2015 PLANADVISER Practice Benchmarking Survey

By Alison Cooke Mintzer See Archive >
2015 PLANADVISER Practice Benchmarking Survey
Art by Jon Han

For retirement plan advisers to remain competitive, it is important that they gauge how their services and pricing measure up against those of their peers. The 2015 PLANADVISER Practice Benchmarking Survey, our ninth, gives invaluable insight into your industry competitors.

In an industry where advisers are moving their value propositions away from the “3 Fs” (fees, funds and fiduciary), at least one of the “F’s” has begun to  reemerge across nearly all firms surveyed. Regardless of an advisory firm’s assets under advisement (AUA), fiduciary services are viewed as a top growth area by the majority. It is no wonder, then, that 90% of advisers say they are a 3(21) fiduciary, up from 29% last year, and 56% say they are a 3(38) fiduciary, up from 27% last year.

To bring in another of the Fs, when asked about top concerns, most advisers mention fee compression. And, in line with the movement toward clearer and flat-fee-based pricing, more advisers are going the dually registered—i.e., as a registered investment adviser (RIA) and working for a broker/dealer (B/D)—route, cited by 24% of advisers, up from 16% last year. How advisers charge for their services is changing; while 88% charge fees based on assets (up from 81% in 2014), more are now applying a flat fee (78% vs. 51%) or using an Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) budget (52% vs. 27%).

In this year’s survey, nearly all advisers (94%) say they evaluate and recommend defined contribution (DC) plan providers and recordkeepers, up from 85% in 2014—showing perhaps a continued trend toward becoming holistic retirement plan advisers and not just investment advisers.

Advisers are becoming more organized about their own practices, with 84% having a written business plan that governs their practice, up considerably from 61% last year. You can see these findings and how your practice compares on the following pages. 


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METHODOLOGY: In October, approximately 15,000 adviser subscribers to PLANADVISER were asked to respond to a 37-question survey, developed by the PLANADVISER editorial and research teams. Survey questions pertained to size and scope of the advisers’ qualified plan businesses, practice management, compensation and client services, as well as their assessments of investment managers, mutual funds and defined contribution (DC) providers. The provider assessment results appear in the Retirement Plan Adviser Survey in this issue. At the close of the survey, 491 complete responses had been received from retirement plan advisers. Results for each category are rounded to the nearest percentage; the year-over-year change column is calculated based on unrounded actual results. For more information and for additional research available, please contact