Home Financial Industry Regulatory Authority Contact Us Department of Labor
Return to MMA home page                               If you can’t remember the last time you did a provider search, you’re probably overdue
Plan review services
Plan review home

What is covered in our review?

Plan Fee Review

Plan Investment Review

Plan Administration Review

Plan Education Review

Plan Service Level Review

Fees for plan review

 
I'm pretty happy with our plan. Why should I bother with a review?
by: Kurt Millikin

Plan sponsors have a fiduciary duty to know about all aspects of their 401(k) plan. What fees are being charged? Are they reasonable? Are the plan's investment returns competitive and how do they compare to relevant benchmarks such as a comparable index. Moreover, plan fiduciaries are required to make decisions at an expert level and the interests of plan participants must rise above all other considerations.

It's pretty difficult to be an expert in plan compliance, ERISA law or plan investments and run a company at the same time. But that is what is required of plan sponsors. Decisions need to rise to the "prudent expert" level - what would an expert in the field do?

That is why plan sponsors tend to surround themselves with people they trust to help guide them through the maze of issues that come up in the day-to-day and year-to-year operation of their retirement plan.

There is a lot of back and forth about the objectivity of advisors affiliated with broker dealers as opposed to registered investment advisors (RIA's).  The debate is primarily over the fiduciary status of the advisor. I suspect there are good and very experienced people that work in both of these environments.

I would ask, particularly if the advisors you have surrounded yourself with are attached to a specific product  just how objective is the advice you are receiving?  When does an advisor cross the line and become a sales person? Can the representative of a certain product really objectively help you compare fees and investment performance? What if the compensation of the advisor gets in the way of "reasonable" fees? What if the product relies primarily on investments that are proprietary to the service provider - not necessarily the best investment options? Can you select investments based on criteria such as consistency of performance or performance relative to other funds trying to achieve a similar objective? Or is the investment opportunity limited by what the product provider is willing to offer - maybe a bunch of proprietary funds? If you are an advisor tied to a specific product why would you purposefully compare that product to better, more cost effective alternatives?

Is your plan with one of the major insurance companies or mutual fund companies? Some of those products can be a good fit for some companies but a representative of that company probably isn't the best source for making an objective comparison to alternative services.

Under these circumstances can you really make an informed and objective evaluation of how your plan compares to the universe of plan service providers? Can you really satisfy the requirement to know whether your fees and expenses are reasonable without an outside source of information?

This is where a periodic review from an objective source comes in.

You might ask why we believe that we are that objective source - considering we provide services that compete with your current plan service provider.

First - our plan analysis is just that - it's not a sales pitch (please see the link "what is covered in our review for a list of items our review covers).

Objectivity starts to fail when the intended outcome of a review or comparison is to highlight a predetermined choice of product.  Our objectivity stems from the fact that in most cases we are able to offer the very same platform that you currently utilize.  Any determination we arrive at is not due to lack of access to a specific product.  We don't have any conflicts in that area.

The relevant question is "would we" recommend your current plan provider if you were starting from scratch?  The goal of our review is to determine whether your plan framework is cost efficient and addresses the needs of your participants. If your program already meets those criteria then our report helps confirm and document that. Our review does not have a predetermined goal of providing a poor rating for your existing plan framework. 

Our access to so many different solutions allows us to make observations and comparisons that give you the tools you need to judge how your existing plan framework compares. After all, as the plan fiduciary you are ultimately responsible for the quality of the program you select.

In the end you will possess either a tool that helps you demonstrate that you are on the right track and maybe even help you improve your existing program or a tool that exposes you to what might be a better alternative.

Get in touch with us and get your plan reviewed.  It's important.