Wells Fargo announced it will next year begin offering Financial Engines’ independent advisory services to 401(k) clients.
Ranked as the eighth largest recordkeeper for total 401(k) plan assets in the latest PLANSPONSOR Recordkeeping Survey, Wells Fargo anticipates a release date of “mid-2016” for the advisory service. At that time, retirement plan sponsors on the Wells Fargo recordkeeping platform will be able to elect to add the expanded offering to their retirement benefit plans.
The direct offering will consist of Financial Engines’ full suite of advisory services for 401(k)-type retirement plans, including a discretionary personalized management service for participants who want to partner with or delegate the management of their retirement accounts to a professional. Participants also gain access to online advice channels and personalized retirement income projections—designed to aid those investors “who want to manage their retirement themselves.”
Other services from Financial Engines include the “Income+” retirement income solution, which strives to provide steady and flexible income in retirement. There is also Social Security guidance and planning made available.
Under the agreement, Financial Engines will serve as the adviser and plan fiduciary for the advisory services. All participants will have access to non-commissioned investment adviser representatives, as well as ongoing personalized communication and education that assess their current retirement outlook and make suggestions for improvement, according to Wells Fargo.
The deal represents one of the largest moves yet in what some have described as a retirement plan provider technology arms race, through which new and potentially disruptive partnerships are forming. In general, large and more established firms are scooping up smaller technology providers, finding new ways to deliver education, advice and participant self-service. With Wells Fargo joining in on the action, upwards of 3 million plan participants could eventually gain access to the Financial Engines advisory service.