Adviser Success Depends on Relationship-Building Skills: Fidelity

March 24, 2008 ( - The path to business success for retirement plan advisers is paved with good relationships.

A new Fidelity Investments report asserts that advisers with 401(k) plan clients who make it a point to develop and maintain strong relationships can grow their 401(k) practice – and their revenue – by an estimated 40% over 10 years compared with those who do not. Plan sponsors are more focused on the level of their adviser’s support and knowledge than on fees as a cause for breaking an existing relationship, according to a Fidelity news release.

Plan sponsors cite services, including employee communications, group investment meetings, proactive check-ins and industry updates, as important but also as areas where they are less than satisfied with their adviser’s help. According to Fidelity, sponsors who are very satisfied with their advisers expect their relationships to last over 11 years, which is more than three years longer than those who are just satisfied.

“Advisers rate competition from other advisers as the greatest challenge to their 401(k) practices’ profitability, so it’s no wonder they are working hard to attract new clients,” says Tom Corra, senior vice president of Retirement Product & Services for Fidelity Investments Institutional Services Company, in the news release. “However, in such a competitive market, advisers’ relationships with plan sponsor clients are more important than ever. We believe that advisers who can strike a better balance between servicing their plan sponsor clients and prospecting for new business, and can build a more efficient model for delivering what plan sponsors want, will be better positioned to drive profitable growth.”

Fidelity developed three practice management strategies designed to help advisers increase plan sponsor satisfaction:

  • Fidelity’s research reveals that there is a strong correlation between satisfaction with the adviser and satisfaction with the plan’s performance. When working with plan sponsors, advisers should focus on plan features and education that can improve the key drivers of participant retirement readiness and 401(k) plan performance: employee participation, healthy deferral rates, and appropriate asset allocation.
  • Plan sponsors cite several areas where their needs are not being met, including advisers not being proactive with respect to communications and providing them with industry updates. To help address plan sponsors’ needs in these areas, advisers should consider developing a communications strategy to help develop 401(k) and retirement knowledge with plan sponsors, as well as help them understand their fiduciary duties.
  • Advisers who deliver plan sponsor satisfaction efficiently will have an advantage in the competitive marketplace. Advisers can gain efficiency by defining and communicating their value proposition, developing a referral and reference database, leveraging plan providers’ efficiencies, and adding retirement income planning services.

Advisers can get the full report at .