From analyzing the developing definition of fiduciary to discussing the best ways for advisers to differentiate themselves from the competition, the American Society of Pension Professionals & Actuaries 10th anniversary 401(k) SUMMIT gave more than 950 attendees plenty of tricks of the trade to improve their business and stay informed on industry developments.

Held March 6-8 in Las Vegas, the SUMMIT drew retirement advisers, recordkeepers, plan administrators and others from across the country. In the session “Building Your Team’s Value Proposition,” presenters Sue Kelley of Ann Schleck & Co. and Invesco’s Rich Schainker detailed the benefits of having — and actually using — a well-developed value proposition to retain clients and attract prospects. The most common trap in creating a value proposition, according to Schainker, is focusing on your own experience and not stating first how that experience can help the client. “Work very hard to express what you do in the form of a benefit to the client,” said Schainker. “It’s not about you, it’s about them.”

ASPPA’s Brian Graff moderated a discussion with the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee’s chief council Gregory Dean on legal and regulatory developments. Graff addressed with Dean the concerns of the broker community that federal changes to the definition of fiduciary will expand the quantity of fiduciaries, but not the quality. Dean was light on specifics, but promised ASPPA members that both Congress and the White House were paying attention to their concerns. “I want you to know that your voice is being heard,” he said.

Dean predicted there is “a long way to go” before the Securities and Exchange Commission makes any decisions on how fiduciary duties will change, but added that the Department of Labor “is racing ahead” on their efforts to broaden the definition of fiduciary.

On the topic of “Plan Design Trends and Technical Expertise for the Advisor,” Prudential’s Jennifer Lima and Paul D’Aiutolo of UBS Institutional Consulting Group gave insight into how advisers and recordkeepers can work together effectively. A powerful tool of the adviser is the ability to “force the recordkeeper to take action and stand behind their decisions,” said D’Aiutolo. At the same time, he urged advisers to “leverage your recordkeeper because they can become an endorsement for you.”

Recent controversy over target-date funds has put a spotlight on Qualified Default Investment Alternatives, and in their workshop, “QDIA — Silver Bullet or Headache,” Mercer’s Muriel Knapp and Lisa Lund Lattan of American Century Investments cautioned that assuming QDIAs are for everyone is dangerous, and  shared key questions to ask when determining if a QDIA is the right fit. According to Lattan, “the big question is will the use of a QDIA help or hurt participants in the plan achieve their retirement goals.”

In the session, “Tools and Techniques for Your Retirement Plan Practice,” Alexander Assaley of AFS Financial Group and Amy Glynn of Pension Resource Institute  urged the audience to use the tools offered by third parties, such as practice management and benchmarking, to grow their business. “The days of winning business through investment due diligence are certainly long gone,” said Assaley.

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