Reader Poll: What Advisor Traits Do – and Should – Plan Sponsors Value?

Every plan sponsor has unique expectations and attributes – as do those who work with them. But when it comes to the services one looks for – and values – certainly some rise to the top. How do NAPA Net readers see those priorities?

Asked which three advisory services are, generally speaking, most important to plan sponsors, two stood way out:

  • Monitoring investments (81%)
  • Acting as a co-fiduciary (81%)

A distant third: provide benchmarking, at 48% (more than one response was allowed, of course). Other services cited included:

  • Educating about fiduciary responsibilities (27%)
  • Propose new investment options (24%)
  • Employee education (15%)
  • Offer comparable lineups (12%)
  • Offer fiduciary training (3%)

Also cited were participant advice or financial wellness (or both), being an expert to help guide them make good decisions, and offering day-to-day guidance and assistance on all plan issues.

‘Should Be’s

Now, asked which three services readers thought plan sponsors should view as most important, there was a bit of shuffling of the deck. Acting as a co-fiduciary was cited the most (79%), while monitoring investments slipped to No. 2, cited by 60%. Tied for third was providing benchmarking and educating about fiduciary responsibilities, each cited by 57%.

Offering fiduciary training was a distant fourth (21%); propose new investment options was cited by 9%; and employee education was noted by about 7%.

Advisor Qualities

Turning to the issue of advisor qualities plan sponsors value most, this week’s respondents went strongly for… responsiveness (61%). Honesty and integrity was a close second (52%), with a good partnership noted by a third. Investment expertise and accessibility were each cited by 30% of the respondents, but retirement knowledge only by 27%. Other areas included:

  • Acting as a fiduciary (24%)
  • Effective communication (21%)
  • Regulatory knowledge (18%)

As you might expect, asked to rank the qualities plan sponsors should value most, there was some shifting. Honesty and integrity rose to the top of the list, cited by two-thirds of this week’s respondents, but acting as a fiduciary surged to second place, supported by 60% of the respondents. Responsiveness, on the other hand, garnered the support of a mere 36% which, though fourth on the list, fell below the 39% who cited retirement knowledge, matching the 36% who embraced regulatory knowledge.

Personal Perspectives

More personally, we asked readers to list what their clients valued most about them. Honesty and integrity topped this list (69%), outpacing retirement knowledge and responsiveness, each of which drew the support of 50%. Acting as a fiduciary was cited by 34%, while accessibility drew the vote of 28%. Investment expertise drew a mere 6%.

Turning our attention to differentiation, readers weighed in on the three services they felt plans sponsors believe differentiate an advisor, which ones they felt should differentiate an advisor, and which ones they felt differentiated them in the eyes of the plan sponsors. In the first category, “is responsive, efficient and thorough” topped the list, cited by nearly two-thirds (65%), with “provides easily digestible explanations” second-most cited (47%), followed by “is proactive with recommendations” (43%).

Differentiate ‘Ed’

As for the top three that should differentiate advisors, those were “is transparent with fees” (53%), followed by “stays very engaged with the plan” (47%), and “is proactive with recommendations” (44%) a close third, with “is responsive, efficient, and thorough” just behind (40%).

But among this week’s respondents, responsive, efficient and thorough topped the list (69%) of the traits valued by their plan sponsor clients, with “stays very engaged with the plan” (56%), “is proactive with recommendations” (50%) and “is transparent with fees” just behind at 43%.

Thanks to everyone who participated in this – and every – week’s NAPA Net reader poll!

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