Turbocharge 401(k) Participation: Two Smart Strategies for Advisors to Turbocharge Retirement Plans

Two Resources, Two Effective Tactics, Two Essential Steps

By Vestwell Staff

Meet Allison. At 24, she is a second year auditor in the Boston office of a regional consulting firm. When Allison joined the firm, she sat in a room with 40 fellow recruits to listen to a mandatory presentation about the firm’s benefit package. Squeezed between inventory training and the happy hour, that session was a blur of legalese. How was she supposed to pick the right funds if they all looked the same? On her way out the door, Allison tossed the thick 401(k) paperwork package into her desk drawer. That’s where it still sits, two years later.

Robert, the IT support team leader with an office a few doors down from Allison’s desk, has his own retirement worries. Robert is a baby boomer, and fears of being unable to retire are looming large on his radar. He is a well-respected professional with a long, successful career, yet his contributions to the company’s 401(k) plan have always been just the bare minimum. While Robert worries about his lifestyle in retirement, without a clear understanding of his investment options or tools to make intelligent decisions, he struggles to find the motivation to invest more.

Allison and Robert are not alone. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 55% of the American workforce has access to a 401(k) plan, yet only 38% of them choose to participate. And it is not only Millennials that are not adding to their savings. Half of baby boomers, many of whom are already past their peak earning years, have retirement savings of less than $100,000.

We believe that a major source of this problem is the way that retirement plan options are presented to employees.

Many employees just like Allison and Robert are discouraged from enrolling in their company’s 401(k) plan or using it to its full advantage. Common obstacles include the cumbersome onboarding processes, confusing investment fund options, cryptic language and intimidating systems.

It does not have to be this way.

At Vestwell, we envision a future where companies can rely on retirement planning advisors to offer a new generation of plans.

Here is what the future looks like.

Retirement Plans Must Offer Customized Solutions

The problem with traditional 401(k) plans is that employees are limited by poor choices when it comes to fund options. Many 401(k) offerings have excessive costs, poor performing funds and not enough diversification opportunities to allow investors to properly manage risk. Put bluntly, these “off the shelf” product offerings force employees into portfolios that are just not good enough.

Then there is the lack of independence. Too many 401(k) plans still lock employees into proprietary funds. This practice dates back to the early 1990’s when many of the 401(k) platforms were offered through large mutual fund companies. At the time, investment options were limited to the affiliate’s funds in part because the record keeping technology did not allow a broader spectrum of investment products. Technology has since advanced, but many providers remain stuck in the past.

The solution is clear. Plan sponsors need a modern platform that will allow them to offer a wide range of independent investment options. Otherwise, underperforming and poorly managed funds will continue to limit the potential of plan participants to save enough for retirement.

Streamlined Onboarding and Plan Maintenance Are Key

Pensions were once the gold standard of retirement planning. A guarantee of retirement income was provided in exchange for years of service. Today’s 401(k) participation is anything but automatic. Employees must complete numerous paper forms and read through hundreds of pages of boilerplate disclosures. The convoluted enrollment process, combined with complex terminology, means that many employees fail to opt into their company’s 401(k) plan participation out of sheer confusion.

But it is not just employees who are exasperated and confused by the status quo.

The first 401(k) plans were launched back in 1982, yet the volume of paperwork that plan sponsors have to deal with has only increased. They also have to manually track enrollment status and participant changes and there is a stubborn lack of visibility into the fee structure of funds, which makes it difficult to compare costs across providers.

The maintenance of a 401(k) plan has become a full-time job for sponsors and the results (measured by plan participation and fund returns) leave much to be desired.

What would it take to turn 401(k) plans into the valuable engine for retirement savings that they were intended to be? We believe that the answer lies in maximizing the use of technology. If vendors and partners could automate the time-consuming and error-prone processes of enrollment, account maintenance and reporting, plan management would become much easier. Adapting the design of the plan to fit the changing needs of the plan sponsor should take a few clicks, not dozens of forms and weeks of waiting.

The benefits of automation should also extend to plan participants. Vestwell’s research shows that companies with automatic 401(k) enrollment can double employee participation rates. Other surveys have shown that employees with automated enrollment begin saving for retirement earlier. They also report that saving for retirement is easier. A strong 401(k) savings plan can go a long way towards retaining valued employees, recruiting new promising talent and creating better retirement outcomes.

