Plan sponsor satisfaction is a primary concern of retirement advisors. Many advisors, however, struggle with how to illustrate the value they add. Our plan sponsor survey revealed several actions that elite advisors take to showcase their value. This DC viewpoint is third in a series dedicated to unlocking the secrets to sponsor satisfaction. Ron Cohen takes a deeper dive into actions you can take to spotlight the value you bring to the plan.
At its foundation, the basis for improving satisfaction is ensuring that what you do matches what they expect of you. An important first step is surveying your sponsors to learn their particular expectations. Then you can build your plan to modify your service model (or actions) to deliver on those expectations. Finally, in order to truly achieve client satisfaction, you need to make sure that you illustrate to each client how your actions are meeting—or even exceeding—their explicit expectations.
In this DC viewpoint, learn about the importance of developing an annual summary, creating one that is impactful, and tips on delivering a polished summary presentation.
A key to delivering on this important step is the creation of an annual summary for each plan client. Think of this as a written narrative that illustrates how you helped the plan achieve its goals. The document can also be a useful springboard for discussion of future growth or improvements.
The summary described here is an advisor’s annual summary of service to the plan. Please don’t confuse this with a plan’s summary annual report (SAR), a required document of the plan’s annual return/report.
Each year, a retirement plan summary includes a number of objectives, whether those objectives were met (or not), and revised objectives for the future. The annual summary should act as both a history of the plan and a strategic road map for the future. For each plan you advise, you are documenting the actions you took to help the plan achieve its goals and the plan’s direction for future growth or improvement.
Start by considering which areas of plan activity to address. This could include ERISA compliance, operations, investments, participant communications and education, fees, service providers, and more. Be sure to include any areas where your sponsor may not be aware of the time you and your team are spending, such as coordination with recordkeepers and other service providers.
After you have set up your framework, keep it handy throughout the year to quantify the actions you take on behalf of each plan. Did you field many calls from participants? Did you prepare a rush report for the committee analyzing recordkeeper fees? Were you proactive about fund manager changes? Make sure to note that. At the end of each year, summarize your activity in each category to show actions you’ve taken toward past goals, plus any ideas for future goals. Remember, although not mandatory, your annual summary is an important document that should be entered into official plan records. You can download a guide and a customizable template to help you get started.
After you create this historical record of actions taken on behalf of the plan and goals for the coming year, it is time to present it to the client. This document represents your brand, so it is important that your presentation be of high quality. Your presentation can be brief, but remember that its main purpose is to reinforce the value of your advisory services and justify your fees by illustrating the value you have provided to the plan. Consider these keys to unlocking the secret of presenting your annual summary.
In order for sponsors to believe that you deliver on their expectations, it is critical that you illustrate in a tangible way the actions you have taken to help the plan achieve its goals and the recommendations you have made for future success. Unlocking the secrets to sponsor satisfaction requires specific actions. In particular, build an annual summary that spotlights the value you bring to the plan.
Why is this so crucial? Because your success depends on it. Higher sponsor satisfaction helps you strengthen existing relationships, which in turn helps you cross-sell other products and services, retain clients, and get referrals for new business.
When you can show a one-to-one match between what your sponsors are looking for and what you actually provide, you are on the way to creating greater satisfaction among your plan sponsor clients.
Ron Cohen is head of defined contribution investment only (DCIO) sales for Wells Fargo Funds. He has more than 20 years of defined contribution experience at various firms, including Wells Fargo Funds, J.P. Morgan, and DWS Investments. He is known for his innovative approach to the DCIO business, his partnership with recordkeepers and advisors, and his commitment to helping them deliver value.
Wells Fargo Funds surveyed plan sponsors about their advisor preferences and built The Science of Satisfaction program.
The Engagement for Satisfaction guide reveals how to maximize sponsor conversations using participant insights to demonstrate your value.