Plan sponsors say that they “find comfort” in their advisers and the services they deliver, according to preliminary results from a comprehensive study to research the benefits that plan sponsors gain from working with professional retirement plan advisers.

In the first phase of the study being conducted for the DC Plan Investment Council, focus groups of plan sponsors were held in Raleigh, N.C. The participants were selected at random.

The first-of-its-kind study has many phases, says Eric Henon, president of EACH Enterprise, LLC. Henon’s company staffs the Council, which consists of 54 advisers, the heads of retirement plan practice of major wire house firms, five investment management firms and eight service providers.

 “We certainly hope that we will be able to demonstrate the benefits of doing business with an adviser,” Henon says, although he is not sure what kinds of benefits they will be able to identify. In the focus group discussions, comfort was not something that Henon expected to find. “We were really honing in on quantitative benefits both in terms of retirement plan outcomes for participants and in terms of plan level outcomes, but this topic of comfort came loud and clear,” he says.

According to a news release from the Council, in addition to focus groups, the study will survey 400 plan sponsors with $5 million to $500 million in plan assets to compare outcomes for plan sponsors who rely on professional retirement plan advisers. The goal is to establish a benchmark for comparing plans serviced by an adviser to plans that do not utilize one or that prefer to do business with an adviser or consultant who does not specialize in retirement plans. The survey will address key questions pertaining to areas where retirement advisers do a good job and where they could improve.

Five firms that support the Council commissioned the research: Diversified, John Hancock Funds, Franklin Templeton, MFS Investment Management and MassMutual Retirement Services.

The focus groups were conducted April 20, and the quantitative part of the study began May 10. The study will be finished around the end of the year, Henon says.

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