Julie Niccum and Rick Irace, AscensusAscensus, a national open-architecture recordkeeper,
understands the value of a skilled advisor to a retirement plan. To that end,
the firm has developed services to reward advisors that value its platform. For
a group of “elite advisors,” this means earning a place in the Ascensus Elite
Advisor loyalty program.
The program is designed to reward advisors who do
significant business with Ascensus. “These advisors understand our products and
services,” says Rick Irace, Chief Operating Officer at Ascensus Retirement.
“They recognize the quality offered by growing a business with a dedicated
Ascensus' elite advisors can expect high-value services,
with a key benefit of the program being the support of dedicated points of
contact and client relationship managers. These services are much appreciated
and valued by the advisors in the program. Says Kevin Cicci, advisor at DC
Advisors LLC in Foxborough, Massachusetts, who has moved about 30% of his book
to Ascensus, "when you do lots of plans with many different recordkeepers,
you lose continuity. The Elite Advisor Program has helped me have a scalable
repeatable process." “What we want to do is demonstrate to our elite
financial advisors that they’re important and that they have value attached
with their elite status; we want our advisors to receive an exceptional level
of dedication and support,” Irace adds. Ascensus’ advisors appear to receive
just that, as George Finney, CRPS and Director of Retirement Services at Mount
Joy, Pennsylvania-based Everence Trust Company says that the company’s
"service is incredibly good and consistent."
While the elite advisor program has been in existence for
several years, Ascensus refreshed its concept in June 2016 and formally
relaunched the program in September. The refresh broadened its availability
while also incorporating the idea of an elite third-party administrator (TPA).
Over the course of 2016, Ascensus has grown the number of program members by
Part of the expansion is to identify and enforce TPA
relationships, according to Julie Niccum, Senior Vice President, Ascensus
Retirement. “What that allows us to do is focus on the unique needs of our
elite TPA partners through the delivery of service in a dedicated TPA model,”
Another notable service enhancement is the introduction of a
team of strategic account managers. According to Irace, this team is composed
of members backed by multiple years of industry and retirement experience in
relationship management and leadership roles.
“Our program ensures that our elite advisors are getting
service with added value,” says Irace. “Offering access to our strategic
account managers is a way to reward them not only for their allegiance, but
also for the time and effort that they commit to their clients,” says Irace.
Irace believes that dedication, expertise, and their
consultative approach are the factors that make strategic account managers
highly treasured. They provide proactive discussions regarding any new services
and technology enhancements, hold targeted book of business reviews, and carry
best practices and strategic solutions based on industry standards.
The consistent point of contact and dedication of service is
something both Cicci and Finley cite as a reason to move more business to
Ascensus. "I've built a great rapport with my point of contact,"
For Finney, Ascensus offers full service support. The
company has put together proposals and is "great from the sales side all
the way through implementation."
Not only does Finney say that Ascensus is wonderful in
working through complex plan design issues, but he says he trusts their
conversion teams implicitly. Unlike with other providers, Finney says he doesn't
feel the need to be on every conversion call. "It's a relief to have the Ascensus
team on my side," he says.
As the implementation of the Department of Labor (DOL)
Conflict of Interest rule draws closer, strategic account managers will
undoubtedly be called upon to assist elite advisors with any questions. “In
terms of the DOL’s regulatory changes, they’re going to be a great single point
of contact for addressing any changes or product needs that the elite advisor will have,” says Irace.
Niccum notes that elite advisors and consultancy sales teams
can harbor a “deepening relationship” through the program. Irace sees the
program as reinforcing the relationship between advisors and sales teams,
noting that active feedback and responses between the two can add to growing
technology and developments within the firm. The firm is very responsive, notes
Finney, "they ask for a lot of feedback and we are very honest. If
something is wrong, Ascensus fixes it."
Cicci agrees that the provider is active in working on
improvements when and where necessary.
“Our elite advisors not only know us very well, but they
also know the pulse of the marketplace,” says Irace. “They’re providing us with
lots of good information, and I think we’re growing alongside our elite
advisors—their voice is very important to us and we make sure to always be
“As an organization, we’ll continue to raise the bar, not
only on our service quality, but also when it comes to investing in our
platforms," Irace says. "Our clients deserve no less than that.”
"Our sales team is here to help more advisors achieve
Elite status and provides insights and consultation to help get them
there," adds Niccum.
“Our core values—People Matter, Quality First, and Integrity
Always—apply to each and every relationship we have at Ascensus, including an
advisor, a plan sponsor, a payroll contact, and a participant in the plan,”
says Niccum. “Everyone can expect a high level of service.”
Irace agrees. “There are certain things that we definitely
want to do for an elite advisor—we want to grow that channel,” he says. “But at
the end of the day, everybody is going to get service the same way once they’re
in the door here. The experience that any advisor is going to get is going to
be a world-class experience.”
To learn more, contact Ascensus at 800-345-6363 or RetirementSolutions@ascensus.com.