PANC 2009: Provider Services Increase an Adviser’s Value Proposition

For advisers hoping to build out their businesses, recordkeepers and investment providers can provide a host of services and programs to help, according to a panel of retirement plan advisers and providers at the PLANADVISER National Conference.

Recordkeepers, such as ING, can offer advisers data they need, said Stephen Davis, national vice president Mid Market Sales at ING, For example, he said, participant data can help advisers determine how they can add value to their retirement plan relationships. Having the recordkeepers noted that so they will not have to add staff.

Elizabeth Wilson, managing director-national sales manager at RidgeWorth Investments, said RidgeWorth is a defined contribution investment-only (DCIO), and those types of providers can provide advisers with information on productivity and expanding their client base. As an example, she said, RidgeWorth recently offered seminars for advisers on how to use LinkedIn for networking.

Chris Augelli, vice president, Alliance Programs and Business Development, ADP Retirement Services, pointed out that there is such diversity in what providers offer that it is good marketing of their different specialties to partner with good advisers. He said ADP offers opportunity to advisers because of the number of clients it has to refer to advisers.

As for what advisers want, Kendall B. Storch, SVP, Retirement, Longfellow Benefits, said advisers want to be as efficient as possible, providing the best service without spending too much time. Data is a huge need, he said. It is useful for building educational campaigns, benchmarking clients' plans, and letting clients know new ideas/trends to try. Practice management training, often from DCIO firms, is also helpful, he said.

In addition, according to Storch, advisers use providers as an eye into the competition, to know who is doing what and what has been successful, and also to gather examples from others who have tried something an adviser may want to try.

All panelists agreed there are no demands or set expectations of advisers from providers, but Wilson noted that "vendors take care of advisers that take care of them."

Both providers and advisers should stay unbiased in their referrals to clients. Storch pointed out that the way to stay unbiased is to keep the needs of sponsor clients and participants top of mind.