Finding a Pulse
DepenDing on what you read—or which investment account
you look at—the U.S. economy seems to be working its way
back to life. However, if you look at other numbers, it seems
there still may be a long way to go before things return to
“normal.” While a multitude of surveys claim to be taking the
pulse of the economy, they all seem to be looking at different
things—making it that much harder to know what is going on.
That’s why it is so important to make sure that you know what
is being evaluated, and who is doing the evaluation—before
you draw conclusions based on a catchy headline.
This summer, as we have every year since 2006, PLAN ADVISER
took its own ”pulse” of its retirement plan adviser audience—
focusing on the perspectives and opinions of advisers who
sell and service retirement plans as a part of their business. We presented some of that information at our recent
PLANADVISER National Conference and a bit more in our
September-October issue of the magazine but, in this special
issue of PLANADVISER, we expand on those findings.
We have divided the research findings into three sections. In
“Reflecting on Your Practice” (page 18), we examine various
components of running your business: number and type
of clients, target market, business model, and broker/dealer
affiliation, as well as top concerns and predicted growth areas.
(It is safe to say that sales is front of mind for the majority of
We also asked advisers to talk with us about fees—specifically,
how they charge their clients, as well as what they charge to
clients of various plan sizes and for certain ancillary services.
Fees based on assets are most common (74.2%),but commissions and 12b-1s still are charged by 68.4% of advisers. In addition, in light of all that is going on in Washington around the
topic of fee disclosure, we also surveyed advisers about how
and what they disclose to their clients. You can see if you are
on par in “Measuring Up” (page 24).
Also, as our cover suggests, we asked advisers to tell us about
their preferences in working with defined contribution plan
providers and in building an investment lineup, as we have
the past few years. You can compare your personal evalu-
ations of recordkeepers and investment managers with those
of advisers surveyed in “Best of” (page 8).
We have revisited research we did earlier this year about the
retirement readiness of advisers’ clients and plan participants (“Solving for X,” page 34), and asked about their involvement in retirement income planning and product knowledge
of various retirement income solutions. Not surprisingly,
more than 80% of advisers say it is very or somewhat unlikely
that participants’ savings and known sources of income will
be sufficient to sustain their retirement needs.
Finally, each year, sister publication PLANSPONSOR takes the
pulse of thousands of plan sponsors, and the information
gathered is a wonderful demonstration of plan statistics and
trends. One way we’ve cut this information in the past is
to analyze plans that say they use an adviser against those
that don’t. Although, in recent years, the gap has seemed to
narrow between those plan segments, there are still positives
for plans using an adviser that you can share with prospective
clients (see “Polishing a Client’s Retirement Plan,” page 28).
Each year, the research presented here builds on a legacy of
information and, as we look forward, we plan to expand the
breadth and depth of PLANADVISER’s research to address
some of the regulatory and technological developments, and
understand how those affect your practices, including some
more quick polls published online. If there is a particular area
in which you would like to see a research study or a quick poll
of your colleagues, please let me know.
Of course, the research presented here and our plans for
the future are only possible thanks to your cooperation. For
those of you who continue to take the time to answer our
e-mail questionnaires, I thank you, and encourage everyone
to consider adding your voice next year, making the research
that much more valuable to all of us.