401k Prospecting Success

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vbrainy's picture
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For the most part, I think 401k prospecting can be elephant hunting.  And not all that rewarding.  BUT, what the heck, can someone share successes in this area with us.  How did you get them to let you review their plan?  What sold them on switching to you.

Greenbacks's picture
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Joined: 2004-12-21

They switched to get into a fee based model & better service issues. Also being indy no proprietary products and no affiliation with a big wirehouse or insurance company.   

Broker24's picture
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Joined: 2006-10-12

For the most part, 401(k) service is terrible, unless you are dealing with a major TPA (i.e. Hewitt, etc.).  Often, small 401K's are sold and then forgotton, except maybe for an annual fiduciary meeting.
So, it is easy to pluck these from small to medium sized businesses just based on service.  Just ask them, they are more than happy to tell you how bad the service is.
And, if you know what you are doing, you can pull apart a 401K plan and show all the ridiculously high fees embedded in some of them.  Not to say that they should be "free", but often (normally in the group annuity plans) the expenses and fees can run upwards of 2.5 - 3%, and that doesn't always include the TPA.  And of course, they think they are "free".  Many of the point people don't even realize they are in group annuity plans until you point it out to them (pretty much most of the plans run by insurance vendors use them).
To me, it's free prospecting.  If you land some decent plans and service them right, you will get access to all the participants (remember, people have spouses, so don't write them off becuase they have lower paying jobs). 
With the smaller businesses, it can give you access to the owners' personal stuff as well.
And, if you can get 50-100 bips on the assets, the plans can add up.  You just have to make sure it is worth it for you if you are going to actually service them.  It's tough to do it for only 25 bips unless you are getting something up front, the plan is really large, or you have access to some wealthy people in the plan.

Ashland's picture
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Joined: 2007-03-07

LONG lead times, and screwy decision making processes in changing/moving these. Don't do it in the first couple of years in the biz because you won't be able to be consistent with the activity.

vbrainy's picture
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Joined: 2006-07-26

Good information from Ashland and Broker24.  I am dialing, mailing, dialing again.  Trying to be smart about the plans I am going after.  No luck yet.

EDJ to RIA's picture
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Joined: 2006-11-28

I've had some luck managing 401k assets on a fee basis. I don't go after plans but individual employees. You can help them manage the money without having to roll it over. Some 401k's have a self-directed brokerage option also, so we can use ETFs and stocks. You can charge them a monthly fee, some flat ($50/mo charged to CC) and some asset-based (1%).
Many plan administrators will allow billing fees on a pre-tax basis, so there's no penalty.
I'm still learning alot about this type of business, but there's no one out there doing it...

blarmston's picture
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Joined: 2005-02-26

This is just my opinion and based on my experience, but 401K prospecting in the first 5 years or so is a losing effort... It tkaes too long to have business hit the books unless you find a deal at the absolute perfect time.
Try prospecting companies in your area that allow for in-service distributions. It allows you to move 401K monies into a Rollover IRA while the employess still works there.. Most people dont know about that option, and more and more companies are now allowing it (basically to become less liable- i.e Enron, Worldcom, etc)

Broker24's picture
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blarmston wrote: This is just my opinion and based on my
experience, but 401K prospecting in the first 5 years or so is a losing
effort... It tkaes too long to have business hit the books unless you find a
deal at the absolute perfect time.
Try prospecting companies in your area that allow for in-service
distributions. It allows you to move 401K monies into a Rollover IRA while
the employess still works there.. Most people dont know about that
option, and more and more companies are now allowing it (basically to
become less liable- i.e Enron, Worldcom, etc)

Both good points. However, I would spend a few hours a week in the
early years prospecting for them so that you can get some on the books
(not enough to detract from individual prospects). That way you can
learn the business and get a few on the books.

The in-service rollovers are HUGE if you have a big local company that
allows them. I have a list of all the companies that offer them, but I
honestly don't know where I got it. I think someone else in my firm gave
it to me. There are 2 big companies in my area that allow them, and that
is a big part of my business (total of about 15,000 employees between
both companies).

AllREIT's picture
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Joined: 2006-12-16

EDJ to RIA wrote:I've had some luck managing 401k assets on a fee
basis. I don't go after plans but individual employees. You
can help them manage the money without having to roll it over.
Some 401k's have a self-directed brokerage option also, so we can use
ETFs and stocks. You can charge them a monthly fee, some flat ($50/mo
charged to CC) and some asset-based (1%).
Many plan administrators will allow billing fees on a pre-tax basis, so there's no penalty.
I'm still learning alot about this type of business, but there's no one out there doing it...

