Issue Intro | Published in February 2016

Words of Advice

The various roles of an adviser.

By Judy Faust Hartnett | February 2016
PS216_CvrArt by James YangWhat role does a plan adviser play? Until just a few years ago, I would have said it is mostly to help with fund selection. However, I now know retirement plan advisers can assume multiple roles that help plan sponsors improve their plan. In those, they train retirement plan committees, monitor service providers, shoulder a gamut of fiduciary responsibilities and offer best practices in plan design and employee education and advice.

You may or may not have an adviser—or may still have one who just examines plan investments. In our cover story, “Piloting Your Plan," we describe the services a plan sponsor might hire an adviser to supply, the criteria to include in a request for proposals (RFP), and the expectations plan sponsors should have when choosing an adviser.

According to the 2015 PLANSPONSOR Defined Contribution (DC) Survey, more than 70% of plan sponsors offer participant advice. How that is delivered varies from plan to plan, yet, to many plan sponsors’ chagrin, oftentimes, most of their participants fail to capitalize on the opportunity. In “For Their Own Good," Judy Ward discusses the problem and recommends some remedies to improve usage of such offerings.

Simplifying investment jargon is one way some plan sponsors relieve the decision paralysis participants can experience when trying to understand their choices of funds. One strategy to streamline their investment options is to repackage them with more generic names. In “Why White Label?," John Keefe elaborates on the topic.

On the plan design side, in Plan Sponsor Coach, Rebecca Moore writes about the benefits of allowing Roth 401(k) conversions—a potentially great opportunity for participants but one needing the proper educational effort.

For those readers with defined benefit (DB) plans, in this quarter’s DB Q&A, Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) attorney Marcia Wagner answers your questions about “De-Risking Strategies” for 2016. For instance, is the economic climate right to offer lump-sum cash-outs? As a reminder, too: If you ever have questions for our Q&A columnists, feel free to send them my way.

On that note, enjoy the issue, and check out some of the highlights of “What’s Online?” and, of course, at —Judy Faust Hartnett, Managing Editor