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Regulatory Year in Review

By Peter Kennedy, Special ERISA Advisor, Vestwell

2018 continues to be a year of change – – on the regulatory and legislative fronts. From the now-abandoned DOL fiduciary rule to several other bills making their way through Congress, plan sponsors and advisors should understand how these legislative updates affect them and their qualified retirement plans.

The DOL Fiduciary Rule

Among all of the changes in the retirement industry this year, perhaps the most significant was the DOL’s Fiduciary Advice Rule (A.K.A., “the Rule”).  After much debate, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals vacated the Rule in its entirety. And, at least for the time being, advisors are once again subject to the pre-existing rules as to what constitutes “investment advice” under ERISA.

What exactly are these pre-existing rules and what do they mean for advisors and their retirement business? We’re glad you asked. Many advisors under the old 5-part test for investment advice regularly helped clients with 401(k) plan design, investment menus, plan education, and other matters – all without the assumption that they were fiduciaries to the plan. The Rule was meant to alter that assumption by characterizing most types of advice to retirement plans and IRAs as “fiduciary advice.” That meant an advisor would have been subject to significant fiduciary liability, but since the Rule has been vacated, advisors are once again free to offer plan advice with less concern for legal ramifications.

Although not directly related to retirement plan assets like the Rule, the SEC recently proposed the Regulation Best Interest (a.k.a. “RBI”) which would impose a higher standard of conduct for broker/dealers and their associated persons who give securities advice to “retail customers.” RBI is not a replacement of the Rule and is generally considered less stringent. With the DOL’s recently announced plan to re-propose its Fiduciary Advice Rule in 2019, there is more coming from the regulators that will likely affect how to advise retirement plans, their participants, and investors.

Other Legislative Matters

Several other bills could change various rules under the Internal Revenue Code and ERISA. Below are some highlights:

Retirement Enhancement and Security Act (“RESA”)

Probably the most far-reaching – and recipient of the most media attention – RESA would make it easier for small employers to participate in Multiple Employer Plans (MEPs). Other features of the bill would affect rules pertaining to auto-enrollment, nonelective contributions, plan loans, certain nondiscrimination rules, and process for selecting lifetime income providers, all of which are intended to encourage small businesses to offer retirement plans to their employees.

Retirement Lost and Found Act

This act also minimizes the administrative burdens on plan sponsors by easing the requirements on them to locate former employees with small, unclaimed distributions. Locating these so-called “missing participants” can be a tedious and costly process for small businesses and the Act would require the government to create an online resource to find these individuals.

In addition to the legislative matters above, other bills have been proposed that cover a variety of topics including increasing the amount that could be distributed to a former participant without consent, simplifying the complex rules related to offering annuities in qualified retirement plans, and changing the default option for delivering plan information to electronic delivery. Stay tuned in 2019 as we continue to monitor new rules that will impact advisors and their firms…and navigate them together.

Vestwell Works with Dimensional Fund Advisors to Optimize Retirement Income Planning

 

 

Advisors can utilize Dimensional’s Retirement Income Calculator to better assess the retirement readiness of their clients

NEW YORK, September 25, 2018—Vestwell, a digital retirement platform, today announced the addition of a new retirement income tool from Dimensional Fund Advisors(Dimensional), a global investment firm. Dimensional’s My Retirement Income Calculator is now fully integrated into Vestwell’s advisor and participant portals, giving advisors unique insight into how their clients are saving and enabling them to better support participants’ retirement income readiness.

The calculator, available to Vestwell advisors who utilize Dimensional funds, is designed to enhance their retirement offerings by allowing them to bring a more customized approach to employee retirement programs. The calculator gives advisors a clear line of sight into how much in-retirement income their clients might be able to afford. The income projections offered by the My Retirement Income Calculator also consider asset allocation shifts over time to help improve the reliability of those estimates.

“Vestwell was built to help advisors better service their clients, and Dimensional’s calculator perfectly supports that mission,” said Aaron Schumm, Founder and CEO of Vestwell. “Thanks to the integration ofthe My Retirement Income Calculator, Vestwell advisors can better assess the impact of their clients’ savings and investment decisions, allowing them to collaborate with clients to better maximize the chances of achieving desired retirement goals.”

