Ask These Five Questions When Selecting a Retirement Plan Consultant
Ensure You’re Getting the Right Professional Assistance in this Complex Area of Your Business
As a business owner, you have enough on your plate without tackling all that’s required of you as a retirement plan sponsor. It’s complex, to say the least, and the growing number of court cases around mismanagement of retirement plans means the stakes are high to get it right. That’s why so many businesses rely on a trusted retirement plan consultant to help them navigate plan governance, design, oversight, fiduciary responsibilities, and more.
If you have determined that you need a skilled assist in this area, it’s critical to select the retirement plan consultant that’s best for you. While every company’s needs are unique, there are a few baseline questions you should ask any consultant you’re considering, and we recommend starting with the five questions below.
1) What Qualifications and Experience Do You Offer?
When you’re talking about outsourcing something as critical and complex as your company’s retirement plan management, you need a consultant who can offer two things: specialized knowledge in retirement plans and in-depth experience. Since there are always new and changing regulations impacting the retirement plan industry, your consultant should be knowledgeable about regulatory compliance and best practices, but also about industry trends.
Here are a few things to take a look at:
- How many years do they have in the financial services industry?
- How many of those years have they specialized in retirement plan consulting?
- Do they have hands-on experience, plus specialized education and training?
You may also want to look for these two highly regarded designations related to retirement plan consulting:
- Accredited Investment Fiduciary® (AIF): This designation signifies 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®): This designation signifies the knowledge and training to offer financial planning services through a holistic approach that focuses on both short and long-term financial goals.
These designations, which you can find represented on the Paces Ferry team, are an indication of superior retirement planning knowledge and advanced resources. Consultants with these designations can provide you with an enhanced level of service.
2) Are You a Fiduciary?
You take your fiduciary obligations to your retirement plan participants seriously – and your consultant should, too. Be wary of a consultant who isn’t willing to put their fiduciary status in writing for you, as they may face conflicts of interest that you’re not aware of. If your retirement plan consultant won’t confirm their fiduciary status in writing, you can’t be sure that decisions will truly be made with your best interests in mind.
3) What Services Do You Provide?
Retirement plan consultants won’t all offer the same level of service. For example, some may focus on plan design but lack the type of support you need in governance and oversight. If you feel you need comprehensive services, make sure your chosen consultant offers:
- Plan Design
- Plan Governance
- Comprehensive Participant Education
- Provider Consultation
- Investment Oversight
If you require a specific offering, such as contribution optimization or participant investment behaviors, be sure to ask specifically whether it is included in a consultant’s services.
4) How Will We Communicate?
Be sure that any consultant you choose can meet your expectations with regard to communication. For example, you may want to ask questions like:
- Are there multiple consultants on the team that I might hear from?
- Who is my main point of contact?
- If I have a question or emergency, how quickly can I expect a response or resolution?
It’s a positive if you hear the responses you’re hoping for with regard to the above questions. However, it’s ideal if a consultant is proactive in their communication plan and they can outline upfront any ongoing communication or support they’ll provide for you, too.
5) How Are You Compensated for Your Work?
If you choose a consultant who works with a bank, brokerage firm, or other financial institution that distributes proprietary products, this is a red flag. Their compensation will be tied to particular products.
Protect your interests by asking specific questions like:
- What is your fee structure?
- How are you paid?
- Do you have any conflicts of interest?
- How do you avoid conflicts of interest?
- Are you a Registered Investment Advisor (RIA)?
If your consultant is with an RIA firm, they won’t be involved with selling proprietary products or meeting quotas, meaning they can provide conflict-free, objective guidance.
Your Next Steps
If you’re ready to hire a qualified retirement plan consultant and you think our services may fit your needs, please reach out today. At Paces Ferry, we offer a holistic approach that provides plan sponsors like you with a comprehensive understanding of all facets of your retirement plan – including the regulatory effects of any recommendations or decisions.
The stakes are high to fully appreciate your plan’s risks, and we help our clients navigate them to achieve better outcomes. You can learn more about our five core services in retirement plan consulting here.
Paces Ferry Wealth Advisors, LLC is a registered investment advisor with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”). This material is intended for informational purposes only. It should not be construed as legal or tax advice and is not intended to replace the advice of a qualified attorney or tax advisor.
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