Well, sort of. It would be more accurate to say that it was my first opportunity to have an interaction. Like too many plan sponsors out there, we had years earlier been sold the 401(k) by an adviser who, at some point not too long after the sale, went “missing.”
In the real world, employers – even employers that cover the retirement plan industry – have a business to run. Running the retirement plan, as important as it is, generally isn’t part of that business. That’s why, particularly for smaller employers – but increasingly for employers of all sizes – a financial adviser can be such an important addition to the “team.”
That realization has been a growing component of our focus here the past several years. It was part of our decision to launch AdvisorDash in 2003 (at the 401(k) Summit), an integral aspect of the launch of the PLANSPONSOR Institute and the PLANSPONSOR Retirement Professional (PRP) designation in 2005, and an essential factor in our decision to introduce PLANADVISER and PLANADVISER.com in 2006.
It was also, in 2004, the reason we decided to create an award that would acknowledge the best efforts of the best retirement plan advisers in the country. It was a daunting task to contemplate that first year – I wasn’t even sure that we would be able to FIND the best advisers, much less establish the kind of benchmark standards that could truly speak to retirement plan servicing excellence.
I need not have worried – the advisers committed to this space knew us, even when we didn’t (yet) know them. We were blessed with judges who not only knew the space, but the profession. And we received the eager support of plan sponsors who were willing – and in many cases, eager – to share their adviser experiences. Still, every year it gets harder to choose “the best” simply because there are so many good advisers to choose from.
The finalist groups recognized this year are indicative of that trend. Over the next several weeks, our judges will be tasked with the challenge of picking one Retirement Plan Adviser of the Year and, in a new category, a Retirement Plan Adviser Team of the Year.
It’s not likely to be an easy decision – but how can it not be a good one?