Alot of my work is along those lines. Basicly helping people use rhe
401K plan better. There isn't any investment with as good returns as
the employer matching plan.

Alot of 401(k) plans only offer a limited menu of funds/asset classes.
So there is a big niche in helping people with complimentary
investments outside of the 401k. E.g the 401K doesn't offer TIPS, put
them in a roth. etc etc.

Also, some of the plans like JPMorgan, have auto asset allocation for
like 35bp ontop of the existing funds. Very easy to help people do that
for themselves and turn off the JPM meter.

troll's picture
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Joined: 2004-11-29

Quote:
Alot of my work is along those lines. Basicly helping people use rhe 401K plan better. There isn't any investment with as good returns as the employer matching plan. Alot of 401(k) plans only offer a limited menu of funds/asset classes. So there is a big niche in helping people with complimentary investments outside of the 401k. E.g the 401K doesn't offer TIPS, put them in a roth. etc etc.Also, some of the plans like JPMorgan, have auto asset allocation for like 35bp ontop of the existing funds. Very easy to help people do that for themselves and turn off the JPM meter.

What a great post--filled with information and suggestions.
You know something.  Over on that other forum--the clubhouse with its secret handshake and back slapping--they are running a poll to see if AllREIT should even be allowed to post there.

deekay's picture
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Joined: 2007-05-15

The problem is, for every good post AllReit has, he's got ten which are completely ignorant and biased towards how he does business. 

anonymous's picture
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Joined: 2005-09-29

Over on that other forum--the clubhouse with its secret handshake and back slapping--they are running a poll to see if AllREIT should even be allowed to post there.
Which forum is that?  Do you mean regreps.com?  Isn't that the one that won't allow you, Nancy, and William to participate?  Just in case you are talking about regreps.com, let me fill everybody in on the secret handshake.  If your name is not Nancy, William, or Putsy, you can't post.   Everyone else is welcome.

AllREIT's picture
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Joined: 2006-12-16

deekay wrote:The problem is, for every good post AllReit has, he's got
ten which are completely ignorant and biased towards how he does
business. 

DK, those in glass houses shouldn't throw stones.

shadow191's picture
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Joined: 2007-06-25

I don't find AllREIT that bad.  Yes, he has an agenda because of the way his business is structured, but so do the rest of us.  I don't agree with his style of money management; however, at least he can back up what he says with some facts.  He's not just regurgitating Googled info like the trolls.

farotech's picture
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Allreit knows what the hell he is talking about.

troll's picture
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troll wrote:
[What a great post--filled with information and suggestions.
You know something.  Over on that other forum--the clubhouse with its secret handshake and back slapping--they are running a poll to see if AllREIT should even be allowed to post there.

Lets make one thing perfectly clear, you trolls - all three of you with your 300 different names, created that other forum. Its only because of you that 172 folks as of this minute, myself included, went to that forum.
Now, regarding 401k's
It is a mystery to me why more FA;s dont focus on this business. It is the greatest business you can get - asset flows, trails, a boatload of warm leads, and if you deal with the right provider, a nice upfront ticket on the takeover assets. What other type of business can give you all that?
Yes, its a long lead time, but anyone willing to work hard to grow their practice, can find an hour a day (8-9AM is best) to cold prospct business owners on this, without giving up the quick lead time opportunity of calling individuals. I have a number of clients whom I've cold called on a 401k review, where I didnt get the plan, but the owner or person I got on the phone, CFO, etc became a client. Eventually that obviously leads to 401k opportunity later.
Spend time looking for mid size plans (1-5 million) that are with an insurance co. Most of the time they are annuity wraps. You can take that plan with ease, if you can get the appointment. There are m&e charges the plan sponsor usually doesnt even know about. The one caveat - if the plan is just a few years old, there will likely be back end charges to terminate.
Success story-
Cold called a plan 3 years ago - they were with an insurance co. CFO got on the phone and it went like this:after my initial pitch, offering a review of their plan:
them: Sorry I have no interest we are very happy with our plan and wouldnt change. We have been with them for 8 years
me: I can appreciate that, and I dont want to interfere if you are totally satisfied - but before I let you go, do you mind if I ask one question?
them, go ahead
Me: is your plan currently with an insurance co?
them: yes its XXX
Me: thats where I have the most success in helping people like you-do me a favor - no do us both a favor- give me a 15 minute appointment, I promise not one minute more - have your summary plan doc and an enrollment book with you. I just want to learn about your plan. I will then go back to my office and within one week, if i cant come up with a plan that will not just be better, but substantially better, i promise i will call you and tell you, and we'll part friends.
I got the appontment and sure enough - m&e charges that the employer knew nothing about, shitty proprietary funds, and no service. 6 months later, they signed the papers - $2MM+ WITH 30K flows per month on which I get 1% plus trails.
The funny thing is the day they signed the papers, they told me that while they realize I am bringing them a better plan, the biggest reason they are changing is because when they set up the plan 8 years ago, the broker came in and did an enrollment meeting, and they havent heard from him since. Thats another hot button.
Hope this helps someone.

