401(k) plan sponsors want financial advisers to better know their businesses

Employers sponsoring 401(k) plans expect advisers to challenge assumptions, know their businesses inside and out.

Mar 21, 2017 @ 1:52 pm

By Greg Iacurci

Employers sponsoring 401(k) plans want advisers to challenge their assumptions and commit to knowing their specific company and their industry, a panel of plan sponsors said Monday at the National Association of Plan Advisors annual conference in Las Vegas.

"Teach me something I didn't know a day earlier. Make me a little smarter at the end of the day. Don't assume what is obvious to you is obvious to me," said Matthew Gertzog, deputy executive director at the American Society of Hematology, who added that he appreciates advisers more when they push back on the assumptions of a client. "I look for reassurance, expertise, confidence, someone who will be provocative."

Gloria McCamley, the director of human resources at the Association of periOperative Registered Nurses, echoed that sentiment.

The organization wouldn't fire an adviser just because a measurable goal hadn't been reached at year-end, because not everything "is going to stick," Ms. McCamley said. However, "I expect them to keep us challenged … and really drive change."

Plan sponsors are also looking for their 401(k) advisers to make an effort to understand and engage with their company and what they do.

"Know our business," said Katie Drayo, the director of benefits at Cott Corp., speaking of important qualities in an adviser.

For example, when an adviser receives a Google alert about Cott Corp., and then follows up with a text message or email saying, depending on the news, "congratulations" or points out a possible course of action as a result of the news means an adviser took time to want to know what's going on, Ms. Drayo said.

Mr. Gertzog agreed, saying he looks for an adviser committed to understanding his company's unique business challenges.

Ms. McCamley said the demands on advisers are increasing. Five years ago, her company sought an adviser who could help with compliance, group meetings and investment fund lineups, but now "I expect more out of them, and more of that consultant role, really keeping me and my committee members apprised of what we should be doing with our participants."

Despite those increasing demands, plan sponsors also said it can be easy for a client to forget an adviser's success, and that advisers should hark back on those successes every once in a while.

"Don't forget to remind us of everything you've helped us accomplish, Ms. Drayo said.

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