Perspective: Articulating Your Services to Plan Sponsors and Participants

Our previous segment focused on establishing fees for the financial planning services you offer to retirement plans and plan participants. The next step explores how to articulate your services to said plans and participants.

Seems pretty straightforward, right? But it’s actually one area that is often overlooked—which could put you at a disadvantage.

It is important, from the beginning of any relationship or business endeavor, to set the proper expectations up-front. This not only allows effective relationships to develop, but it can also protect you in our highly litigious marketplace.

Many successful retirement plan advisers are setting these expectations using a short, one-page overview of the services they will provide at the plan and the participant level.

Here’s an example of what you might offer:

Services provided to the plan:

  • Consult with the plan’s investment committee to develop, review, and monitor the Investment Policy Statement (IPS) and to select the underlying investments accordingly.
  • Meet with the committee on a quarterly basis to review the IPS and, in conjunction therewith, make recommendations to the committee regarding funds that should be removed and replaced, if any, and the funds that should be offered in place of any removed funds. If circumstances warrant, meetings may be held on a more frequent basis.
  • Advise the committee regarding the establishment of a default account for participants (consistent with the Department of Labor regulation under ERISA Section 404(c)(5)) who fail or decline to give investment direction with respect to their accounts in the plan.

Services provided to plan participants:

  • Provide educational seminars on a quarterly basis on topics specifically tailored to the retirement plan offered by the company, with a focus on increasing awareness of the importance of saving for retirement and the plan features that help participants pursue their goals.
  • Assist participants with retirement income analysis illustrations based on the information they provide to us. In conjunction with this, we will help educate each individual on his or her progress toward meeting his or her retirement goals. We will also work to develop an action plan that each individual can implement to help in this process.
  • Offer financial planning services, for a fee, to all individuals who wish to engage our services. Our services take into consideration each individual’s goals, tolerance for market risk, taxes, net worth, and cash flow, and we provide tailored recommendations to address each individual’s short- and long-term planning needs.


In short, I would argue that the success of your retirement plan practice is directly correlated to setting proper expectations with your customers. Developing a service overview like the one above clearly delineates and differentiates what your firm brings to the table—and opens the door to new referral and rollover opportunities.


The previous articles in this series about incorporating financial planning services into qualified plans are available at:

Perspective: Establishing Fees

Perspective: Incorporating Financial Planning Services into Qualified Plans

Don’t miss the next article in our series, where we’ll focus on interfacing with participants.

Commonwealth Financial Networkª does not provide legal or tax advice.

Timothy Nihill is the manager of retirement products at Commonwealth Financial Networkª in Waltham, Massachusetts. He can be reached at