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In terms of specific tools and solutions sought by advisers, “staffing and compensation” has become a hot topic of development lately, Roche observes. “We have seen a lot of inquiries about tools that help advisers track their practice growth and determine the equation of plans to manage vs. staff—and how to reward employees along the line.”

But far and away the most demand is centered around fiduciary compliance support and investment fee management solutions—spurred, of course, by the forthcoming Department of Labor (DOL) fiduciary rule reforms slated to take effect in April. As this article is being written, the future of the rulemaking is shrouded in uncertainty under a Republican-led federal government, but many firms have pledged to move ahead with fiduciary reforms regardless of how the rule changes pan out—in the interest of improving their competitive profile in a more fee-conscious environment (see “Compliance News”).

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Providers of all stripes are clearly keyed into this ongoing evolution, and PLANADVISER has gotten word of many dozens of new fiduciary compliance support solutions hitting the defined contribution (DC) advisory market, including tool kits from firms such as the SEI Advisor Network and Redtail Technology, which partnered to create the Workflow Your Way to the DOL Deadline tool kit. This tool will provide financial advisers with “systematized workflows that help assess business readiness and demonstrate compliance with the DOL rule through a variety of processes such as moving from commission- to fee-based investments,” the firms say.

“Everyone is talking about the DOL rule in our industry—what they should be doing and how they can get help,” says John Anderson, managing director and head of practice management services for the SEI Advisor Network, in Philadelphia. “It’s vital for advisers to have the workflows set in place to execute a plan for their clients and demonstrate compliance with the rule.”

SEI and Redtail are just two of the latest firms to offer solutions designed to help advisers navigate the regulatory playing field expected to grow out of the DOL’s implementation of the rule. Others include PCS, Impact Financial Systems (IFS), Envestnet and fi360.

PCS, for example, introduced an adviser-initiated rollover system that is fully compliant with the fiduciary rule. “Come April, every retirement-plan enterprise will have to reassess its procedures,” says PCS CEO Mark Klein, also in Philadelphia. “Of the $7.3 trillion currently in IRAs [individual retirement accounts], $4 trillion is in commission-based accounts. We anticipate that most—if not all—of these accounts will transition to level fee arrangements. Whether handled by independent registered investment advisers [RIAs], advisers registered with broker/dealers [B/Ds], or hybrid advisers, every account will have to be reviewed and converted in accordance with the DOL mandates, as necessary.”