continued from here.

VIEW FULL ARTICLE

Fiduciary support may be the hottest topic for the time being, but TPAs, recordkeepers and investment managers have rolled out offerings in other areas. For advisers who want to help their clients promote retirement readiness, loan education or financial wellness to plan participants, the best approach may be: Promote the provider’s tools, while offering support to improve engagement.

MassMutual, for example, upgraded its online RetireSMART Ready tool to give savers in DC plans better guidance, and potentially improved outcomes, to help them reach their retirement goals. According to MassMutual, savers can be advised on what steps to take if their current saving strategy is falling short of their retirement goals. They can choose to implement the recommended strategies by themselves, or work with a financial adviser on instituting one. To again highlight the increased interconnectivity of value-add tools, the actual guidance and managed products are provided by Envestnet Retirement Solutions (ERS).

Story Continued Below

Morningstar announced late last year the launch of a linked student loan and retirement savings calculator. The digital tool is designed to help investors decide whether to allocate extra income to retirement savings or pay down student loans. The calculator will gather user input such as his spending and saving habits with discretionary income, his employer’s match rates for its retirement savings plan, and the status of his student loans. The output will show how much more net wealth the individual might have in retirement if he chooses the optimal savings-vs.-debt strategy proposed by the calculator.

Taking a similar approach but applying it to health insurance and care costs, BenefitGuard announced partnerships with Utah health care benefit providers Spectra Benefits and the Miller & Wade Group. The partnership will target “simplifying small-business access for the two most popular employee benefits: health insurance and retirement savings.”

“Small businesses are turning to one-stop shops, more than ever for employee benefit programs,” says Matt Bradley, CEO of BenefitGuard, in Orem, Utah. “Our solution provides a single sign-on experience and displays 401(k) balances in the HSA [health savings account] portal,” he explains. “This increases retirement-related messaging and notifications to participants, and improves 401(k) platform access and utilization.”

A similar message is being broadcast by Fidelity Investments, which notes that “employees don’t leave their financial problems at home, which leads to distractions and lower productivity at work.” That is why more advisers are seeking out and offering tools to help with budgeting, debt management, prioritizing savings goals and managing life events such as a wedding or buying a new home.

Fidelity also expects to offer more online and on-demand benefits education. Attendance at the firm’s live Web education sessions is up 52%, and use of on-demand seminars is up 62% since 2012. In addition, the “take action” rates for on-demand seminars are consistently higher than both virtual Web sessions and in-person seminars. Employees of all ages are gravitating to the sessions, which range from the basics, such as the impact of increasing savings, to the complex, such as Social Security claiming strategies, Fidelity reports.

It all comes together to form a pretty complicated picture for advisers on the ground.

Seifert, Roche and Cohen all agree that advisers need not feel daunted by the growing universe of potential value-add solutions and tools; nor do they have to rush to adopt every flashy new piece of support technology they see their competition offer. But they cannot afford to ignore the offerings or get complacent, either. Every day, top advisers are finding new ways to fold creative service expansions into their client offerings—and those who don’t strive hard to keep up will struggle to compete.

“How do you know who to partner with?” Cohen asks. “You can find out a whole lot about how these tools perform through wholesalers and other advisers who you trust. Ask your peers about what works and what doesn’t. If you’ve been a little reluctant to take on a meeting with a wholesaler just because you haven’t used their products in the past, ask them to talk about forthcoming value-add tools. It may serve you well hearing them out.”

But be mindful of the solutions you select, notes Seifert. “Make sure you find tools that are actionable … make sure [the tool] is something that in real, measurable terms will get you an advisory client or help you keep a client. That’s what matters most to business success and client outcomes.”