The Art of the Search: Finding the right plan vendor
Searching for a new vendor to handle your retirement plan is a pain. Here’s some unsolicited advice:
1) Know why you want to change. Make sure you’ve got a good reason — like the service is substandard, the provider lacks certain features or benefits that are important to you, or your employees hate the website. Like Alice in Wonderland, if you don’t know where you’re going, any road will do.
2) Investment performance isn’t a reason to change providers. Investment availability might be. The majority of providers these days allow a lot of flexibility in choices of investments and are getting away from proprietary requirements. Hire someone to help you choose, and hire someone that will take on fiduciary responsibility for the advice they give.
3) Get some outside perspective. Don’t be the person preyed upon by the salesman who knows you don’t know any better. Read up on the topic at reputable sources. Get help from a professional and you’ll get better perspective as well as save yourself a mountain of time gathering and going through proposals that don’t fit a standard format. If you've benchmarked your plan already, you'll be a better educated consumer as well.
4) Sample lineups aren’t constructed specifically for your plan or according to your Investment Policy Statement. Don’t just run with the lineup the provider puts together for you in their proposal. It’s meant to be a suggestion; a demonstration of how investments and fees work inside the vendor’s shell. Often they’ve got hundreds of options so you can make sure the lineup fits your IPS.
5) There is (still) no such thing as a free lunch. And cost should not be the sole basis for your decision. Cost is only an issue in the absence of value. Find out what you’ll get in return for the cost paid and you might find you’re willing to pay more to get more. There's a big difference between a 1968 Volkswagon Beetle and a 2012 Ford Expedition. They'll both get you there, but comfort, technology, and room for luggage will be very different! Same goes for retirement plans.