Retirement plan advisers are focused on serving the needs of their plan sponsor clients, ensuring the sponsors are well-informed and following proper due diligence in the administration of their retirement plan. However, where can advisers get support in running their business? Alison Cooke Mintzer, Editor-in-Chief of PLANSPONSOR and PLANADVISER, had a chance to discuss how retirement plan providers and plan administrators focus on the needs of the adviser with Joe Frustaglio, National Sales Manager for Retirement Plans; Jeff Stein, Vice President of Retirement Plans Operations at Nationwide Financial; and third-party administrators (TPAs) Charles Rosenberg, Managing Partner, Intac Actuarial Services, and Earle Garvin, President of Pension Financial Services Inc.
PA: What are you seeing from the industry with regard to the sales of retirement plans?
Frustaglio: A recent study by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) compared active defined contribution (DC) plans in force at the end of 2007 with those active at the end of 2011, and the numbers decreased by approximately 62,000 plans during those four years. A recent LIMRA study showed that the impact of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) on the 401(k) industry will play a negative role in sponsors and employees being able to invest more time and money into their retirement plans. Couple this with the fact that many sponsors reviewed and changed providers within the past two years, following the emergence of 408(b)(2) regulations, and you have a situation where there are fewer plans in the marketplace and those that remain have recently been reviewed, which leads to heavy competition.
PA: What are advisers saying about the importance of service?
Frustaglio: Advisers don’t differentiate between sales and service. They are basically buying your service proposition. Advisers desire and deserve constant contact and positive communication from providers, and that service also needs to extend to their sponsors and participants.
Stein: A Nationwide Financial research study points out two of the most important elements of service to advisers: responsiveness to them, then excellent service to their plan sponsor clients.
Rosenberg: Advisers will pay us to provide a flawless onboarding and continuous service experience for them. So if there are no hiccups as the plan goes live, they’ll rely on us and pay for a local third-party administrator to support that.
Garvin: It’s important that we keep the adviser in the loop. The adviser really needs to know when there are issues that come up, and to work—in a partnership—through the issues.
PA: How are you partnering with advisers to serve clients?
Stein: Our sales and service teams are aligned to support our advisers as they work to serve sponsors and participants. For example, as advisers go through the sales process for a new plan, we work as one coordinated Nationwide team each step of the way with our experts. Beginning with proposals and plan design, up to delivering legal documents and enrolling participants, we ensure that the sponsor and participants have a positive experience, and that the adviser is informed every step of the way. Our client relationship management tools provide our associates with adviser preferences on how they want to work with us, so we know how to service the unique needs of their customers. Our advisers and sponsors appreciate this personalized approach.