Advisers want strong retirement plan support

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With fiduciary regulations now requiring retirement advisers to document every fee charged to their clients, they are going to need more support from recordkeepers and service provider partners in meeting their obligations to present accurate plan data to plan sponsors.

Three advisers from across the country spoke recently to members of the SPARK Institute at the 2017 SPARK National Conference in Oxon Hill, Md., to explain where they need the most assistance and how valuable information can be smoothly transferred.

Jake O’Shaughnessy, managing director at SageView Advisory Group out of Portland, Ore., said it is all about partnership and, to have a strong partnership, having intimate knowledge of how an advisory firm works will ensure better communication for all parties involved.

“If a service provider comes to me and says, ‘We have four plans together. Two of your plans have auto enrollment and two of them don’t. Can you tell me why these two plans don’t?’ That shows me that, one, you took the time to do some research on me and, two, it shows me that you want to partner with me and get to a little bit higher understanding as to what I need in order to service my clients,” he said.

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Corey Whitehead, principal and COO at MRP in Denver, agrees with O’Shaughnessy’s request for deep, knowledgeable partnership. HE added that having advisers, recordkeepers and service providers competing for different services is counterproductive.

“We have continuously brought our number of vendors down and have had [some] removed from our preferred list because we feel they are in direct competition with us and they are just not worth the headache,” Whitehead said.

‘Not a lot of answers’
Philip Chao, principal and CEO of Chao & Company Ltd. in Washington, D.C., said he is attempting to reach out to recordkeepers to ensure everyone is on the same page with fiduciary responsibility, yet he is having difficulty receiving responses.

“We have a lot of questions, but it seems to me that there are not a lot of answers,” Chao said. “Either the recordkeepers are uncertain of answers or they are not sharing answers to the frontline people who we deal with. We do not have the privilege of calling the COO of every recordkeeper for confirmation.”

Chao referred to questions such as whether or not recordkeepers have already begun to document information in a fiduciary manner and how advisers can better monitor services needed as well as services rendered.

With the partial implementation of the fiduciary rule already in place, Chao said he is surprised that he still does not have answers to his questions when the industry has been aware of the fiduciary rule for years.

“If the question is, ‘What do we expect from recordkeepers,’ the answer is, they need to get their act together,” Chao said. “We expect transparency, we expect that they know what we are asking them and have an answer readily available. If I have to go find the answer to my questions myself, that scares me.”

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