Tips for advisors to turbocharge retirement plans

The current state of retirement savings enrollment is costly, cumbersome and confusing. If your company’s retirement plan participation statistics are disappointingly low, maybe it is time for a new approach. The 401(k) may not be the magical cure, but when used correctly it can be a powerful tool for creating peace of mind in your employee’s retirement.

Contact us at info@vestwell.com for more information about turning your 401(k) offering into a benefit that is easy to administer and manage.

Vestwell named as a Finalist for #XYPN17 FinTech Competition


XY Planning Network to name best-in-class innovation in Financial Planning

Bozeman, MT (July 24, 2017) – XY Planning Network (XYPN) is pleased to announce that seven finalists have been selected to compete in its upcoming Advisor FinTech competition, which is scheduled to take place on Wednesday, August 30, 2017 during the organization’s national conference, #XYPN17, in Dallas, Texas.

The XYPN FinTech Competition was created to help promote startup firms that are building technology solutions to help financial advisors better serve Gen X and Gen Y clients, thereby expanding access to financial planning. The popular competition, now in its second year and sponsored by Betterment for Advisors and Quovo, drew more than two dozen submissions, and the seven finalists were chosen by esteemed industry judges Michael Kitces (XYPN), Bill Winterberg (FPPad) and Joe Ziemer (Betterment).  To be considered, finalists had to meet one or more of the following requirements: have a tech offering that launched in the last 12 months, have less than $1 million in revenue to date, or be an existing company with a new feature that is substantially different from the parent company.

The finalists represent all corners of financial planning, from student loan repayment tools to automated investment solutions and a small business retirement plan platform. Each company will have the opportunity to introduce their technology offering to a large, tech-savvy audience of financial planning entrepreneurs, and #XYPN17 is anticipated to draw over 500 attendees next month. Finalists include:

• CSLA Tech Repayment Tracker aims to transform the financial services industry by helping advisors reduce the long-term consequences of student loans.
• DataPoints helps advisors strengthen client relationships using behavioral science, offering advisors a library of tools to assess client psychology and behaviors.
• Loan Buddy is a financial technology platform with a focus on providing solutions for advisors who want to be pioneers in student loan planning.
• RobustWealth aspires to be the best-in-class, low-cost-leading, next-level automated wealth platform for advisors.
• ROL Advisor aims to solve the challenge of adding value in a world where technology and competition are driving down the value of investment management.
• Tolerisk, using patent-pending technology, aims to revolutionize risk tolerance assessments by incorporating cash-flows to separately measure a client’s willingness and ability to take risk.
• Vestwell is a digital retirement platform striving to become an extension of the financial advisor’s services, acting in everyone’s best interests while scaling through technology and allowing financial advisors to focus on clients.

One deserving champion will receive a press release by PR agency FiComm, along with facilitated media introductions. Additional benefits for winning include promotional opportunities through a feature on Bill Winterberg’s FPPad.com, and Michael Kitces’ Nerd’s Eye View at Kitces.com. The champ will also receive interview opportunities to reach a large audience of financial planners on the #XYPNRadio podcast and via the
XYPlanningNetwork.com blog.

These promotional prizes are intended to help the most successful startup offering gain more rapid traction and advisor adoption. Last year’s winner, SnappyKraken saw an immediate impact from their big win. “Entering the XYPN FinTech startup competition was incredible for our business,” said Robert Sofia of SnappyKraken, “Within the first three months of winning, we went from zero to over $700,000 in sales, landed two large
enterprise accounts, and attracted significant investor interest.”

To learn more about each finalist, visit http://blog.xyplanningnetwork.com/advisor-blog/meet-our-2017-fintech-finalists. More information about the XYPN annual conference can be found at xypn17.com.

# # #About XY Planning Network:

About XY Planning Network:
The XY Planning Network is the leading organization for fee-only financial advisors who want to serve their Gen X and Gen Y peers providing comprehensive financial planning services for a monthly subscription fee and without product sales or asset minimums. The Network offers a virtual community for new and established financial advisors who want to serve a younger clientele, and provides its members compliance support services, marketing support, business tools and templates, and a wide range of technology solutions.

Media contact:
Jennifer Mastrud
XY Planning Network
Jennifer@xyplanningnetwork.com

Fiserv Adds Digital Retirement Planning Solution to its Wealth Management Network in Partnership with Vestwell

Single platform strategy unites retirement planning and wealth management

July 10, 2017 – Fiserv, Inc. (NASDAQ: FISV), a leading global provider of financial services technology solutions, announced today that it is integrating digital retirement platform Vestwell into its Unified Wealth Platform. This will enable financial advisors to access retirement planning and wealth management tools on a single platform, improving efficiency and facilitating a better experience for advisors and their clients.

