2016 PLANADVISER Recordkeeper Services Guide

Retirement plan advisers may often find themselves in the role of matchmaker: working with a defined contribution (DC) client to determine which investments and platforms or providers are the best fit. To be in a top position to guide the client, an adviser must keep abreast of the provider community, so as to stay current on what products and services are available to suit each client’s needs.

By Alison Cooke Mintzer See Archive >
2016 PLANADVISER Recordkeeper Services Guide
Art by Harry Campbell

Depending on the adviser and the number and types of clients served, keeping up to date, especially about recordkeepers, can be a daunting task. Certain providers concentrate on one particular size client, or a specific plan type or geography, while others have areas of focus and expertise geared toward an individual client. Some providers insist on working only through advisers or consultants, some do both adviser-sold and direct-sold business, and still others do no business through intermediaries at all. As the industry changes and provider consolidations take place, those vendors sometimes also change their business delivery models.

To help advisers get a better sense of not only which retirement plan recordkeepers work with advisers, but the extent to which they do so, sister publication PLANSPONSOR asked them about their business models—specifically pertaining to advisers and other intermediaries—as part of its 18th annual Recordkeeping Survey. As part of the 2016 PLANSPONSOR Recordkeeping Survey, PLANSPONSOR received 59 complete responses this time from the nation’s leading retirement plan recordkeepers. From that total, 45 respondents indicated they conduct business through at least one type of intermediary, and those recordkeepers have been included in the tables on the following pages.

Most providers that work with advisers are fairly flexible in terms of types of adviser partners. While many recordkeepers work with proprietary or affiliated advisers, just one this year indicated that it works solely with such advisers. Similarly, while several providers work with designated adviser firms, none indicated that they will work only with designated firms, and just four out of the 45 said they work only with unaffiliated advisers. More than seven in 10 providers said they will work with nonaffiliated advisers or designated firms, as well as with their own affiliates.

In terms of options available for adviser compensation, it’s a matter of how advisers want, or are allowed, to be paid. All but two recordkeepers can support registered-investment-adviser (RIA)/hard-dollar fees; 83% (up from 77%) offer them ongoing trailing commissions; and 33 (72%) make Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) accounts available.

All 45 recordkeepers indicated that they provide education and enrollment support to advisers. The vast majority supply advisers with plan benchmarking reports (85%), legislative updates and plan design services (83% each). Three-quarters make assistance with rollovers, investment monitoring and investment policy statements (IPSs) available. Two-thirds of recordkeepers offer lead-generation services to advisers, and nearly as many now make ERISA [Employee Retirement Income Security Act] counsel available.

Value-added tools and services that are less frequently offered—cited by less than half of survey respondents—include access to proprietary investment tools, target-date fund (TDF) benchmarking and/or sponsorship of designations specific to defined contribution plans.


back to top

Methodology. The data here are taken from the 2016 ­PLANSPONSOR Recordkeeping Survey. The survey questionnaire was distributed to providers of full-service and unbundled recordkeeping for defined contribution (DC) plans, and PLANSPONSOR received 59 complete responses. The questionnaire, which asked for approximately 350 data points on a wide range of provider experiences and capabilities, was available to providers this past April. Except where noted, all data are as of December 31, 2015.

Also note that the tables here offer only a snapshot of selected adviser-related information from each vendor, and the provider list (pages 38-39) includes only the 45 that work with intermediaries in some capacity regarding sales to and servicing of DC plan clients. Additional data for all recordkeepers are available at To purchase an Excel spreadsheet containing the full dataset of responses from all 59 providers, please contact Michelle Judkins at