we focus on: What are the company’s goals for what it is
trying to get out of the plan, and how can we help it achieve
that?” he says. For instance, one client was concerned that
participants might not fully understand the plan’s investments, so the advisory firm did one-on-one meetings the
next year that the employer made mandatory.
Annually, Keiron Partners puts together a letter customized for each sponsor, and it details specifics on what the
advisory firm did for that plan during that year. The letter
generally runs two or three pages, and it has three sections:
Your Plan, Your Participants, and Our—viz., Clark’s—Team.
The first section confirms the work Keiron did on the plan
level, such as the dates on which it submitted investment
reviews to the sponsor. The second section specifies the work
and dates for the advisory firm’s participant-focused efforts,
such as when it did on-site participant meetings. And the
section on Clark’s practice talks about its notable developments for the year, such as if it won any industry awards and
if Clark received any new certifications.
Peluse, at each quarterly meeting, talks with sponsors to set client-service goals and objectives for the next
quarter. These goals usually relate to broader plan-success
benchmarking, so they often include actions such as taking
steps to encourage higher participant deferrals. At the next
meeting, he will discuss the efforts his firm made during
the previous quarter to achieve those goals.
“We want to show how our work has contributed to the
progress made,” Peluse says. “Our team still does a lot of one-on-one participant meetings, for example. So we may say
something like, ‘We were on-site for six days. We met with
250 participants, and here is what the outcomes have been
so far,’” he says. Those outcomes include results such as
how many participants increased their deferral rate after a
meeting. “Those kinds of things are tangible evidence for the
committees that our services have made an impact,” he says.
It works best to set goals quarterly, in Peluse’s experi-
ence. “If we do something in the first quarter and then talk
about it 12 months later, it doesn’t have the same impact as
if we talk about it at the next committee meeting after it
happens,” he says. “It’s another friendly reminder that, ‘Your
adviser is doing all these things for you.’” —Judy Ward
the sponsor was, ‘Oh, I didn’t know you do that.’”
Being proactive helps keep sponsors happy with their
adviser. Between sponsor meetings, Michael Clark asks his
customer relationship manager (CRM) for a list of clients he
has not personally contacted in the past 90 days. “Then I
reach out to them and say, ‘I just want to check in and see
if there’s anything more you need from us,’” says Clark, a
financial adviser at Keiron Partners in Orlando, Florida. For
larger clients, with a plan committee, he usually sends a
Christopher Soto looks for opportunities during the
year to keep sponsors informed about emerging retirement
plan trends and best practices. “I hear it all the time from
employers, especially CFOs [chief financial officers]: ‘What
is everybody else doing?’” says Soto, an Irvine, California-based financial adviser at Wells Fargo Advisors. “So we help
educate them on that.” For example, he makes use of quarterly investment reviews by adding two or three bulleted
items to the written report; these give brief updates about
new developments he has seen in the retirement industry.
About twice a year, Keiron has a luncheon for plan sponsors at a local restaurant or country club, and 20 to 25 sponsors typically attend. “It’s a good way for me to tell them
about new trends I’m seeing,” Clark says. “I usually talk
about three to five trends, such as in-plan Roth conversions
increasing. I like to be the first adviser to show them the
new trends. I don’t want one of my competitors [doing it].”
To keep clients happy with his practice’s service, Soto finds
it helps to work with sponsors to set annual plan-specific
goals, and he has a goal-making process he kicks off at each
year’s plan-review meeting. “I ask the sponsor, ‘When you
are sitting here a year from now, what are two or three
things you’d like to have seen the plan accomplish during
the last 12 months?’” he says. Then they talk about how
Wells Fargo can help. For instance, this year more clients
want to get a better feel for how their 401(k) plan compares
with peer employers’ plans, so his practice has worked on
competitive benchmarking studies for those sponsors.
Setting annual goals then gives Soto a focal point for
the next year’s results discussion. Wells Fargo summarizes
its accomplishments for its plan sponsor clients by saying,
“‘Here’s the progress made on the goals you had for this
year, and here’s what we’ve done to help improve those
situations,’” Soto says. For example, he often does a “2%
challenge” at participant education meetings, encouraging
attendees to increase their 401(k) contribution by 2%. As the
year comes to a close, his practice can get recordkeeping
data on how many participants accepted the challenge.
When Sampson talks to clients about setting goals his
firm can help with in the coming year, he stresses that the
goals be realistic, should the bar not be reached. “It’s great to
say, ‘We’d like to increase participation to 90%,’ but we don’t
really control that,” he says. “We can encourage employees
to participate, but we can’t do it for them. I’d love to set those
kinds of goals, but the results are very difficult to control. So
• Advisers should take the opportunity at quarterly plan
sponsor meetings to ask for feedback on their services.
• Advisers can use technology, such as their CRM tools,
to track client contact, e.g., identifying those not
reached out to in the past 90 days.
• By setting goals for the plan, either annually or quarterly, and then reviewing progress made against them,
advisers reinforce their worth with clients.
• Advisers can also stand out by informing plan sponsors about emerging best practices.