Advisors who focus on the retirement marketplace—along with their broker/dealers—are currently trying to figure out how much business will have to change because of new regulations from the Department of Labor (DOL). With the full compliance date more than a year away, though, you have time to focus on your existing relationships and improve your retirement plan asset retention rates.
The retirement marketplace is ripe with opportunities—and with more than $24 trillion in assets as of December 2015, it’s also ripe with competition. With that in mind, I’ve put together some best practices that can help you retain the clients you have and position yourself as the go-to retirement advisor for other potential clients in your area.
It’s All About Service
Plan sponsors need an experienced retirement plan advisor to help them navigate the retirement plan landscape. The key to any long-lasting client relationship? Service. Your clients have placed a tremendous amount of trust in your ability to be the manager of their retirement plan assets. Repay that trust by providing such a high level of service that your clients couldn’t fathom operating their plan without your involvement.
Visibility, either in person or via written communication, is paramount for cultivating a trusted relationship with a plan sponsor or decision maker. When plan sponsors run into challenges or need assistance with problem resolution, you should be their first resource—or loop in appropriate service providers to help.
Another best practice is to stay ahead of the curve on tricky compliance-related matters. You can showcase your value, plus strengthen relationships with a plan sponsor, by proactively keeping abreast of the nondiscrimination testing process, Form 5500 and audit preparation, control-group scenarios, or operational roadblocks. And as the changes brought about from the DOL regulations become clearer, your plan sponsor clients will look to you for guidance on this front as well.
Finally, be familiar with the time of year that certain qualified plan tasks take place, and call your clients to help them prepare and organize for the impending event. (Here, you might want to consider using a CRM to manage your customer contacts and/or share documents with plan sponsors.)
Remember, going out of your way to help your client may take a few minutes of your time, but the impression you leave will last far longer.
Manage the Relationship
The dynamics of a retirement plan can be confusing to a plan sponsor. There are different players—recordkeepers, third-party administrators, advisors, and consultants—with varying roles and responsibilities that often overlap. You will often be the one who brings the service providers to the table during the sales process, so making sure everyone is on the same page post-sale is of immense importance. In essence, you will need to be the “quarterback” of the retirement plan team:
Clearly defining roles and responsibilities
Maintaining efficient lines of communication
Be sure that you get to know the key decision makers of the plan as well, and be alert to any changes in personnel. Doing so will allow you to stay one step ahead and potentially ward off any impending attempts by competing advisors who would like to poach the business from you.