Vestwell will also join the Wealth Management Network from Fiserv, which connects participants across the managed accounts industry.

“Our partnership with Vestwell brings retirement planning and wealth management together, empowering financial advisors while expanding the offerings and enhancing the value they can bring to their clients,” said Cheryl Nash, president, Investment Services, Fiserv. “The ability to offer a flexible, turnkey retirement platform provides advisors with a strong touchpoint and benefits peoples’ financial lives by reducing the time to investment and elevating the digital experience.”

Through the partnership, Fiserv and Vestwell are providing single access point convenience and low-cost, high-value automation, allowing advisors to open a 401(k) that sits alongside their clients’ other accounts that are managed either directly or through a third-party.

Vestwell is the only digital retirement platform that fully integrates the advisor, company and employee experience through a modern, configurable interface. The white-labeled solution allows advisors to deliver a consistent client experience through an open-architecture, multi-custodial, multi-record-keeping platform. Advisors have the option to bundle or unbundle their services while also leveraging administrative and fiduciary services as needed to scale their own advisory business.

Asset managers can also benefit from the solution, which enables them to provide mutual fund and ETF strategies that are managed based on risk tolerance or target retirement dates. As the DOL Fiduciary Rule is implemented, Vestwell helps asset managers align with the new regulations.

“Technology is fueling an industry movement towards holistic planning by helping advisors incorporate retirement planning services that extend beyond the reaches of wealth management,” said Aaron Schumm, founder and CEO, Vestwell. “Our partnership with Fiserv will serve to remove the administrative burden that advisors experience when implementing retirement plans, and will provide advisors with the tools they need to best serve their clients.”

Fiserv is a market leader providing innovative investment services solutions with five million managed accounts supported on its Unified Wealth Platform, representing over $1.4 trillion in assets under management. The Wealth Management Network from Fiserv provides industry access to a vast network of 70 sponsor firms, including eight of the top ten broker-dealers in the U.S., and support for approximately 300 asset managers with easy access to hundreds of model portfolio strategies. This facilitates real-time digital connectivity among all major market participants, including asset managers, broker-dealers, custodians, banks, aggregators, market utilities, advisors, investors and third-party partners.

In a world that is moving faster than ever before, Fiserv helps clients deliver solutions that are in step with the way people live and work today – financial services at the speed of life. Learn more at fiserv.com.

About Vestwell Holdings, Inc.

Vestwell Advisors, LLC is a SEC registered investment advisor, a wholly owned subsidiary of Vestwell Holdings, Inc., specializing in 401(k), 403(b) and other defined contribution and benefit retirement investment management services. Built by an experienced team with an average of 18 years in financial technology, Vestwell assumes 3(38) investment management and ERISA3(16) fiduciary responsibility on the behalf of advisors and their plan sponsor clients. Learn more at Vestwell.com and on Twitter @Vestwell.

This is not an offer, solicitation, or advice to buy or sell securities in jurisdictions where Vestwell Advisors is not registered. An investor should consider investment objectives, risks and expenses before investing. More information is available within Vestwell Advisors’ ADV. There are risks involved with investing. Investors should consider all of their assets, income and investments. Portfolios are subject to change. All opinions and results included in this publication constitute Vestwell Advisors’ judgment as of the date of this publication and are subject to change without notice.

About Fiserv

Fiserv, Inc. (NASDAQ: FISV) enables clients worldwide to create and deliver financial services experiences that are in step with the way people live and work today. For more than 30 years, Fiserv has been a trusted leader in financial services technology, helping clients achieve best-in-class results by driving quality and innovation in payments, processing services, risk and compliance, customer and channel management, and insights and optimization. Fiserv is a member of the FORTUNE® 500 and has been named among the FORTUNE Magazine World’s Most Admired Companies® for four consecutive years, ranking first in its category for innovation in 2016 and 2017. For more information, visit fiserv.com.

Vestwell Featured on ThinkAdvisor

Our CEO and Founder, Aaron Schumm, explains to ThinkAdvisor how Vestwell plans to lower costs for participants by streamlining plan design and implementation. Click here to read the article.

“When an advisor comes in [to a company] to talk about a retirement plan, it’s usually a brown bag lunch scenario, where the advisor tells the company ‘here’s everything you can do but I can’t tell you what to do,” said Aaron Schumm, CEO of Vestwell, a new platform that helps advisors evolve their business to suit the changing world of retirement plan investing. “That can be intimidating and confusing, and more importantly, can prove to be a costly process for a business.”

