sponsors to add automatic features to their plan design, as well as a competitive company match and profit sharing plan.” It is also helpful to equip participants with financial wellness tools that can give participants insight into their total financial picture.