PA: How do you keep your plan sponsors satisfied?
Lamon: In today’s marketplace, it is especially important to be
very hands-on, considering many participants don’t have their
own financial adviser.
We want to make sure that we educate not only the participants,
but the plan sponsor as well. We want to be able to give plan
sponsors the flexibility of a very open platform, while ensuring
they retain control of how the plan is managed. Some plan sponsors want a lot of control over the process, while others want
very little. Partnering with the right provider to build something
unique for each client is critical. We also need to provide excellent
service by making sure that the plans are compliant, that all the
proper notices are being sent out to participants and sponsors, so
everyone is well-informed and able to make good decisions.
In addition, we do a thorough job, and Nationwide assists us in
making sure that we follow through on the education plan we
develop for each plan sponsor. We focus on taking excellent
care of our plans, making sure that everyone is acting in the best
interest of the participants.
PA: What plan features do you look for from a provider?
Lamon: Open architecture and investment flexibility are important. The other thing that we really like about the Nationwide platform is the fact that, for investors who may be a little outside the
box, Nationwide offers a fund window that they can go through
without affecting the core group of funds. The fund window
enables a participant to choose from any of the investment
options, without the expense of a self-directed brokerage feature.
Kissler: Through our Fund Window, featured in the Nationwide
Retirement Flexible Advantage program, what clients see is that
participants can satisfy their own unique retirement needs, while
maintaining all the elements of their existing plan.
Lamon: We also want a partner who can support us. Creating
a healthy plan takes more than just plan features, so we want
a partner who can help us provide educational programs and
support us on the ground. We want a plan provider who has that
capability, particularly because we work in all markets: large
plans, mid-sized plans and small plans.
We also look for transparency. The Flexible Advantage program
has ClearCredit, which I think Rob can get into a little more, where
everybody knows and understands their fees.
Kissler: Nationwide ClearCredit is a feature that we have offered
since 2008. It is important because it precisely returns revenue
sharing on a participant level, meaning no one participant is
subsidizing another participant based on his or her investment
selections. It’s really the fairest way to handle revenue sharing in
a retirement plan program.
Lamon: In addition to the retirement program features, I really
like that Nationwide brings a strong brand name associated with
financial stability, and by pairing that with our services, it creates
a great combination that works with our clients in any size plan,
from the sale and installation through the long-term service and
retention. I really believe that Nationwide is the best at helping us
achieve those goals.
PA: How do you keep up with fiduciary standards, Hollis?
Lamon: Serving a retirement plan is a long-term commitment.
Keeping up with the fiduciary standards isn’t easy, you’ve got to
stay on top of it.
First, many plan sponsors don’t know the difference between
a 3( 16), a 3( 21) or a 3( 38) fiduciary and the functions each one
provides. We want to make sure the plan sponsor understands
these roles. Nationwide has done a great job creating educational materials and partnering with outside fiduciary companies
like Iron Financial to help plan sponsors outsource some of the
responsibility and enable advisers to maintain role clarity. I use
Iron Financial in plans of all sizes to make sure that the investment committee has the expertise to make sure that we are doing
things in the best possible way as far as the plan participants are
The first thing we do is determine the comfort level of the plan
sponsors and what goals they have for their plan. Do they want us
to advise participants? Are we acting as a 3( 21)? Do we outsource
to Iron Financial as a 3( 38)? Do they want to take some responsibility for investment decisions, or do they want to completely
outsource investment selection and monitoring?
Most of the plan sponsors out there we have found are having
“The same flexibility that we support the participant with,
we also support our advisers with, to help them do business
in the manner that they choose.” — Rob Kissler