Sponsors More Satisfied with Providers than Advisers

According to an Anova Consulting Group survey, small-market retirement plan sponsors report that defined contribution providers (or recordkeepers) are delivering a higher level of client service than retirement plan advisers.

The research found that overall, plan sponsors with less than $5 million in plan assets are generally highly satisfied with their service contacts at the provider/recordkeeper, but only somewhat satisfied with their retirement plan advisers. More than 1,000 plan sponsors in the adviser-sold space responded to the survey; 88% said they are “very satisfied” with their provider’s service contact/relationship manager, compared to 77% who are “very satisfied” with their retirement plan adviser.

“As the DC industry has matured and consolidated, successful providers have increased their focus on plan sponsor service in order to boost client retention” said Richard Schroder, President of Anova Consulting Group. “Results from the plan sponsor research we’ve performed over the past decade show a consistent upward trend in satisfaction scores for providers’ client service levels and personnel.”

The same research also reveals that retirement plan advisers have not kept pace with these rising service levels, particularly among smaller plan sponsors, according to Anova. Differentials in service ratings are most pronounced for sponsors of plans under $5MM in assets, who tend to be more dependent on their advisers for plan administration assistance. Areas of particular concern include frequency of client contact and taking a proactive (versus reactive) approach to the relationship (83% of plan sponsors are very satisfied with the level and method of contact with their providers vs. 74% for financial advisers). For larger plans between $5-$25MM in assets, advisers are more attentive to plan sponsors, with the gap between recordkeeper and adviser service levels narrowing considerably and even reversing in some cases.

“In an increasingly competitive marketplace, customer satisfaction will continue to be a key differentiator among advisers in building and maintaining successful practices,” suggests Schroder. “This study reinforces the necessity for retirement plan advisers to place further emphasis on the quality of their relationships with clients. Similar to what has occurred at the provider level, it will become ever more important for advisers to demonstrate a high level of service to their clients in order to differentiate themselves from their competition and build loyalty, especially as fees and the overall value provided by financial advisers continue to come under increased scrutiny.”