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A New ‘10-10-90’ Plan for Success

As industry practitioners and retirement plan specialists we maintain more than a passing interest in seeing that plan participants are collectively progressing toward achieving better outcomes.

“Better outcomes” is a relative term solely indicating a directional-based level of performance rather than any absolute baseline measure of performance. Whether we help 85% of the workforce at a multinational company get retirement ready, or we help a local company’s third-shift workers feel comfortable with paying off credit card debt before saving for retirement, we are all in this marathon together. Plan advisors, wholesalers, recordkeepers and broker-dealers — we are all working for Americans’ retirement.

Our Collective Rearview Mirror

As we barrel down the road of “everyone’s future retirement,” we can look back at a long list of experiences that have carried us to this point. To name just a couple:

  • Auto-enrollment — Without this ground-breaking innovation, the U.S. workforce would be much less prepared for retirement.

  • The “90-10-90” Formula — In his book, Save More Tomorrow, Shlomo Benartzi suggested that 90% of eligible employees should be saving for retirement; 10% is the low-water mark for what participants should be deferring; and 90% of savers should be utilizing a managed account structure for investments. Thus, “90-10-90” became a goal for achieving plan success. Advisors and wholesalers have been extolling its virtues to clients and prospects ever since.

What’s Immediately Ahead?

In some cases, retirement plan fiduciaries are aware of what they want and need. In other cases, they are not. Based upon anecdotal experience, I estimate less than 50% of plan fiduciaries are knowledgeable. The silver lining in that number lies in knowing that today, nearly 100% of retirement plan fiduciaries are aware that they have work to do. They have been awakened to their own knowledge gap.

They may not know exactly what they need to learn, but they are aware that they need to be better educated about their fiduciary duties and responsibilities.

Read more commentary by Steff Chalk here. 

Plan advisors, recordkeepers and investment managers should be quietly rejoicing about this. The message is finally being heard by those who need to hear it: the individuals who are responsible for outcomes at companies that sponsor a retirement plan.

Down the Road

Responsible plan fiduciaries are becoming discerning purchasers of retirement-based products and services. So seize the moment.

Know your customer — not in the traditional sense, but as an offensive strategy. Know your customer to protect and grow your business and client base. A good practice would be to identify clients that fall into these three problem areas:

  • Not profitable for you

  • Not knowledgeable plan fiduciaries

  • You do not enjoy working with them

Most experienced advisors can easily identify 10% of their client base that falls squarely into one of these areas. Once you have identified that 10%, immediately raise the fee to those clients by 10%. The logic here is simple. First, if you don’t enjoy working with them or the accounts are not profitable, then losing them may result in a net gain. And second, if a client is not knowledgeable, then add fiduciary education to your business model for that client to justify the 10% fee increase.

Repeat this process every 90 days — or until all your clients have made the transition to being profitable, knowledgeable clients you enjoy working with.

This strategy can become your own “10-10-90” plan for success in your practice. Don’t let the race to the bottom drive your business. Treat your business as though it is your own!

Steff Chalk is the Executive Director of The Retirement Advisor University (TRAU), The Plan Sponsor University (TPSU) and 401kTV. This column first appeared in the latest issue of NAPA Net the Magazine.