Few teachers participate in 403(b) plans.

Two former-AXA Advisors executives have formed a new investment firm that aims to help independent advisors seeking to do more business with teachers and other clients working in the non-profit sector.

“We founded ABMM Financial to better educate people in the not-for-profit community about investing in their future, and to provide these dedicated, hardworking individuals with a wider range of best-in-class investment product options from which to choose,” said CEO David B. Ciotta, previously senior vice president for AXA Advisors’ employer-sponsored business, in a statement released Wednesday.

ABMM Financial, based in Iselin, New Jersey, also is focused on giving investment advisors “the widest variety of retirement plan platforms and investment management tools available, backed by a much higher level of consumer-facing marketing support than is customary in the industry,” according to the group. Clients will have access to information about retirement planning via the company’s online platforms, social media and other communications technologies.

Ciotta is a 16-year veteran of AXA Advisors, while co-founder and CFO Michael R. Zarelli is a former senior vice president of finance and CFO at Copeland Cos. (wholly owned by Travelers and later CitiStreet); Zarelli also is an ex-director of finance for AXA and former CFO of Prudential Retirement.  

The two co-founders say that industry statistics show that just 30% of school employees are currently enrolled in school-sponsored 403(b) plans, while participation in some school districts is as low as 18% to 20%. In contrast, roughly 71% of private-sector employees’ participate in 401(k) retirement plans.

“Some employees don’t even think they need the help, so they don’t work with a professional investment advisor they can rely on for advice,” Ciotta said, “and others are uncertain about the true value a professional investment advisor can bring to the table.” 

In terms of advisors, the firm intends to give them the needed resources to address this unmet market need.

“ABMM is going to fill the gap between what the typical insurance company offers its career agents and what the independent advisors would otherwise have to find, develop and pay for themselves,” Ciotta said.

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