2015 PLANADVISER Recordkeeper Services Guide

By Alison Cooke Mintzer See Archive >
2015 PLANADVISER Recordkeeper Services Guide
Art by Linda Yan

Working as a retirement plan adviser, if nothing else, means working in the business of relationships. First and foremost among these, of course, are the partnerships between the adviser and his retirement plan sponsor clients. However, an adviser must also keep strong ties in the provider community, to ensure he has the most current information about the best products and services available to clients.

Depending on the adviser, and the number and types of clients he serves, keeping current can be a daunting task. Certain providers tailor their services by client size, plan type or geography, while others may have certain areas of focus and expertise that might suit one particular client. Some providers insist on working only through advisers or consultants. Others do both adviser-sold and direct-sold business, and still others do no business through intermediaries. As the industry changes and provider consolidations take place, these vendors may also change their business delivery models.

We partnered with our sister publication, PLANSPONSOR, to get a better sense of which recordkeeping providers work with advisers, and to show the extent to which they do so. As part of the 2015 PLANSPONSOR’s Recordkeeping Survey (see, retirement plan recordkeepers were asked about their business models, with questions specifically pertaining to advisers and other intermediaries. This year, the survey—our 17th annual—received 66 complete responses from the nation’s leading recordkeepers. From that total, 52 respondents indicated that they conduct business through at least one type of intermediary, and those recordkeepers have been included in the tables on the following pages.

While many recordkeepers work with their own proprietary or affiliated advisers, none this year indicated that they work solely with such advisers. Similarly, while many providers work with designated adviser firms, none indicated collaborating only with designated firms, and just eight out of 52 providers reported coordinating only with unaffiliated advisers. The majority (71%) of providers said they will work with nonaffiliated advisers and designated firms, as well as their own affiliates.

In terms of options available for adviser compensation, 49 of the 52 recordkeepers (94%) provide registered investment adviser (RIA)/hard-dollar fees, up from the prior year’s 80%; 41 (78%) provide ongoing trails/commissions, up from 70%; 38 (73%) accommodate Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) accounts, up from 50%; 24 (46%) pay upfront commissions, down from 50%; and 21 (40%) offer a finder’s fee, down from 48%.

Recordkeepers also offer advisers a wide array of resources and support services for adviser relationships. All 52 respondents indicated that they provide education and enrollment support. Five in six (83%) offer legislative updates and plan design services; 88% create plan benchmarking reports for advisers; and three-quarters make rollover assistance, investment monitoring and investment policy statement (IPS) assistance available. By contrast, less than half of recordkeeping providers give advisers access to proprietary investment tools, target-date fund (TDF) benchmarking or sponsorship of designations specific to defined contribution (DC) plans.


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The data here are taken from the 2015 PLANSPONSOR Recordkeeping Survey. The survey questionnaire was distributed to providers of full-service and unbundled recordkeeping for defined contribution (DC) plans, and PLANSPONSOR received 66 complete responses. The questionnaire, which asked for approximately 350 data points on a wide range of provider experiences and capabilities, was available to providers between March and May. Except where noted, all data are as of December 31, 2014.

Also note that the tables here offer only a snapshot of selected adviser-related information from each vendor, and the provider list includes only the 52 that work with financial advisers in some capacity regarding sales to and servicing of defined contribution plan clients. Additional data on the complete list are available at To purchase an Excel spreadsheet containing the full dataset of responses from all 66 providers, please contact Michelle Judkins at