PANC 2015: Growing Your Business

The potential for disruption in the industry is an impetus for growth in retirement plan advisers’ businesses.

Referrals are good, but they can only take retirement plan advisers so far in growing their businesses, Edward P. O’Connor, managing director and head of Retirement Services at Morgan Stanley Wealth Management, told attendees of the 2015 PLANADVISER National Conference.

A quick poll of the attendees found 71% depend on referrals from strategic partners or other professionals to grow their businesses, 20% rely on referrals from clients, and 10% use cold calling.

“Marketing may be old-fashioned, but it’s still an important part of growing your business,” O’Connor said.

Jim O’Shaughnessy, managing partner at Sheridan Road Financial, said he sees the potential for disruption in the industry—from lawmakers’ view of the industry to new technology—as the impetus for growth. “We went from a broker/dealer model, to a 3(21) investment adviser model, to a 3(38) investment manager model,” he said. “I see a trend of working more with participants. We plan to hire more so we can move into worksite services.”

O’Shaughnessy added that advisers should embrace technology; it is an opportunity to reach Millennials.

O’Connor said that, for those in wealth management from retirement plan rollovers, things may get more difficult with the Department of Labor’s fiduciary rule. He suggested those advisers start encouraging participants to keep their assets in their retirement plans.

NEXT: Opportunities for growth

There are several trends and channels retirement plan advisers can use to grow their businesses. Jason Chepenik, managing partner at Chepenik Financial, told conference attendees endowments and foundations are natural progressions from retirement plans. “Perhaps this is the biggest opportunity to grow your asset base without losing sight of what we’re about,” he said.

Chepenik said his best idea ever was to get involved in the community. “Don’t do it to get clients, do something you’re passionate about and enjoy,” he added.

An attendee of the panel agreed, saying advisers should not only participate in their communities, but should align their practice with that value system.

Chepenik noted that the new trend of financial wellness education for employees is another opportunity for advisers to grow their businesses, and there are opportunities as well to move into the non-qualified deferred compensation (NQDC) space. However, he suggested that if moving into NQDC, advisers need a team member highly specialized in that market.

O’Connor said having the right team is a key to success. “I’ve not met a successful retirement plan adviser that doesn’t have a well-run team. Put the right team together,” he urged.

Another attendee called on advisers to share. She noted that in her market, she’s seen that tech startup companies meet and share information believing it will help everyone. She encouraged advisers to adopt that belief.