Solutions that take a more holistic approach to addressing the disruptions that exist between records, external administrators (TPAs), and other service providers operating in the retirement ecosystem can benefit plan providers and plan participants alike.

Julie Doran Stewart

As a pensions advisor who previously worked in asset management, advice and accounting, I understand not only the interplay of these different relationships, but also the importance of maintaining these partnerships effectively. Collaboration is essential to maximize value for customers and get them on the way to achieving their goals.

In today’s challenging business environment, a consultant not only has to give his clients solid advice, but also has to assume multiple roles, similar to the key roles in a soccer team. In many cases, this includes the function of team quarterback and coach as well as offensive and defensive coordinator. Like a good coordinator, a retirement plan advisor has the ability to guide, choose the right game, and move the ball across the pitch on behalf of the plan sponsors and their staff.

Like a good quarterback, we need to communicate moves effectively and minimize risks through frequent communication and information sharing while maintaining a good view of the field. In addition, not all providers share and communicate information equally. If we don’t communicate effectively, things can – and do – fall through the cracks. A good advisor knows how to get the most out of every “player” in the retirement ecosystem through collaboration, advocacy, and competitive insight.

From a coaching perspective, consultants need to take the time to engage, inform, and inspire plan sponsors regarding their retirement program. To ensure that plan sponsors understand their role as trustee – and the liabilities associated with that role – it is critical to be successful at the plan level. The time it takes to truly engage a Plan Sponsor can be significant, but it is an important investment. If in the endgame an attempt is made to enable as many plan participants as possible to successfully withdraw, then much is at stake.

Risk reduction and ensuring a prudent process and careful documentation in all areas is a core function of the consultant. These defenses are less glamorous, but perhaps more important than the impressive offensive moves that generally attract more attention. Leading initiatives that create a buzz with the plan are critical to fostering positive behavior and positive outcomes from attendees, but equally important is advocating for improved customer service, ensuring audit support, and analyzing plan prices. As they say, offensive wins games, defensive wins championships.

Without exception, plan sponsors face a number of challenges when it comes to navigating the retirement plan ecosystem to provide a solid retirement program for their employees. Consultants need to be strong advocates for the clients they serve and focus on all aspects of successful plan management, large and small. Relying on the experience of a trusted advisor and knowing that there is a deep bank of experts next to them is ultimately the best way for retirement plan sponsors to cross the goal line.

About the author:

Julie Doran Stewart, Senior Vice President, Retirement Plan Advisory Services, heads the investment advisory team at Sentinel Pension Advisors and is an avid sports fanatic! Contact them at [email protected]. Advisory services are provided by Sentinel Pension Advisors Inc., an SEC registered investment advisor.

Editor’s note:

This function is for general information only, does not constitute legal or tax advice and cannot be used or replaced with legal or tax advice. The author’s opinions do not necessarily reflect the attitudes of Institutional Shareholder Services or its affiliates.