The Retirement Plan Advisor - A Collection of Best Practices

As the retirement plan industry continues to evolve, many financial advisors find themselves struggling with their retirement business. They view the qualified plan business as a necessary evil of their practice, while other advisors have created a niche for themselves in the qualified plan space.  I have spent the last 10 years of my career dedicated to assisting plan advisors in all aspects of their qualified plan business. Throughout this time, I have had the opportunity to observe and work closely with a number of excellent retirement plan advisors. 

Here is what I’ve learned:

You don’t have to be a specialist – but you need one – or you need to look like one

Some of the better advisors I have worked with are not pension experts themselves, but someone on their team is.  Advisors working with plans should be aware of basic qualified plan concepts and be able to speak comfortably on fiduciary roles and common administrative topics (what’s a safe harbor, pros and cons of automatic enrollment, etc.). When things get more complicated, have a resource on your team that is either an expert or build a relationship with a provider that can help you navigate the waters.  Many advisors partner with Unified Trust because they know they can rely on us for the hard stuff.  Your internal sales or service contact at your preferred provider can become one of the most valuable members of your team.

Be an advocate and participants will advocate for you

The value proposition of the financial advisor is becoming more and more difficult to define as our industry becomes more digital.  Find your strength as the employee cheerleader.  Encourage your plan sponsors to think beyond plan cost and investments and get them focusing on retirement outcomes.  Introduce a plan that shows employees how they’re going to retire successfully and give them strategies to get there if they’re currently falling short.  Engaging the employees illustrates your value and keeps folks out of the HR office with their retirement plan questions and concerns.  Bring your client a powerful message; people can work here and retire.  When the employees are cheering for you, you’re more likely to retain the plan long term and create opportunities on the wealth side of your practice (if applicable). 

Follow Through – say what you’ll do and do what you say

One of the most common things I hear from clients who are unhappy with their advisor is, “My advisor said they’d do ‘x’ but I haven’t heard back.” Yet when I speak to these advisors, they often have different notes than what the plan sponsor recollects.  My advice is to follow up every meeting with an emailed list of action items so there’s no ambiguity.  Outline your follow up items and homework assignments for your client or other partners (CPA, TPA, etc.).  Now, execute what you said you were going to do.  Complete your follow up items in a timely manner and provide updates if the time frame is going to be extended.  Every client should feel like they’re your most important client.  In today’s world where technology is always at your fingertips, prompt communication and follow through is critical to client satisfaction.

At Unified Trust, we understand the challenges you face and we’re here to help you navigate the changing landscape of the retirement industry.  We’d love to help you become more effective in your practice while also delivering your clients successful retirement outcomes.

For more information on retirement plan services at Unified Trust please reach out to us at

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