Schwab Unveils Adviser-Friendly Managed Accounts

Discussing a new managed account-type service with PLANADVISER, Schwab Retirement Plan Services says the offering helps advisers play a deeper role in delivering effective QDIAs. 

Schwab Retirement Plan Services has introduced the new Advisor Managed Accounts program, aimed at bringing affordable, adviser-driven managed account services to the mid-sized and large plan market.

Steve Anderson, executive vice president and head of Schwab Retirement Plan Services, tells PLANADVISER the new capability leverages Morningstar managed account technology to build series of customized investment portfolios for retirement plans with $20 million or more in assets and a dedicated retirement specialist adviser.

Retirement plan consultants who are registered investment advisers will now be able to build and manage customized investment portfolios for the plans they support, integrating recordkeeping services from Schwab Retirement Plan Services and managed account technology from Morningstar Associates, Anderson explains. He suggests the new approach “greatly expands the capabilities of consultants who serve as registered investment advisers and investment managers for retirement plans and the participants in those plans.”

According to Schwab, many employers rely on their retirement plan consultant in multiple areas, such as guiding plan design, recommending and monitoring plan investments, and helping the employer fulfill fiduciary, regulatory and compliance requirements. With the introduction of the Advisor Managed Accounts program, consultants serving in a 3(38) investment manager role can provide customized investment portfolios to participants in the plans they serve.

Brock Johnson, head of retirement solutions for Morningstar, observes that “flexibility and scale” are the key principals in the service being delivered in partnership with Schwab. The new managed account program will allow advisers “to reach more people and help them save effectively for retirement,” he says.

Since 2012, Schwab Retirement Plan Services has made managed account services available from two independent investment advisers through its retirement plan platform as the intended qualified default investment alternative (QDIA). With this new QDIA approach, all plan participants are enrolled into the managed account and can choose to stay in the advice program or manage their investments on their own from the core menu.

NEXT: A different take on managed accounts 

“We have seen that when advice is built into a 401(k) plan so that participants start off with it and are free to opt out, 87% remain in the advice program,” Anderson says. “With traditional managed accounts, where the participant has to search out the option and actively invest in the managed account, the uptake tends to be below 5%.”

Anderson says extensive discussions with employers and consultants who advise on plan investments led Schwab Retirement Plan Services and Morningstar to develop and integrate the necessary technology and participant support services for this new capability.

“Now employers seeking managed accounts customized for their plan have a new choice. We anticipate the first 401(k) plan will implement this approach early next year,” Anderson says.

Under the terms of the program, advisers, in their fiduciary role as 3(38) investment managers, “can create up to 101 customized plan-level portfolios based on their investment and plan expertise,” Anderson explains. “They also determine the participant portfolio assignment methodology for each plan they serve.”

With this setup, Morningstar’s technology platform will analyze each participant’s individual information and, using the investment manager’s instructions, assign each participant a specific portfolio in real time created by the investment manager. Participant portfolio assignments typically will be based on 10 or more distinct data points including age, salary, savings rate and account balance. Portfolio assignments are evaluated on a quarterly basis through the technology platform and participants may have their portfolios rebalanced or adjusted as appropriate. 

This differs somewhat from a standard managed account, which instead sees changes made within a client portfolio, rather than having the client move between portfolios. However, like in a standard managed account, participants can share additional details about their financial situation, such as retirement assets outside the plan or a spouse’s retirement savings, to further refine their investment strategy. They can do so through an interactive website and over the phone with a Schwab advice associate who can help them input information online to generate the managed account recommendation.

Retirement plan consultants who want to learn more should call the Schwab Retirement Plan Services Consultant Support Center at 877-783-4372.