Updated Tuesday, July 29, 2014 as of 2:41 AM ET
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Using Year-End Plan Reviews to Stand Out
Tuesday, December 4, 2012
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Year-end plan reviews are the perfect time to demonstrate your value and address any concerns your plan sponsor clients may have, Bob Kaplan, ING U.S.’s National Retirement Consultant, told advisors during a webinar Tuesday.

The webinar focused on how advisors can help differentiate themselves during the review process by reviewing their accomplishments for this year and managing client expectations for 2013. Kaplan, an industry veteran and CFP, shared six tips to help advisors do just that.

Kaplan’s first tip? Know your audience. Who you are talking and their role will determine what they need to hear from you, he said. For example the information and the way it should be presented will differ for a chief financial officer and a human resources professional, and advisors should be sure to adjust their presentations accordingly, Kaplan said.

No matter who advisors are talking to, it’s important to remember that they are also plan participants, he said. “The perception of the plan always starts with their experiences,” he said. He recommended actually checking their accounts to understand their experience in the plan before meeting with them.

While the review gives advisors a chance to list accomplishments, advisors should also use the meeting to ask for feedback on the plan design, Kaplan said.

Whether it’s use loans or contribution rules, advisors should find out if there are any underlying areas of dissatisfaction. “Nothing is worse than having a competitor come in and address an issue that we didn’t even know was an issue,” he said.

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That said, advisors should be sure to report on participant success. “Participant success is the biggest measurement of your value as an advisor,” Kaplan said. That means advisors need to gather evidence of an increase in participation and use that data to demonstrate their value to the plan sponsor.

In the new fee-disclosure paradigm, advisors may also want to help sponsors determine if fees are reasonable. Advisors are not legally responsible for fee disclosure documents (plan sponsors are and advisors must disclose their fees to the plan sponsor) but helping your client make sense of all of the paperwork is helpful and another way to distinguish yourself and demonstrate your value, Kaplan said.

Although the fee disclosure regulations are a “work-in-progress” and there hasn’t been much pushback yet, he said, advisors should continue focusing on managing participants’ fee expectations.

Finally, the year-end review offers advisors the opportunity to ask about any changes made to the plan. “This is the chance to ask the plan sponsor, ‘Is there anything I should know about?’,” Kaplan said. If there are amendments or updates, advisors should be sure to document those changes.

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