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RegaRdless of what comes out of Washington—and nearly everyone expects something new on fee
disclosure—a frequent comment heard from those in the retirement plan adviser world is how impor-
tant it is to “get in front of it.” With that in mind, as part of PLANADVISER’s annual survey, we asked
advisers specific questions about how fees are charged and disclosed.
Despite the ongoing obsession with plan fees and fee disclosure in the retirement plan world, it has
not yet motivated a rush to leave the commission model. Most advisers surveyed still receive payments
of fees based on assets (74.2%) and commissions or 12b- 1 fees (68.4%), though the use of hard-dollar and
flat fees has increased, and was cited by 48.3% of advisers in this year’s survey. Significantly, just 13.5%
of advisers said their fee schedules have changed in the past 12 months, with the general consensus
being that they were moving to increase the number of clients paying fees over commissions.
Not only are more than half of advisers still paid commissions, but also that still accounts for the
largest portion of adviser revenue. Of those receiving some commission payments, a median of 60% of
revenue is being generated by such fees. Of those who said they are paid based on assets, a median of
50% of their business revenue is coming from such fees.
Advisers do seem to be putting their mouths where their money is—the vast majority (83.1%) disclose
commissions and 12b- 1 payments, while 61.0% take the time to tell clients the services provided for
those fees, and 60.0% disclose the revenue they are receiving in basis points. About half of advisers are
disclosing revenue in dollars (51.8%), explicit fees (51.8%), conflicts of interest (50.3%), embedded fees
(49.2%), and the per-participant cost (48.2%).
Fees most frequently are disclosed through an annual review or contract (66.2% and 63.2%, respec-
tively). Slightly more than half (52.2%) of adviser respondents also are using a fee disclosure statement.
Most share these fees during the RFP process (81.4%) and at point of sale or upon hire (62.3%). On an
ongoing basis, annually is most common (48.0%) and about half as many do so quarterly ( 23.5%).