doberman's picture
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Joined: 2005-02-22

    Good post, dude!

vbrainy's picture
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Joined: 2006-07-26

pratoman wrote:troll wrote:
[What a great post--filled with information and suggestions.
You know something.  Over on that other forum--the clubhouse with its secret handshake and back slapping--they are running a poll to see if AllREIT should even be allowed to post there.

Lets make one thing perfectly clear, you trolls - all three of you with your 300 different names, created that other forum. Its only because of you that 172 folks as of this minute, myself included, went to that forum.
Now, regarding 401k's
It is a mystery to me why more FA;s dont focus on this business. It is the greatest business you can get - asset flows, trails, a boatload of warm leads, and if you deal with the right provider, a nice upfront ticket on the takeover assets. What other type of business can give you all that?
Yes, its a long lead time, but anyone willing to work hard to grow their practice, can find an hour a day (8-9AM is best) to cold prospct business owners on this, without giving up the quick lead time opportunity of calling individuals. I have a number of clients whom I've cold called on a 401k review, where I didnt get the plan, but the owner or person I got on the phone, CFO, etc became a client. Eventually that obviously leads to 401k opportunity later.
Spend time looking for mid size plans (1-5 million) that are with an insurance co. Most of the time they are annuity wraps. You can take that plan with ease, if you can get the appointment. There are m&e charges the plan sponsor usually doesnt even know about. The one caveat - if the plan is just a few years old, there will likely be back end charges to terminate.
Success story-
Cold called a plan 3 years ago - they were with an insurance co. CFO got on the phone and it went like this:after my initial pitch, offering a review of their plan:
them: Sorry I have no interest we are very happy with our plan and wouldnt change. We have been with them for 8 years
me: I can appreciate that, and I dont want to interfere if you are totally satisfied - but before I let you go, do you mind if I ask one question?
them, go ahead
Me: is your plan currently with an insurance co?
them: yes its XXX
Me: thats where I have the most success in helping people like you-do me a favor - no do us both a favor- give me a 15 minute appointment, I promise not one minute more - have your summary plan doc and an enrollment book with you. I just want to learn about your plan. I will then go back to my office and within one week, if i cant come up with a plan that will not just be better, but substantially better, i promise i will call you and tell you, and we'll part friends.
I got the appontment and sure enough - m&e charges that the employer knew nothing about, shitty proprietary funds, and no service. 6 months later, they signed the papers - $2MM+ WITH 30K flows per month on which I get 1% plus trails.
The funny thing is the day they signed the papers, they told me that while they realize I am bringing them a better plan, the biggest reason they are changing is because when they set up the plan 8 years ago, the broker came in and did an enrollment meeting, and they havent heard from him since. Thats another hot button.
Hope this helps someone.

Dynamite POST.  But, what company are you using?  Most of them are insurance companies?  Lord Abbett?

troll's picture
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Joined: 2004-11-29

On this particular one I used Citistreet, (proprietary plan). Lately I have been working with Principal Financial, which has a non annuity product for mid size plans, and a great service model.

vbrainy's picture
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Joined: 2006-07-26

Thanks.  I like Principal too.

ShoreDog's picture
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Joined: 2007-05-14

pratoman wrote:
Spend time looking for mid size plans (1-5 million) that are with an insurance co. Most of the time they are annuity wraps. You can take that plan with ease, if you can get the appointment. There are m&e charges the plan sponsor usually doesnt even know about. The one caveat - if the plan is just a few years old, there will likely be back end charges to terminate.
The funny thing is the day they signed the papers, they told me that while they realize I am bringing them a better plan, the biggest reason they are changing is because when they set up the plan 8 years ago, the broker came in and did an enrollment meeting, and they havent heard from him since. Thats another hot button.
Hope this helps someone.
 
