Julie Niccum and Rick Irace, AscensusAscensus, a national open-architecture recordkeeper, understands the value of a skilled advisor to a retirement plan. To that end, the firm has developed services to reward advisors that value its platform. For a group of “elite advisors,” this means earning a place in the Ascensus Elite Advisor loyalty program.
The program is designed to reward advisors who do significant business with Ascensus. “These advisors understand our products and services,” says Rick Irace, Chief Operating Officer at Ascensus Retirement. “They recognize the quality offered by growing a business with a dedicated recordkeeper.”
Ascensus' elite advisors can expect high-value services, with a key benefit of the program being the support of dedicated points of contact and client relationship managers. These services are much appreciated and valued by the advisors in the program. Says Kevin Cicci, advisor at DC Advisors LLC in Foxborough, Massachusetts, who has moved about 30% of his book to Ascensus, "when you do lots of plans with many different recordkeepers, you lose continuity. The Elite Advisor Program has helped me have a scalable repeatable process." “What we want to do is demonstrate to our elite financial advisors that they’re important and that they have value attached with their elite status; we want our advisors to receive an exceptional level of dedication and support,” Irace adds. Ascensus’ advisors appear to receive just that, as George Finney, CRPS and Director of Retirement Services at Mount Joy, Pennsylvania-based Everence Trust Company says that the company’s "service is incredibly good and consistent."
While the elite advisor program has been in existence for several years, Ascensus refreshed its concept in June 2016 and formally relaunched the program in September. The refresh broadened its availability while also incorporating the idea of an elite third-party administrator (TPA). Over the course of 2016, Ascensus has grown the number of program members by over 125%.
Part of the expansion is to identify and enforce TPA relationships, according to Julie Niccum, Senior Vice President, Ascensus Retirement. “What that allows us to do is focus on the unique needs of our elite TPA partners through the delivery of service in a dedicated TPA model,” says Niccum.
Another notable service enhancement is the introduction of a team of strategic account managers. According to Irace, this team is composed of members backed by multiple years of industry and retirement experience in relationship management and leadership roles.
“Our program ensures that our elite advisors are getting service with added value,” says Irace. “Offering access to our strategic account managers is a way to reward them not only for their allegiance, but also for the time and effort that they commit to their clients,” says Irace.
Irace believes that dedication, expertise, and their consultative approach are the factors that make strategic account managers highly treasured. They provide proactive discussions regarding any new services and technology enhancements, hold targeted book of business reviews, and carry best practices and strategic solutions based on industry standards.
The consistent point of contact and dedication of service is something both Cicci and Finley cite as a reason to move more business to Ascensus. "I've built a great rapport with my point of contact," Cicci says.
For Finney, Ascensus offers full service support. The company has put together proposals and is "great from the sales side all the way through implementation."
Not only does Finney say that Ascensus is wonderful in working through complex plan design issues, but he says he trusts their conversion teams implicitly. Unlike with other providers, Finney says he doesn't feel the need to be on every conversion call. "It's a relief to have the Ascensus team on my side," he says.
As the implementation of the Department of Labor (DOL) Conflict of Interest rule draws closer, strategic account managers will undoubtedly be called upon to assist elite advisors with any questions. “In terms of the DOL’s regulatory changes, they’re going to be a great single point of contact for addressing any changes or product needs that the elite advisor will have,” says Irace.
Niccum notes that elite advisors and consultancy sales teams can harbor a “deepening relationship” through the program. Irace sees the program as reinforcing the relationship between advisors and sales teams, noting that active feedback and responses between the two can add to growing technology and developments within the firm. The firm is very responsive, notes Finney, "they ask for a lot of feedback and we are very honest. If something is wrong, Ascensus fixes it."
Cicci agrees that the provider is active in working on improvements when and where necessary.
“Our elite advisors not only know us very well, but they also know the pulse of the marketplace,” says Irace. “They’re providing us with lots of good information, and I think we’re growing alongside our elite advisors—their voice is very important to us and we make sure to always be listening.”
“As an organization, we’ll continue to raise the bar, not only on our service quality, but also when it comes to investing in our platforms," Irace says. "Our clients deserve no less than that.”
"Our sales team is here to help more advisors achieve Elite status and provides insights and consultation to help get them there," adds Niccum.
“Our core values—People Matter, Quality First, and Integrity Always—apply to each and every relationship we have at Ascensus, including an advisor, a plan sponsor, a payroll contact, and a participant in the plan,” says Niccum. “Everyone can expect a high level of service.”
Irace agrees. “There are certain things that we definitely want to do for an elite advisor—we want to grow that channel,” he says. “But at the end of the day, everybody is going to get service the same way once they’re in the door here. The experience that any advisor is going to get is going to be a world-class experience.”
To learn more, contact Ascensus at 800-345-6363 or RetirementSolutions@ascensus.com.