Although the retirement plan industry continues to embrace the mission of improving outcomes for retirement plan sponsors and participants, the many options in plan design, fiduciary consulting, investments and enrollment can be overwhelming for advisers to navigate on their own. Open architecture platforms and fund windows can offer participants best-in-class investment choices, while fiduciary support services can help to assure plan sponsor clients they are following proper due diligence. As Rob Kissler, divisional vice president of Nationwide, puts it, “Participants are underprepared for retirement.” The answer is not just in top-down solutions such as plan design—but in truly engaging participants through enrollment and education, an area where advisers have opportunities to get support from their recordkeeping partners.
PLANADVISER Managing Editor Lee Barney recently spoke with Kissler and Hollis Lamon, retirement plan adviser and president of Lamon & Stern in Atlanta, about the challenges, opportunities and solutions they see in today’s retirement plan marketplace—and how advisers can inspire plan sponsors and participants alike so that more people can successfully retire.
PLANADVISER: What do you view as the greatest opportunity for advisers right now?
Rob Kissler: Many participants are underprepared for retirement, and our mission is to help them reach their retirement goals. We talk a lot about top-down solutions like plan design and auto-enrollment features in the industry, but we also need to focus on bottom-up solutions, by encouraging participants to be engaged in their retirement plan with a savings and investment plan that feels right for them over the long term.
That is where our unique product and service offerings, delivered through a top retirement plan adviser like Hollis, really make an impact on how Americans prepare for and live in retirement.
Hollis Lamon: It’s not only helping people understand how a 401(k) works and its benefits, but also how much to contribute to take advantage of the employer match and other features. There are other specifics such as what to do if a participant changes employers. Many choose to roll into an individual retirement account (IRA), but that may not always be the best option, since there may be a loan feature available if the participant moves into the new 401(k). There is a lot of opportunity for advisers to help participants, and it is our responsibility to work with providers who can help us execute on behalf of the participants.
PA: What advice would you give to advisers looking to grow their retirement plan business?
Lamon: When we started working with retirement plan participants, we quickly realized that there was a tremendous need for advisers who actually spend time with both plan sponsors and participants. There’s a lot of work that goes into working with both plan sponsors and the participants, making sure everyone is doing everything correctly.
I would tell advisers to be proactive with their plan sponsors to make sure that they look out for their needs. I would also encourage younger people getting started in the business to partner with experienced advisers.