This One Question Can Set Your Practice Apart

Business woman

How to Start the Conversation

Ask employers, How much time do you and your employees spend running your retirement plan?

The answer may be difficult for an employer to quantify. Many do not have staff fully dedicated to overseeing their plan, which means they are fitting in plan-related responsibilities as they are able. It may be pulling focus from the things they do best, resulting in unnecessary fiduciary risk and expense.

Talk to employers about how the following responsibilities are being addressed. If they are handling these tasks in-house, see if they can estimate the time spent by employees to complete these duties:

  • Writing, printing and mailing required participant notices (Sarbanes-Oxley, Summary Plan Description, Summary Annual Report, automatic enrollment and more)
  • Reviewing and approving loans, distributions and alerts
  • Filing Form 5500
  • Reviewing loan defaults and cash-outs
  • Distributing corrected contributions for failed ADP/ACP testing
  • Keeping plan document up to date

Identify Real Costs — And Opportunities to Save

In addition to the human resources expense, most plan responsibilities come with a hard dollar cost. For example, one plan sponsor was producing thousands of pages of required plan participant notices each year. They didn't have the right equipment to print, stuff and mail that kind of volume, and it was creating significant work and cost for the HR director and her staff. Once they outsourced the responsibility for participant notices, they reduced their hard dollar cost and saved at least nine days of time for their HR staff.

Evaluate Provider Solutions

The administrative support services offered by retirement plan providers can vary widely. While some may handle required participant mailings, for example, others may not - leaving a gap that can expose an employer to risk, cost or additional burden. When evaluating solutions for employers, look beyond the fee page of provider proposals and ask questions like:

  • Which ERISA-required administrative duties do you handle?
  • How do you charge for managing these administrative duties?
  • Do you accept full fiduciary responsibility and make amends if the duties are not completed in an accurate and timely manner?
  • What support can you offer in the even of a DOL or IRS investigation or audit?

With a clear understanding of employer's specific retirment plan responsibilities and insights to providers who can lighten their load, you can demonstrate even greater acumen and value as a plan advisor.