A Once in a Lifetime Opportunity—With a Deadline

Finding the right partner can be critical, both to winning new business and keeping clients happy.

Todd Timmerman, managing director of Retirement Plan Analytics. Photography by Matt Kalinowski.

Speaking on the second day of the 2019 PLANADVISER National Conference, Todd Timmerman, managing director of Retirement Plan Analytics, emphasized the tremendous opportunity retirement plan advisers face in partnering.

Timmerman pointed to recent studies showing the vast majority of financial advisers with any business touching on retirement plans serve between just one and 10 plans. In other words, Timmerman said, there are many “high integrity” advisers out there that have chosen to say yes to their wealth management clients’ requests to take on the service of a retirement plan.

“Many of these advisers are likely high integrity advisers, but they don’t have the time or resources to devote to becoming specialists in serving retirement plans,” Timmerman said. “As employers and fiduciaries raise the bar on expectations from their advisers, there is an opportunity for specialists in partnering.”

Timmerman gave the example of how his practice, Retirement Plan Analytics (RPA), has grown substantially by putting in place two distinct partnership strategies. In the first model, RPA comes in alongside the existing adviser and “co-serves” the client in an equal-footed capacity. RPA supports such activities as committee meeting preparation, execution and minute-taking; request for proposal processing; marketing; training videos and more.

The other model RPA puts in place is effectively a white-labeled back office solution, wherein RPA takes on repetitive processing and other retirement plan service elements that are not well suited for the typical wealth adviser.

“With our two approaches, we feel like we can go to any registered investment adviser firm in the country that doesn’t have a retirement plan practice and make a good case for their getting started in the marketplace with us a partner,” Timmerman said.  

He emphasized that this partnership approach can be affordable for clients, noting that many non-retirement specialists are actually charging higher fees versus their retirement-specialist counterparts.

“The surprising thing is that non-specialists, according to various compensation studies, tend to do less and charge more,” Timmerman said.

Asked about the keys to a successful partnership, Timmerman emphasized the importance of checking egos and “not always needing to be the smartest person in the room.” He also pointed to the importance of clearly defining, in advance, the roles and expectations for all advisers and support staff touching a client. And one point that is easy to overlook but can lead to issues in any partnership is coming to agreement about travel and expectations for attendance of in-person meetings.