PANC 2016: Leveraging Provider Resources and Relationships

There are literally hundreds of value-add tools out there to consider for your practice—the challenge is deciding what to use and how to proceed.

Speaking on the “Leveraging Provider Resources and Relationships” panel on the second day of the 2016 PLANADVISER National Conference, Wells Fargo National Sales Manager for Defined Contribution Ron Cohen had an important warning for retirement plan advisers hoping to build out their own value-added tools.

“When I am in conversation with advisers I often tell them to stop trying to create tools on their own,” Cohen observed. “It’s not that advisers couldn’t build some strong tools on their own, but I can tell you that any idea you’re going to come up with—chances are it’s already built out there and ready to go, better than you could do it on your own.”

Just as important to consider, according to Kathleen Roche, vice president for retirement consulting services with Commonwealth Financial Network, is that in today’s marketplace, recordkeepers, investment managers and other service providers will generally let the adviser present planning tools and other value-add client deliverables with their own practice’s unique brand and “feel.” Roche and other panelists highlighted how important this requirement is for many advisory practices—which are generally very keen on maintaining tight control of the client experience.

“There is so much choice and opportunity out there that it can frankly be overwhelming,” Roche said. “The first step is to set very clear goals, and once you set your goals, it’s about finding the right wholesaler who can be the most consultative.”

Panelist Tim Seifert, vice president and national sales manager with Lincoln Financial Group, agreed that many powerful tools are available to advisers—and most can be accessed as a complementary add-on to existing or future partnerships.

NEXT: Value-add tools in demand 

“This is clearly one of the areas where it is important to consider scale,” Seifert said. “The large asset management providers and recordkeepers are pouring millions upon millions of dollars into developing their tools and services backing up advisers on the ground. It will be very hard to keep up with the pace of development.”

“Staffing and compensation has become a real hot topic of late, in terms of demand for value-add tools,” Roche observed. “For example, we have seen a lot of inquiries around tools that help advisers track their practice growth and determine the equation of plans to manage versus staff—and how to reward employees along the line.”

Seifert’s next piece of advice seems obvious but can be easy to overlook, he said: “Make sure you find tools that are actionable … make sure it’s something that in real, measurable terms is going to get you a client or going to help you keep a client.”

The panelists all concluded that advisers don’t have to feel daunted by the growing universe of potential value-add strategies.

“How do you know who to partner with?” asked Cohen. “You can find out a whole lot about how these tools perform through wholesalers and other advisers that you trust. Ask your peers about what works and what doesn’t. If you’ve been a little reluctant to take on a meeting with a wholesaler just because you haven’t used their products in the past, ask them to talk about value-add tools. It may serve you well hearing them out.”