How To Select A Retirement Plan Consultant: 5 Questions To Ask

As a plan sponsor or as a fiduciary to your company’s retirement plan, you’re already wearing multiple hats. You have enough on your plate without also having to manage your company’s retirement plan. This is why many businesses rely on retirement plan consultants to provide knowledge, expertise, and greater confidence. If you’ve determined that you need one, how do you select a retirement plan consultant that is right for you?

While everyone’s needs differ, there are a few desirable characteristics to consider. When searching for and meeting with potential retirement plan consultants, keep the following five questions in mind when determining if a consultant is a good fit:

1. What Are Your Qualifications and Experience?

With something as complex and important as your company’s retirement plan, it’s essential that you work with a consultant who has in-depth experience and specialization in retirement plans. The retirement plan industry is always evolving with new and changing regulations. To stay compliant, your consultant should be up-to-date with the latest regulatory changes and be knowledgeable about best practices and industry trends.

When reviewing a consultant, look at their years of experience. How many years have they been in the financial services industry and how many of those years have been spent specializing in retirement plan consulting? Beyond their hands-on experience, what sort of education or training have they received?

It can be helpful to familiarize yourself with the designations and certifications related to retirement plan consulting. Some of the most highly regarded designations include:

  • Accredited Investment Fiduciary® (AIF): A designation signifying specialized knowledge of fiduciary responsibility and the ability to implement policies and procedures that meet a defined standard of care.
  • Certified Financial Planner™ Professional (CFP®): A designation signifying the knowledge and training to offer financial planning services through a holistic approach that focuses on both short and long-term financial goals.
  • Chartered Financial Analyst® (CFA): A designation signifying advanced investment analysis and real-world portfolio management skills.

These designations, among others, indicate that a consultant has superior knowledge of retirement planning and advanced resources that can enhance the level of service you receive. At Beacon Pointe Advisors, our team includes professionals with specialized experience in retirement plan consulting and advanced designations.

2. Do You Serve as a Fiduciary?

Due to new regulations, fiduciary concerns are at an all-time high. When it comes to your company’s retirement plan, it’s essential to work with a consultant who provides fiduciary care. Be wary of advisors who claim to be fiduciaries without giving any reasoning or evidence. Too often, advisors may say they serve as fiduciaries when, in reality, they still face conflicts of interest. Your consultant should confirm their role as a fiduciary in writing and orally so you can ensure that their decisions are made with your best interests in mind.

Another way to determine a consultant’s level of fiduciary support is to learn more about their process. How do they avoid conflicts of interest and create a plan that is specific to your goals and needs?

At our firm, our process involves an end-to-end analysis of your retirement plan and objectives, including reviewing costs, identifying gaps, and evaluating opportunities for improvement and growth. Our services run the gamut so we can take on most of the responsibility, saving you time, energy, and resources.

Remember, working with a fiduciary helps reduce your liability, but it doesn’t entirely eliminate it.

3. What Level of Service Do You Provide?

Not all retirement plan consultants provide the same level of service. Some firms may focus on plan design, while others offer more comprehensive support. Depending on your company’s needs, you may consider choosing a firm that provides:

  • Plan Governance and Fiduciary Liability
  • Contribution Optimization
  • Benchmarking
  • Investment Menus
  • Individual Investment Management
  • Participant Education

At Beacon Pointe Advisors, we’re here for companies beyond the basics of their plan. We offer a number of plan level services designed to help you reduce your fiduciary liability, optimize company retirement plan contributions to achieve objectives, and evaluate your plan service providers.

4. What Kind of Communication Can I Expect From You?

It won’t do you much good for a consultant to help you implement a retirement plan and then hand you the reins to take over. Before choosing a consultant, you’ll want to ensure their level of communication is on par with their level of service.

Ask a firm for an overview of their retirement plan operations. Are there multiple consultants on their team? Will you be working with one individual or the entire team? If you have questions or an emergency, who can you contact and how quickly can you expect a response?

Ideally, you want to work with a firm that is proactive in their communication, providing ongoing communication, education, and support. At our firm, we regularly provide our clients with educational resources, plan reviews, and more.

5. How Are You Compensated?

Often, financial advisors work with a bank, brokerage firm, or other financial institution that manufactures and distributes proprietary products. The problem with this is that this leads to biases and conflicts of interest. An advisor can be incentivized to sell a certain product or may only have access to a limited range of products.

Speak with a consultant on their fee structure, how they get paid, and whether or not they have any conflicts of interest. You should also ask if they are an independent or Registered Investment Advisory (RIA) firm, which can help you understand their pay structure.

As an independent RIA, we can offer a wider range of services without any conflicts of interest, proprietary products to sell, or quotas to meet. Without any investment banking relationships to promote, we can provide conflict-free, objective, timely, and actionable research and advice.

Taking the Next Steps

Hiring a qualified retirement plan consultant that provides the best and most appropriate advice for a retirement plan and its beneficiaries ensures you are closer to fulfilling your fiduciary role.

If you have questions about retirement plan consultants and their role, or would like to learn more about how we work, we’d be happy to meet with you. Give our office a call at (949) 718-1600 or email us at info@bpadvisors.com.

 

 

Important Disclosure: This content is for informational purposes only. Opinions expressed herein are subject to change without notice. Beacon Pointe has exercised all reasonable professional care in preparing this information. Some information may have been obtained from third-party sources we believe to be reliable; however, Beacon Pointe has not independently verified, or attested to, the accuracy or authenticity of the information. Nothing contained herein should be construed or relied upon as investment, legal or tax advice. Only private legal counsel may recommend the application of this general information to any particular situation or prepare an instrument chosen to implement the design discussed herein. An investor should consult with their financial professional before making any investment decisions.

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