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Pushing the Envelope

Inside NAPA

During the last several months, NAPA and its members (now 10,000+ advisors and practitioners) have been hard at work on several important initiatives. 

Fly-in Forum

In July, we held the NAPA D.C. Fly-in Forum as a fully virtual event for the second consecutive (and hopefully last) year. A hallmark of our association, this year’s installment included a special feature: NAPA Executive Director and ARA CEO Brian Graff testifying before the Senate Finance Committee on a full slate of retirement ideas and provisions. Chaired by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), the hearing focused on topics such as expanding coverage through new plan adoption, employer matching contributions for student loan payments (i.e., formalizing the Abbot Laboratories ruling), and enhanced tax credits to employers and employees that would amount to additional “plan matching.” Wyden hopes to collaborate with members of the Senate Finance Committee to produce bipartisan legislation that could be enacted into law in the future, perhaps 2022. 

Brian’s testimony highlighted the strength of the 401(k) system as the primary retirement vehicle for America’s workers, and perhaps under its brightest spotlight yet, reiterated the importance of having a 401(k) plan in the workplace. Additionally, advisors met with their elected representatives and staff to discuss important considerations to further enhance retirement policy for companies and their employees including emergency savings provisions in the 401(k) and e-delivery of required notices. 

ESG(k) Certificate

In mid-July, we were also excited to announce the launch of NAPA’s ESG(k) Certificate program. Investors and 401(k) savers around the country continue to express interest in Environmental, Social and Governance investments and, during the last year or so, there have been some significant (and perhaps confusing) regulatory and legislative changes. Many retirement committees and plan sponsors are wrestling with balancing the growing interest their employees have in ESG investing against the potential risks and liability of adding them to a 401(k) plan. 

NAPA is thrilled to offer this training and curriculum program for advisors to gain knowledge, clarity and understanding on how to deliver prudent assessment and reviews of these options and their fit in the retirement plan marketplace. The program, created by the NAPA education team with support and input from industry partners, peers and thought leaders, is another example of our continual efforts to improve and move the private retirement industry forward together.

What Lies Ahead?

There is no shortage of change, disruption or innovation happening in the business world and in the retirement plan ecosystem in general. Industry consolidation continues its record pace for all—vendor/recordkeepers, investment managers, advisory firms and third-party administrators. Additionally, we are already seeing regulatory bodies take up governance initiatives such as the fiduciary rule (again!), plan correction procedures and cybersecurity, to name just a few. Furthermore, in all industries, the COVID-19 pandemic continues to alter how business and commerce operate. As of this writing, I am imagine most of us are navigating “return to work” policies within our own teams and firms, as well as our clients. There’s no question that the fast transition to an all-virtual world in early 2020 has provide some unique opportunities for us to scale the delivery of our services, but for those who have been limited in their ability for in-person interaction (which certainly varies by geography), we recognize that both Zoom fatigue and the lack of in-person, rapport-building and collaboration can be major challenges. 

Nonetheless, I continue to be inspired by the forward-thinking nature of our industry and how many advisors and practitioners push the envelope to develop our services to companies, organizations and—most importantly—their employees. As a huge proponent (perhaps a “fanatic”) of financial advice in the workplace and financial wellness, I believe the commitment, innovation and services that our industry has developed and delivers today are incredible—and truly beneficial to investors and savers in comparison to where we were just five years ago. This quarter’s magazine is chock-full of ideas, insight and strategies to propel each of us forward—both individually and together. 

Alexander G. Assaley, III, AIF®, is the Managing Principal at AFS 401(k) Retirement Services, LLC in Bethesda, MD. He is NAPA’s 2021-2022 President. This commentary originally appeared in the Fall issue of NAPA Net the Magazine.