“Because we’re taking care of the headaches that come with setting up a retirement plan – the cost, the fiduciary aspect, the investment side – it means that employees can ultimately save more,” he said. “By becoming the only interface that an advisor or plan sponsor needs to design a plan, implement it and invest that plan on [employees] behalf, we’re saving everyone a lot of time, expense and headache.”

Day of Reckoning with the DOL

By Aaron Schumm, Vestwell’s CEO and Founder

It.  Is.  Here.  Department of Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta has made a wave in the political landscape by not further delaying the applicability date of the DOL Fiduciary Rule.  Many suspected the can would be kicked down the road, with another delay.  Without taking a political stance, this is a prime example of a highly publicized regulation not being “pared back” by the new administration by way of an executive order.

Forward-thinking shops have already moved to spiritually fulfil their fiduciary obligations – (Link).  But, as we all know, there are procrastinators.  The “wait & see” camp have been left scrambling for solutions.  The anecdote by John Castelly of Personal Capital perfectly captured the state of procrastinators, “This turnaround with a June 9 deadline is just like when we were back in school, thinking we would have a substitute teacher, so we didn’t do our homework, but the real teacher showed up instead and we are now not prepared.”

So, what does it mean for you?  Still, there remains a void that will be filled by the fiduciary rule becoming regulation on June 9.  In the simplest terms, the rule is about transparency of fees, suitability of financial products, and alignment of interests between advisor and consumer.  As it pertains to the 401(k) industry, there are a few key areas we will highlight.

Fee transparency. There can be no “hidden” fees, such as 12b-1’s, sub-transfer agent fees, etc.  Of interest to you, whether a company or an employee, might be the 408(b)2 and 404(a)5 fee schedules to understand who is being paid and how much.

Reasonable Fees. Expanding on point 1, the advisor and plan sponsor’s fiduciary responsibilities now include selecting providers and investments with a reasonable fee.  What’s a reasonable fee?  While that is debatable depending upon a number of factors, a strong argument can be made that with advent of low-cost investment products like index ETF’s and efficient technology platforms to help operationally scale, the total fees (including advisory, admin and investments)  can be totaled at well below 2%, and may be closer to 1% in practice (depending on the investments and service).

Fiduciary roles – There are 4 main areas in defined contribution plans:

    1. Named Fiduciary – This is typically borne by the plan sponsor but can also be aided by the platform provider.
    2. Named Investment Manager – If you’re picking the fund lineup for the employees, you’re picking up that responsibility.  But, investment managers, MF/ETF strategists, DCIO’s, financial advisors, and platform providers can step in to take on this role for you.  This is usually done under the SEC 3(38) and/or 3(21) construct.
    3. Named Administrator – This role is responsible for the final administrator processes on behalf of the company & employees.  Typically, the plan administrator named in the agreement is the plan sponsor.  However, it can be outsourced to a third-party administrator (TPA) and/or ERISA 3(16) provider.
    4. Named Trustee – This is the party acting as the trustee on behalf of the plan. Again, this is typically carried by the plan sponsor, but can be outsourced to a trust company or other third parties.

As the industry thankfully moves towards simplistic, fee-based, low-cost, and transparent environment, understanding the moving parts of retirement plans will become far less confusing for those less adept to 401k and 403b plans.

In every change, there is opportunity; the DOL rule may change the industry, in our eyes for the better.

If you have any questions around how the DOL rule impacts you as an advisor, company or employee, feel free to contact us here at Vestwell.  We are happy to help.

DOL Fiduciary Role Players

In response to: InvestmentNews’ Fidelity’s approach to DOL fiduciary rule rankles some 401(k) advisers

With the DOL fiduciary mandates effectively going into action, with a formal government action, financial service providers have begun to solidify their stances.

The question a provider asks themselves – Do I want to be a fiduciary to the plan sponsor and/or the participants?  Now, if you’re a provider that works with financial advisors and their clients, the answer is not black or white.

401(k) plans have been around nearly 40 years. During that time, they have been sliced one thousand ways, centering around different value propositions of the respective firms.  And for those of us that have spent a career working with financial advisors, we all know each advisor is unique in how they want to service their clients.

However, in lieu of the impending DOL fiduciary rule, some of the largest providers in the space have taken it upon themselves to push past their financial advisory network and strong-arm plan sponsor into a fiduciary offering that may not align with the advisor of record on the plan, nor the plan sponsor’s preference.  Firms have gone as far as sending 60-day negative consent letters to plan sponsors, whereby the they will be the named fiduciary for the plan sponsor as well as their employee participants.

