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Life Health > Annuities > Fixed Annuities

The Dream 401(k) Plan Recordkeeper

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What You Need to Know

  • Recordkeepers help make defined contribution retirement programs run.
  • Obviously, recordkeeper users still want great service.
  • One new must-have: Technology that can make services available to small employers.

The retirement plan industry is changing rapidly for advisors and third-party administrators (TPAs) and the pace of recordkeeper consolidation shows no signs of slowing down.

Meanwhile, 401(k)s remain the fastest growing segment of the retirement plan market, according to the LIMRA’s Evolution of the Retirement Industry report.

With this continued growth and change, it’s critical for advisors and TPAs to assess the market and identify the recordkeepers who understand their needs, are invested in the technology to meet the demands of the market, and who will bring expertise and commitment to service to their clients’ plans.

The Standard conducted market research with TPAs and advisors to better understand and support their needs.

These conversations were used to develop a new 401(k) recordkeeping platform for small plans with up to $2 million in assets.

We confirmed a few of the pain points of TPAs and advisors, as well as central themes around what they value in a recordkeeper:

1. Recordkeeping technology that offers a seamless user experience, regardless of plan size.

According to our market research, the most valued characteristics of a recordkeeper are technology (45%) and plan sponsor services (36%).

This reinforced our belief that recordkeepers must invest in modern recordkeeping technology to make it easier for the advisor and TPA to do their respective jobs, as well as build and maintain relationships.

Recordkeeping platforms play a critical role in the future of recordkeeping and plan management.

Advisors and TPAs want a user experience that is intuitive and gives them the ability to easily generate proposals, seamlessly share data between advisors, TPAs and recordkeepers, and manage their plan with accuracy.

Our research also revealed that many TPAs are largely supporting small plans under $5 million in assets with under 100 participants.

They want to partner with recordkeepers that can service small plans with the same technology and level of service as large plans.

In other words, today’s recordkeeping platforms need to check many boxes: They need to make it easy for advisors and TPAs to set up and monitor plans, but they also need to have many of the features and advantages that are typically reserved for larger plans, with the ability to grow on the same platform without the need for conversion to a different platform in the future.

2. Exceptional recordkeeping service and expertise.

Advisors and TPAs are looking for exceptional service from a recordkeeper that is not a solely transactional partner.

To meet the demands of the market and help plan participants meet their retirement goals, advisors and TPAs should make sure their recordkeeper is committed to a strong partnership with them, understands what they need and provides excellent service.

Advisors want detailed attention to overall service to ensure error-free management of the plan and an optimal customer experience for plan sponsors and their employees.

We found that 39% of advisors say they want as much self-service as possible in their recordkeeping tools, and 46% say they want as much self-service as possible in data and reporting.

TPAs and advisors want to spend less time dealing with plan errors and administrative problems, and more time growing their business and supporting their clients.

A good recordkeeper will have invested in the technology to systematically validate employee information for every payroll to save time and headaches, as well as to mitigate fiduciary risk.

3. A commitment to the needs of the plan sponsor and plan participants.

There’s a commitment, accountability, and transparency from a recordkeeper that can set the stage for lasting plan sponsor relationships.

Having that expertise, focus and due diligence to the plan sponsor can go a long way to help advisors, TPAs and recordkeepers retain their business with current clients and grow their overall business together.

In addition, a strong plan and partnership can help participants ultimately reach their retirement goals.

Companies everywhere are focused on retaining and attracting talent with an attractive benefit offering.

As companies grow, their plans should seamlessly grow with them without the need for conversion, and they need dedicated experts beside them to help make sure that growth is as smooth and predictable as possible.

Today’s advisors and TPAs face many challenges and demands, making it even more important for them to leverage the available tools, services and partners that can best help them succeed.

It is critical that advisors and TPAs have a recordkeeping partner they can count on to expertly navigate the nuances of the retirement plan, and that has a reputation for effective collaboration, sound technology solutions and excellent service.


Joel MeeJoel Mee is senior director of retirement plan sales at The Standard and a registered representative of StanCorp Equities. He holds the Certified Pension Consultant, Qualified Plan Financial Consultant, Qualified Pension Administrator and Qualified 401(k) Administrator professional designations.

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(Image: Denis Putilov/Adobe Stock)