Reader Poll: What’s the Biggest Quarterly Meeting Topic?

It is perhaps not surprising that market performance was the most common quarterly meeting focus for NAPA Net readers, but it’s not what they think is most likely to be the biggest topic.

Indeed, market performance was cited as a planned agenda item by nearly all of this week’s respondents (88%), and the fiduciary regulation was on the agenda of 86%. Third-most cited was fees (82%), followed by:

70% – plan design enhancements
58% – service levels/call center stats, etc.
47% – enrollment data
35% – provider switch/change/review
11% – tax reform
5.8% – politics

Other things on respondents’ agendas were:

  • Participant education efforts — what was done in last 3-6 months, goals for next 3-6 months
  • Reminder about year-end duties (census data submission, completion of year end questionnaires)
  • Side-by-side comparative of fund lineup to category averages and benchmark indices
  • Retirement readiness analysis of income replacement ratios by employee and in workforce aggregate, broken down by salary and age ranges
  • Plan demographics: deferral rates, income replacement ratio average for plan, loan activities
  • Participant investment diversification for plan in total
  • Inquire as to any acquisition/merger anticipation
  • Utilizing automated design features
  • Incremental fiduciary training/reminders

Biggest Topic

However, what this week’s respondents said was likely to be the biggest topic in most of their meetings was… the DOL’s fiduciary regulation, cited by nearly a third (31%). Fees, at 25%, was second, while market performance (18.7%) came in third. Also noted was plan design (12.5%), service levels/call center (6.25%), retirement readiness (5%) and enrollment data (3.25%).

“Past performance and outlook for 2017 given new political regime,” noted one reader. Another noted, “It depends on the client. We may have investment fund issues to address or have recently changed vendors. Some may be looking at fees and considering other providers.”

And while a strong plurality of this week’s respondents (42%) said they were ready for pretty much any topic that might come up, more than half (53%) said they hoped that politics would not come up.

Pain Gang?

We asked readers to share the biggest “pain in the butt” question they get from clients all the time. Here’s a sampling:

  • “Recommendation for payroll provider. I avoid getting involved in this decision.”
  • “Personal rate of return vs. weighted aggregate performance”
  • “A participant wants the XYZ fund in the lineup…”
  • “Why should I be concerned about being a fiduciary?”
  • “How do I benchmark vs. a micro peer group?”
  • “Trying to better understand the roles of each service provider that works with their plan.”
  • “Why aren’t my employees enrolling in the plan?”
  • “Can you guarantee a 5% return for our participants?”

Other Comments

As for general comments about quarterly client meetings, meeting agendas, tough topics or life in general, here are some more reader observations:

  • “Politics will spill over into most meetings and the influence of the current administration will weigh on decisions being made for the foreseeable future.”
  • “Just generally annoyed that, while certain regulations are well-intentioned, they are designed without a complete understanding of the industry they affect, compliance involves additional fees and additional time spent on the preparation of excessive paperwork neither of which benefit the consumer, and they fail to actually accomplish the goal (specifically, fee disclosure, ACA, fiduciary rule).”
  • “Many clients do not hold quarterly plan meetings, particularly in the lower ends of the marketplace where the largest number of plans reside. Under $10 MM typically have semi-annual or annual reviews as a routine, with interim meetings callable, if market conditions warrant investment reviews.”
  • “Toughest obstacle often is a key contact turnover at the plan sponsor level. This is someone who has not heard/seen our value proposition as a vendor and brings his or her own experiences, knowledge, and contacts to the table, sometimes with an incentive to make a quick impact.”
  • “For this quarter, we go into pretty good detail on compliance with some clients.”
  • “Market performance should always be discussed in context to the benchmark and policies established through the plan’s Investment Policy Statement. Otherwise, it’s a poor use of everyone’s time to just talk on-and-on about ‘the market.’”

Thanks to everyone who participated in our weekly NAPA Net reader poll!

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