Now, it can be applauded that firms taking this approach are looking out for their plan sponsor and participant clients.  But, where does that leave the advisors who want to help facilitate these important roles in the relationship?

There is still a lack of clarity about how far the “implemented” DOL fiduciary standards will go, but it is clear that the best interest of all parties will be front and center.  Many advisory firms have built their practices around this, dating back long before the DOL stepped in, simply to be pushed aside by their “partner” record-keeping and custodial providers, who want to play that role instead.  This will leave many advisors displeased, scrambling to articulate where they stand in their plan sponsor client relationships.

We believe that advisors should be enabled to play the roles in their client relationships where they feel they add the most value to their clients.  If s/he feels value is driven by the fiduciary services provided, and s/he wants to provide that service, that should be encouraged.  If the value prop is around investment selection, education, or advice, then they should provide that.  As the rule solidifies, and advisors get more comfortable with the new regulations, we will see increasing numbers of advisors offering fiduciary services to their list of client value add.

To encourage growing and enabling advisors, providers need to remain flexible around their platform and service capabilities.  The DC/DB plans need to be configured to compliment the services and advisor wishes to provide.  When servicing advisors, plan sponsors, and participants, we emphasize to advisors to think of us as an extension of their firm.   They provide the services they want to provide, and we round out the rest, as fiduciary or otherwise, acting as their technology and business support.

Just as the industry is constantly evolving, so are advisors.  We, as technology and services providers need to be there to equip advisors for the future of their businesses. 

Aaron Schumm interviewed on WealthManagement.com


Vestwell’s CEO, Aaron Schumm, was recently interviewed for an article about Vestwell at WealthManagement.com. Preview the article below or read the full story on their site.

“When Josh Brown, the CEO of Ritholtz Wealth Management and author of the popular finance blog, “The Reformed Broker,” hosted the 2017 Benzinga fintech awards, he name-dropped Vestwell as a company with the potential to radically change the wealth management industry.

That’s right, Vestwell, a company looking to make it easier and more cost-effective for registered investment advisors to design, sell and administer 401(k) and 403(b) plans using digital automation. What exactly does Brown find so revolutionary?

“I get most excited about fintech when it solves a serious pain point for a practitioner like myself. It’s not like I’m saying they’re doing something that no one has ever done before,” Brown told WealthManagement.com. He added that his firm got started in retirement plan space a year ago, and is considering adopting Vestwell for some of their clients. But Brown thinks the user experience of Vestwell is such an upgrade over incumbent platforms that it could attract swahs of new advisors to the $6.8 trillion dollar defined contribution market currently dominated by large financial institutions.”

Read More at WealthManagement.com

Vestwell Expands Team with Paul Newmann as Vice President of Sales

NEW YORK, June 1, 2017 – Vestwell announced today that Paul Newmann joined the company as Vice President of Sales. In this role, Newmann is responsible for implementing business development strategies and goals with financial advisors. In addition, Newmann is tasked with defining sales processes that drive desired sales outcomes as well as identifying improvements where and when required.

“I am thrilled to be a part of Vestwell’s mission to provide affordable retirement products to America’s workforce,” said Newmann. “Vestwell’s hyper-growth traction with advisors and their plan sponsor clients is a testament to the long-delayed innovation the retirement industry has needed. Having centered my career around working with advisors and their plan sponsor clients, it’s exciting to be part of a team that is revolutionizing the advisor-driven financial services industry.”

Prior to joining Vestwell, Newmann served as the head of advisor and channel distribution for the Betterment for Business retirement platform. In this position, he sourced new business for the company’s retirement plan products and oversaw strategic sales operations. Prior to that, Newmann was VP of sales for Mesirow Financial where he worked with the industry’s largest recordkeepers, B/Ds, RIAs, and Asset Managers to drive adoption of 3(21) and 3(38) fiduciary services for retirement plans. Newmann started his career at the communications firm FleishmanHillard as an account supervisor responsible for business development, client relationships and account management for a portfolio of financial services and investor relations clients.

“We are excited to welcome Paul to the Vestwell team. A large part of our early success is backboned by the great talent we have brought together. Paul’s talents are purely additive to Vestwell and our future clients,” said Vestwell CEO Aaron Schumm. “As we strategically build out our sales division, adding leaders like Paul, we will increase our outreach to financial advisors in need of low-cost, simplified retirement solutions.”