Since becoming the PLANSPONSOR Retirement Plan Adviser of the Year in 2009, Steven Dimitriou, managing partner of Mayflower Advisors, in Boston, says his team has grown steadily from nine to 33, and the number of plans served has more than doubled, from 75 to 170.
“About 120 of those people are getting full-fledged 401(k) services, where we are doing everything, including participant education,” Dimitriou says. “Back in 2009, we did not specialize solely in retirement plans. Today, the majority of our business is in 401(k) and 403(b) plans.”
While Mayflower’s service model has not changed, he says, the use of practice support technology has become a more regimented process.
One change is that Mayflower emphasizes more employee education, including one-on-one meetings with advisers. Meetings with investment committees are held either quarterly or semi-annually.
“We haven’t really changed what we do all that much—but we have changed how we do it,” Dimitriou says. “We leverage technology a lot more and have built out our infrastructure to do so. We have some people who specialize on the investment side, while others specialize in government and regulatory affairs. Others are working with the committees on fiduciary responsibilities, investments and plan design. We have become a little bit more specialized internally.”
As far as Mayflower’s relationships with strategic partners, Dimitriou says the practice continues to leverage their resources.
“We get a lot of information from recordkeepers and defined contribution investment only [DCIO] firms,” he says. “That said, we don’t use them as strict strategic partners, because we want to be neutral.”
Ties with Fi360 have deepened, however.
Dimitriou says Mayflower is about to go fully independent by establishing its own registered investment adviser (RIA).
“We are making this move because we outgrew the Wells Fargo platform and felt we needed to be more independent, improve our technology significantly and be able to work on multiple custodial platforms,” he explains. This, Dimitriou says, will allow the practice to offer 3(38) fiduciary services and more participant-oriented services.
Dimitriou says that Mayflower’s advantage now is that it has achieved significant scale while also keeping its client service and satisfaction levels high.
“That is borne out by the fact we tend not to lose our clients,” he says.
Dimitriou says he has a bright outlook for the future of the industry.
“There are some challenges with pricing pressures, due to the perceptions around indexing and fees,” he says. “Nonetheless, advisers still have an opportunity to really step up and more fully service all of their clients. I feel we have a pretty good opportunity to justify our value compared to others trying to play a numbers game.”
In addition to running the practice, Dimitriou also served as president of the American Retirement Association until his term ended a few months ago. He says that winning the PLANSPONSOR Retirement Plan Adviser of the Year Award helped him secure that opportunity.
Considering the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, Dimitriou says his firm has been fortunate thus far.
“We were very fortunate because of the investments we made prior in technology that have allowed our entire workforce to work remotely,” he says. “It was a surprisingly easy transition for us even though it basically happened overnight. This entire ordeal will change the way we do business in the future. Clients used to demand in-person meetings, and we were traveling the country. They are now comfortable doing meetings virtually, including employee education meetings.”
If there is any positive that can be ascribed to the virus, he says, it is that is has given advisory practices “a big leap forward in the cost-effective delivery of our services and a more manageable work/life balance.”
Dimitriou says that, so far, the conversations he is having with clients have changed from the norm—the majority of them are focused on pulling their companies through this challenging time. That said, he adds that thinks there is a “distinct backlog of client activity building up” that will crest only when the cloud of the virus is lifted.
“That could mean changes in plan design, launching new educational series that go well beyond retirement planning and more financial literacy campaigns, and, perhaps, other types of benefits to complement the retirement plan,” Dimitriou says. He says he hopes and expects all of this activity will result in “a very busy fourth quarter for Mayflower.”
“During this challenging time, advisers should continue to work with sponsors to help make plans more insulated from the litigious pressures out there,” he says. “Encourage more institutional pricing and transparency of fees. Our industry has made tremendous strides, but there is still a ways to go on the small end of the market.”