Fiduciary financial advisors should own the 401(k) market. There are still way too many high cost plans out there that have hidden fees, a sub-optimal line-up of investment options, and that provide a poor end-user experience. Why do these plans still exist? One reason is lack of sophistication among small business owners. Another is a lack of competition for those plans. Yet another is inertia.
Why don’t independent advisors aggressively go after this market that is ripe for disruption? After all, there are $8 trillion in 401(k) plans; that’s a big opportunity! In addition, there are at least one million companies that could be offering a 401(k) plan which are not currently doing so.
Historically, it has not been easy. The tools necessary to identify “problem plans” to market to, the ability to identify the decision maker at those plans, the access to software to create a proposal and implement it, and the knowledge necessary to do all of the above are not skills that all advisors possess. Now, however, there is an integrated platform that provides advisors all the tools they need to compete in the 401(k) market in an efficient and compliant fashion. It’s called FiduciaryShield.
RETIREMENT PLAN MARKETPLACE BRINGS TRIOLOGY TOGETHER
FiduciaryShield is a retirement plan marketplace that allows for the employer, the plan provider, and the financial advisor to work in accordance for the best interest of the employee. Advisors can search the FiduciaryShield database of all 401(k) plans in the USA for likely prospects. Since it is not practical for most RIA firms to prospect to that many firms, the 401(k) Prospector defaults to all plans within 100 miles of the RIA’s office, although this can be modified. You can then winnow down the list by filtering, for example, by plan size, narrowing the geographic area, for plans that paid insurance commissions, 12(b)1 fees, that offered proprietary funds, or a number of other factors.
Once prospective plans are identified, the software can run a report on the plans that identifies the risk factors in those plans. Armed with this information, the advisor is ready to contact the business and offer to offer alternatives.
FiduciaryShield knows who is responsible for the plans at these firms, and it goes out to publicly available sources like LinkedIn to supply the advisor with the relevant contact information. The advisor can then contact the employer and share information about the inadequacies of the current plan. With the employer’s permission, the advisor can then shop the FiduciaryShield marketplace for a better plan.
PROSPECTING AND PROPOSAL GENERATION MADE EASIER
Since much of the data necessary to create a new plan proposal already resides on the FiduciaryShield platform, the amount of data required from the employer is minimal. For example, there may be some recordkeeping fees or other fee data that is not publicly available that needs to be uploaded. There may be some features that the employer desires that the current plan does not offer such as online enrollment or autoenrollment that the software needs to filter for. Once all the data is entered, the advisor can run a proposal with one or more plan options. Assuming the employer agrees to establish a plan with the advisor, all of the forms can be auto filled and signed electronically with DocuSign. As part of the enrollment process, the employer may add additional features to some plans including things like a financial planning software component, a financial wellness component, or self-directed brokerage options.
One aspect of the process that cannot be automated today is the investment selection process. Many of the plans offer a wide variety of investment choices, but employers generally want to winnow the list down to a manageable number. In the near future, FiduciaryShield will offer an algorithm based outsource solution, similar to those offered by robo-advisors, to help select investment options.
In addition to the platform for independent advisors, FiduciaryShield also offers and enterprise version with additional capabilities so that large firms can mange all of their advisors’ plans, proposals, prospects, clients, etc. The platform eases not only the sales cycle, but also the compliance and regulatory burden since every action is captured and archived within the platform.
FiduciaryShield should appeal to advisors. It greatly simplifies and speeds the process of prospecting for, implementing and managing 401(k) plans. Penetrating the 401(k) marketplace better positions advisors to gain access to both IRA rollovers when employees leave an employer as well as an opportunity to pitch additional services to company executives.
For those advisors looking to accelerate the growth of their businesses, FiduciaryShield looks like an interesting tool that could lead to new opportunities.