As the Department of Labor becomes more interested in how retirement plan sponsors run their plans, educating not just participants but the sponsors themselves becomes more important. To answer the need for more knowledgeable plan sponsors, the people behind The Retirement Advisor University (TRAU) are creating The Plan Sponsor University.
The Retirement Advisor University started in mid-2010 through a collaboration with the UCLA Anderson School of Management Executive Education. Gerald Wernette, a principal with Rehmann Financial, is a founding lecturer of the Retirement Advisor University.
“We put together a curriculum that is focused on the retirement plan advisor,” Wernette told AdvisorOne on Monday. “A lot of programs have a narrow focus” on one aspect of planning, he said. The Retirement Advisor University curriculum covers the “entire spectrum” of a retirement planning practice, Wernette said: not just the advisory role, but how to manage and market the practice as well.
When the RAU took off, Wernette said, they approached the Plan Sponsor University with the same thought process. “We wanted to help plan sponsors wrap their heads around managing plans from an overall, comprehensive view.”
Wernette said that the curriculum for the Plan Sponsor University focuses on three things initially: behavioral science; how to make a meaningful impact in measuring and evaluating participant outcomes; and benchmarking elements inside the plan.
“Plan sponsors are understanding that they have to fulfill their fiduciary duties, but also achieve success inside the plan, where success is how well participants achieve their objectives,” Wernette said.
TPSU will launch with an initial event on May 6. Sponsors who are interested in becoming a certified retirement plan sponsor can take a series of eight to 10 online courses, Wernette said. Even if they aren’t interested in taking the test and becoming certified, the courses are an opportunity for continuing education, he added. “Sponsors can’t assume advisors are taking care of everything,” he said.
Some plan sponsors may suffer from the “proverbial ‘they don’t know what they don’t know,’” Wernette said. “They have to start thinking past the obvious, like monitoring the plan and fee disclosure” to focus on other concepts like plan health and design, and retirement readiness. “More employers are starting to recognize they have an obligation to all their employees. It’s not necessarily that they’re more paternalistic, but it’s another value measure of the overall retirement program.”
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