Advisors See Small 401(k)s as Ripe With Opportunity

80% of 401(k) plans have less than $2.5 million in assets

Almost two-thirds of advisors see the small- and micro-plan 401(k) market as a source of opportunity, Guardian Retirement Solutions announced on Monday. The firm held a series of educational events across the country earlier this year, surveying attendees at each event to get their views on their opportunity for growth.

Guardian noted that according to the Employee Benefits Security Administration, 90% of all 401(k) plans have less than $10 million in assets and 80% have less than $2.5 million. More than 50 million Americans participate in 401(k) plans that have total assets of about $3 trillion.

The biggest challenge attendees at Guardian’s 401(k) G2 Summits reported was not compliance but time management. In fact, less than a quarter of respondents cited government regulations as a challenge, after resource management (39%) and fiduciary responsibilities (27%).

Part of the reason advisors weren’t as worried about government regulations is that in the small- and micro-plan markets, advisors aren’t as willing to take on fiduciary duties.

“In the mid- to large-plan markets, advisors spend a lot of time thinking about becoming fiduciaries,” Steve Davis, national sales manager for Guardian, told AdvisorOne on Wednesday. “In the small market, it’s not that they’re thinking about whether they should be fiduciaries — they don’t want to be fiduciaries.”

Instead, advisors serving smaller markets are partnering with providers that offer 3(21) and 3(38) services, Davis said. “They’re starting to realize that they don’t always have to do everything themselves. They’re getting comfortable working with providers with that service set built in.”

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