“We’re excited to be working with Vestwell to offer the full functionality of our My Retirement Income Calculator, and thrilled that together we can help enhance the way advisors engage with their clients on retirement income,” said Dave Butler, Co-CEO and Head of Global Financial Advisor Services at Dimensional.

About Vestwell Holdings, Inc.

Vestwell is a digital platform that makes it easier to offer and administer 401(k) plans. Vestwell removes traditional friction points through seamless plan design, automated onboarding, streamlined administration, and flexible investment strategies, all at competitive pricing. By acting as a single point of contact, Vestwell has modernized the retirement offering while keeping the plan sponsor’s and plan participant’s best interests in mind. Learn more at Vestwell.com and on Twitter @Vestwell.

About Dimensional Fund Advisors

Dimensional is a leading global investment firm that has been translating academic research into practical investment solutions since 1981. Guided by a strong belief in markets, the firm helps investors pursue higher expected returns through advanced implementation. With clients around the world, Dimensional has 13 offices in nine countries and global assets under management of $582 billion as of June 30, 2018. Learn more at us.dimensional.com.

2018 Retirement Trends Report: Advisor and Plan Sponsor Perceptions

 

Vestwell’s 2018 Retirement Trends Survey highlights key sentiments of advisors and plan sponsors as they relate to selling, adopting, and maintaining plans.

Did you know:

  • 57% of advisors see growing their client base as their biggest priority
  • 35% of advisors think the biggest mistake plan sponsors make during plan selection is not knowing what they’re paying for
  • 37% of plan sponsors list filings, taxes, and compliance activities as their biggest pain point
  • and more…

To view the report in its entirety, click here.

ERISA Bonds vs. Fiduciary Insurance

By Allison Brecher, General Counsel, Vestwell

With so much attention lately on fiduciary duty, as well as the surge of fiduciary litigation this past year, plan sponsors would be wise to explore their insurance options. While the ERISA fidelity bond (also referred to as a “fidelity bond” or “ERISA bond”), is required for all plans, there are other options as well. By understanding the difference – and the scenarios in which different types of insurance are used – you can help ensure your plan sponsors are properly protected.

The fidelity bond, required by ERISA, protects the plan against losses due to theft and embezzlement. Here’s an easy example: if someone steals money from the 401(k) plan, the ERISA bond compensates the plan for the damages. However, this provides no protection to the plan sponsor because the plan, not the sponsor, is the named insured. Not to mention how limited the application of this bond might be, given the unlikely scenario.

Still, the bond is legally required for anyone who “handles plan assets” (whether a fiduciary or not), and not having one can delay your plan’s Form 5500 filing and potentially result in disqualification, penalties, and personal liability for fiduciaries. Investment managers must have one, but advisors are not required to be bonded unless they make financial decisions about the plan assets or property.

An ERISA bond is easy and relatively inexpensive to obtain; sponsors using Vestwell can apply for one directly from our platform. However, it’s worth noting that the bond must be in an amount of at least 10% of the plan’s assets, and, since it’s been a good year for investment performance, sponsors should make sure their bond amount has kept pace with the plan’s growth in assets.

Some sponsors mistakenly believe they are protected on all fronts by the ERISA fidelity bond, but further protection may be needed. Fiduciary insurance, unlike an ERISA bond, is not included in a typical errors and omissions or directors and officers policy. Fiduciary insurance, as the name suggests, protects the fiduciary from damages that result from a fiduciary breach. Read the fine print on the insurance before moving forward because a fiduciary policy can cover litigation costs, foreign plans that are subject to laws similar to ERISA, and the cost of correcting plan compliance errors resulting from a fiduciary breach. Although fiduciary insurance is technically “optional,” we don’t believe a sponsor should leave anything to chance in the current litigation climate.

Mostly, it’s important for plan sponsors to know the coverage that exists to protect them and their participants, understand the liability they’re taking on, and be comfortable with the decisions they’re making. They’ll be looking to you for help.