Though the 401(k) and defined contribution market gets lots of attention from all sectors of society and has a significant amount of assets, there are only about 110 national providers and advisory firms focused on this market.
Assembling a directory of these companies with all their value-added resources, contacts and profile is difficult for many reasons.
First, it's a moving target which changes every month. Second, it's hard - if not impossible - to get these providers to cooperate and supply the necessary information.
Finally, providers measure assets, participants and plans in different ways so it can be hard to compare apples to apples.
The beauty of the Internet and especially Google is that with a little bit of information, anyone can do their own research; also free sites like 401kRekon and 401kHelpcenter do a pretty good job of assembling the information in one place.
This article lists and describes the major providers with a bit of information about the record keepers and attempts to explain how an adviser can best leverage each group.
DC investment only firms provide investments only, meaning that they do not offer record keeping or administrative services.
Many DCIOs had been a record keeper but decided to focus on what they do best - managing money - while partnering with record keepers that make their funds available on their platform.
There are 34 firms (listed below) that have dedicated DC wholesalers that are focused on servicing advisers, have developed a menu of value-added services to support the practices of DC advisers, have significant assets within DC plans and are available on a significant number of national record keeping platforms.
Broker dealers/advisory firms
While there are hundreds or even thousands of broker dealers and advisory firms, only a few have even a little bit of support for and understanding of the DC market (listed below).
These firms are further defined by national or employee-based, meaning their registered reps are employees rather than contractors; with some like Raymond James and Wells Fargo offering both models - specialty firms whose primary purpose is to support DC advisers, independents and firms affiliated with insurance companies.
Even within these 30-plus firms, the level of support and sophistication varies widely, however.
These firms may have dedicated field support and have developed their own tools and services, license these tools from third parties, and/or partner with record keepers and DCIO firms to make these services available
There are about 45 national record keepers with significant distribution or number of plans throughout the country (listed on p. 22 in EBA February digital version).
Ten years ago there were more than 100 as record keeping is people- and capital-intensive, driving many out of the market.
Only about 25 of the current 45 providers have the assets and participants under management, brand and distribution, as well as technology and processes to remain viable over the next five years. The markets served, distribution models and service models for each one are listed with small plans defined as those with less than $10 million in assets, mid size as $10-$100 million, large as $100-$500 million and mega plans as those with greater than $500 million.
The service model can either be bundled (the record keeper does everything), unbundled (they outsource admin to a local, independent TPA), or open architecture (choice of funds are almost unlimited using a third party clearing firm like Schwab, Fidelity or Matrix).
Record keepers as an adviser's main partner
Record keepers (listed on p. 22 in EBA February digital version) serve as an advisers' main partner in the DC market, not only providing most services or acting as a general contractor but also supporting advisers in the field with knowledgeable wholesalers.
They also provide important value-add services to help advisers build, grow and manage their practice acting as a virtual back office.
However, over the past three to five years, DCIO firms have been taking on more of that work.
While not complete, these lists of providers give an adviser and idea of where they can go to get support for their budding or even mature practices.
Left out because of space are the thousands of very valuable TPAs who provide either compliance and administration only in partnership with the unbundled record keepers as well as the hundreds of regional open architecture record keeping TPAs.
Becoming a succesful DC adviser
The most successful DC advisers first find the right broker dealer or advisory firm that can support their practices and then partner with a few providers who serve their markets and particular needs not just with the tasks of record keeping, investments and administration but also with value-added services that help the adviser to build, grow and manage their practice.
Barstein is founder and executive director of The Retirement Advisor University, a strategic partner with the University of California Los Angeles Anderson School of Management Executive Education. Prior to founding TRAU, Barstein was president and chief executive of 401kExchange. Reach him at fred.barstein@TRAUniv.com.
BROKER/DEALERS ADVISORY FIRMS
- Edward Jones
- Merrill Lynch
- Morgan Keegan
- Morgan Stanley
- Raymond James*
- Stiffel Nichols
- Wells Fargo
- 401(k) Advisors
- Financial Telesis
- M Financial
- John Hancock
- Northwestern Mutual
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