For the sales situations Anova Consulting Group researched in 2012, 31% of mid-large market finals with between $20MM and $500MM in plan assets resulted in the plan sponsor remaining with the incumbent recordkeeper, up from 28% in 2011 and 18% five years ago. This figure does not include noncompetitive re-bid situations, which are an increasingly commonplace alternative to a full search/request for proposals (RFP) process for plan sponsors who are not necessarily dissatisfied with their provider but conduct periodic due diligence reviews for fiduciary reasons.
“Over the last five years, the percentage of plans conducting full-blown searches and electing to remain with their current providers has increased roughly 10% each year,” said Richard Schroder, president of Anova Consulting Group. “While it speaks highly of industry-wide client service that so many sponsors are content to stay with their existing providers, this trend should not be discounted by sales and product development organizations.”
As search activity becomes increasingly competitive and 401(k) products and services become more commoditized in the mid-large market, retirement plan providers are striving to differentiate themselves and provide prospects with compelling reasons to leave their incumbents. A comparable product offering with comparable fees (or even a minor fee reduction) are infrequently sufficient to entice a plan sponsor to undergo the effort and uncertainty of a conversion to a new provider.
According to Schroder, “The sales teams that are beating the odds are doing a better job of creating immediate value and differentiating their firms’ offerings during the sales process.With increasingly informed buyers and the ever-growing involvement of sophisticated search consultants and retirement plan advisers, providers must clearly articulate their value propositions and offer a highly consultative sales process customized to a sponsor’s specific needs.”
Anova has conducted more than 1200 win, loss and departed client interviews with mid-large 401(k) plan sponsors since 2007.