If you are breaking them out of their current insurance contract, what are you using for their new plan. Are you using one of the 401k platforms from a NF company like Lord Abbett? Any advice on how to find those M&E charges and present your alternatives to the client?

troll's picture
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ShoreDog wrote:pratoman wrote:
Spend time looking for mid size plans (1-5 million) that are with an insurance co. Most of the time they are annuity wraps. You can take that plan with ease, if you can get the appointment. There are m&e charges the plan sponsor usually doesnt even know about. The one caveat - if the plan is just a few years old, there will likely be back end charges to terminate.
The funny thing is the day they signed the papers, they told me that while they realize I am bringing them a better plan, the biggest reason they are changing is because when they set up the plan 8 years ago, the broker came in and did an enrollment meeting, and they havent heard from him since. Thats another hot button.
Hope this helps someone.
 
If you are breaking them out of their current insurance contract, what are you using for their new plan. Are you using one of the 401k platforms from a NF company like Lord Abbett? Any advice on how to find those M&E charges and present your alternatives to the client?
 
Principal Financial Group has a great platform. They have both outside funds and trusts that are subadvised by well known names, and which they will act as fiduciary on. Non insurance contracts, no asset charges, etc.
 
I usually ask to see the enrollment book given to participants. On the fact sheets of the funds, there are all the disclaimers, and usually there is somehting about m&e or asset based charges.

troll's picture
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Joined: 2004-11-29

Prato-Principal has a long standing reputation of sending their own reps out to cannibalize business that was brought in by outside sources....for what it's worth....

Big Taco's picture
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Joined: 2006-11-16

The Principal reps in my area are complete idiots.  I don't think many of them even have a series 7, do they? 

mooose's picture
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Joined: 2006-12-03

Hey guys and gals,
I am new to the biz and I would like to get into the 401K biz as part of my prospecting, but I really have no idea where to start.  Could someone give me a steip by step template of how to takeover a plan from the competition, such as;
-what size companies to call
-who to talk to at the company
-script to use
-what areas of the plan to focus on
-how to improve the plan
-what companies to use for support
-what fees should be charged to make it worthwhile
 
all help would be appreciated--mooose

troll's picture
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Joined: 2004-11-29

mooose wrote:Hey guys and gals,
I am new to the biz and I would like to get into the 401K biz as part of my prospecting, but I really have no idea where to start.  Could someone give me a steip by step template of how to takeover a plan from the competition, such as;
-what size companies to call
-who to talk to at the company
-script to use
-what areas of the plan to focus on
-how to improve the plan
-what companies to use for support
-what fees should be charged to make it worthwhile
 
all help would be appreciated--moooseHonestly if you're new to the business you should probably spend your time prospecting for some other type of business.  Sorry to be a wet blanket, but potential takeover plans are:-heavily prospected-very competitive-long "sell cycle" with multiple decision makers-low margin-very technicalOf course, your local 401k wholesaler won't tell you about that part, because he is hoping you'll go out and be his 'hound dog', and it doesn't matter to him if you fail out of the business because you spent too much time chasing low-percentage business.  He's hoping you strike it lucky and make him some money.Don't just rely on my word, use the search button and I think you'll find plenty of other posters who feel the same way.

Broker24's picture
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Joined: 2006-10-12

mooose wrote:
Hey guys and gals,
I am new to the biz and I would like to get into the 401K biz as part of my prospecting, but I really have no idea where to start.  Could someone give me a steip by step template of how to takeover a plan from the competition, such as;
-what size companies to call
-who to talk to at the company
-script to use
-what areas of the plan to focus on
-how to improve the plan
-what companies to use for support
-what fees should be charged to make it worthwhile
 
all help would be appreciated--mooose
 
Mooose,
Base on your questions, you have a LONG way to go before you start prospecting for these.  You need to understand that 401K's can serve many purposes for an advisor:

(1) make money
(2) get your foot in the door with a good referral stream (if the right type of company with an aging population)
(3) do a favor for a wealthy business owner client
(4) get your foot in the door to try to win the personal assets of a wealthy business owner
 
Learn about the plans, and decide why you want them.  Not all plans are worth having.  If it does not achieve one of those 4 items above, don't do it.  You will spend WAY more time servicing a $1mm 401K plan than one $1mm client.  Like WAAAAY more.  And often for less money.
 
