A Plan Sponsor Finds Surprises in Adviser Benchmarking

Happy with its adviser, Dot Foods only completed the RFP process for due diligence, but what it discovered led it to hire a new adviser.

Dot Foods in Mt. Sterling, Illinois was happy with the adviser to its $200 million 401(k) plan and $3 million non-qualified deferred compensation plans.

Tom Strieker, director of Benefits and Compensation at Dot Foods, tells PLANSPONSOR the adviser helped formulate the plans’ original investment policy, monitored investments, helped put together a fiduciary policy, and helped conduct three requests for proposals (RFPs) for a plan administrator over a 13 year period. “Our number one motivation for doing an adviser RFP was due diligence,” he says. “We do it for providers, so we felt we needed to do it for our adviser.”

Still, the RFP sat on the agenda for about 12 months before they got started. “Service was good, so it was easy to kick the can down the road,” Strieker told InHub, the RFP service provider it used for the adviser benchmarking. He also told InHub, “At the start, we thought the likelihood of replacement was less than 10%.”

InHub offers eRFP technology only, with which the RFP issuer would use InHub’s technology for the process, and InHub offers sample RFP questions, access to its adviser platform and technology assistance. It also offers a service assisting the RFP issuer up to the point the RFP is issued, and offers a full assistance offering, which includes RFP drafting, a short list of candidates that meet the plan sponsor’s criteria, custom score cards for the committee to evaluate proposals, an executive summary of responses with fee comparison chart, help with coordinating the finals presentations and assistance with creating the agenda and scoring methodology.  InHub says the full assistance RFP process usually takes less than three months.

NEXT: The RFP process reveals surprises

Strieker says Dot Foods used a middle service model. InHub helped form the RFP and provided candidates, but Dot Foods also selected candidates from other sources, such as PLANSPONSOR. The company used InHub’s portal to communicate with candidates and advance finalists, but Dot Foods “took it from there,” according to Strieker.

In the process, Dot Foods retirement committee was hit with some surprises. The biggest surprise was how uncompetitive their incumbent was on pricing. In addition, Strieker says they learned that there are advisers willing to help with participant communication. “It was good news seeing the services we could get for a competitive price,” he adds.

The second biggest surprise was the committee realized it was “one of the biggest fish in the incumbent’s pond” and decided it was time to work with an adviser that already had a model in place for a plan its size and could lead them as they grew. “We are getting bigger with acquisitions and expansions, and we wanted to feel comfortable with an adviser who had gone through these things before,” Strieker says.

Dot Foods hired a new adviser in late June. In addition to the services provided by the former adviser, the new adviser will provide general education and advice to participants and more electronic communications.

The cost savings is significant, at 34% compared to the prior provider. “One thing that was real good for us is we switched from asset-based to a flat fee,” Strieker notes. “With an up market and as we add participants from acquisitions and expansions, our fees with the prior adviser would be driven up, so this is an opportunity for future savings.”