As September flows into October in the 401(k) world we move from summer marketing into the fall selling season. Those plans that you have been working on all year will need to be finalized soon in order to preserve a January 1, 2014 conversion date.

What's driving the sales process with most plan sponsors this year?

Fees. Employers have taken the hint from the Department of Labor and are aggressively reviewing and negotiating fees with providers. The bottom line is that fees are coming down and plan sponsors are expecting to experience a fee reduction with each piece of business they move.

Features. Plan sponsors are looking at what recordkeepers, trustees, custodians and advisors are able to deliver to their participants. Intuitive websites, projection and planning tools and innovative employee education top the list of employer must-haves.

Funds. Many plan sponsors are taking the opportunity to review their fund line-ups when they move their business. Those that do not offer target date funds, or some other managed account solution for participants, are actively pursuing those options. In addition, advisors who have been successful in winning new business are recommending fixed income options that will succeed in our current low and the coming rising interest rate environment.

Fiduciaries. Believe it or not there are still some 401(k) plans that don't have an investment advisor who signed on as a fiduciary. All plans that are moving are hiring investment advisors who are willing to sign on to their plans as fiduciaries. In addition, plan sponsors expect to receive fiduciary guidance and compliance consulting.

Fun! It's true that the most qualified advisor is not always hired. Plan sponsors are looking for providers that are easy to work with, make the complex simple and who they enjoy working with.

Time is running out! Generally, new business needs to be under contract by October 31 in order to preserve a January 1, 2014 conversion date.

 Contributing Editor Robert C. Lawton is President of Lawton Retirement Plan Consultants, LLC a Registered Investment Advisory firm helping retirement plan sponsors with their investment, fiduciary, employee education and compliance responsibilities.  Mr. Lawton has over 25 years of experience working with corporations on their retirement plans and is a Chartered Retirement Plan Specialist (CRPS) and Accredited Investment Fiduciary (AIF).  Mr. Lawton was named as a Top 100 Retirement Plan Adviser by PLANADVISER and a Top 300 Retirement Plan Adviser by 401(k) Wire.  Mr. Lawton may be contacted at or 414.828.4015.


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