1. start by NOT spending time on 401K plans in the beginning.  Trust me.  I do a fair amount of this business, and I know a LOT about 401K plans, and it ALWAYS takes a long time.  For every 10 plans you go after, you may end up with 1.  But to get that one, you have presented to about 5, and once you get that one, it takes months (sometimes a year) to get the plan in place.  And even when you get it, it may not make you much money right away. 
2. Aim to get one big plan (over $1mm) or 3 small plans per year (startup or under $1mm).  You can't handle more than that.
3. Meet with at least 4 wholesalers and ask them for their 401(k) plan options.  DON'T meet with the MFD wholesaler.  Meet with the retirement plan person.  Each firm will have different platforms for different size plans and different TPA arrangements.  Know the differences.
4. Learn about recordkeeping and TPA work.  Bundled or unbundled (TPA)?  Hard costs (to the company) or soft costs (embedded in the fund expenses)?.  There is a LOT to consider here.  There are many ways to arrange the cost structure, and the costs can be "buried" or upfront.  Learn the difference.  It took me two years to really get this concept.  And it is STILL difficult to uncover all the costs.
5. Who will do the education and fiduciary stuff?
6. What is the fiduciary stuff?
7. MFD's or group annuity platform?  Do you know the difference?
 
Mooose, this is a tough road to go down if it is not your primary business driver.  Spend 2 hours per week calling SMALL businesses and talking to the owners.  Just ask them if "you could reduce their 401K plan expenses, improve service, and improve the investment options, would you condsider giving me 15 minutes to show you what we can do?"  If their plan is perfect, you wasted 15 minutes.
If they have had the plan more than a few years, you almost ALWAYS can do this, and even if the plan is new, you OFTEN can do this.
Most 401K plans currently in place suck (even many of the real big ones), especially the small ones.
 
My advice - identify one of the wholesalers (retirement plan) that REALLY knows their stuff, and have them teach it to you.  It's too complex to get into over a chatroom.  I have interviewed 6 different firms, and one that I like right now for my small to midsize plans is Oppenheimer.  They are really low cost, and have multiple platforms for different size plans.  They bundle with Bisys on the big plans and a different TPA on the small plans (like under 10 participants - I forget the TPA name).  Lord Abbett is really low cost (dirt cheap but service is sketchy).  Hartford & JHancock have great service and investment options, but are expensive (better for real large existing plans).  American Funds is real good, but doesn't pay well.  There are others as well (especially if you head down the Group Annuity platform)
Hope this helps.

Big Taco's picture
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Joined: 2006-11-16

I like Oppenheimer's 401k platform also.  The people I talk to in my area are very knowledgeable and helpful, and know how to compete.

DodgerDraftpick's picture
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Joined: 2006-12-24

Broker good post you gave  away quite a lot of secrets for advisors who want to  focus on this business. As an advisor that has this as 50 % of my biz I will add a few things to be nice to the newbies out there.  First off I didn't see anybody talk about this but I will this is still a relationship business.  401k plans are no different don't belive me on a 1 million plan the company had a 1.45 DAC charge.  I showed them a proposal at .5  with a nice excel spreadsheet showing the savings over ten years almost 200,000 to the participants.  Should have been a slam dunk when you consider broker AWOL and no more hard dollar costs.  Nope original broker was friend of member who used to be in the finance board etc.  I have my second meeting in January you would think that would be a no brainer but the relationship is key.  Get business owner as clients and the 401K will follow.  Also if you really want to do this 100 cold calls per day to businesses at least is necessary.  Gestation time from first call to meeting averages about 4 months.  Followup meeting and then decision another 6 months.  I am competing on a 10 million dollar plan and it is going to be on month 14 before the final two proposals have been selected.  Point is you better have a diversified business model to keep yourself going.  Another important point being Indy gives me a monster advantage in this arena for 10 million and under plans.  Wirehouses have a lot of selling agreements and you won't be able to offer every product where if you are a Indy you can.  Lastly attack TPA firms that act as a broker I don't try to be a TPA and refuse to work with any TPA that tries to do what I do.  I have a list of all firms in my area that do both and when I call their plans I explain how the lack of division can make it very fuzzy for the client's best interest to be at heart when you consider many providers do revenue sharing with TPA's.  In the end you have to get lucky with timing and know your stuff cold. Find at least three TPA's and work with them you will learn quickly about ADP/ADC testing and what Safe Harbor means.  When you get plans in your pipeline the trail direct access to participants and a steady steam of prospecting makes it worth it.  It just takes a long time and you can't get frustrated and have to stay with it.  I lost out on getting a small 400,000 plan but will be picking up a one million plus account the owner was managing on his own for a family member.   Also don't be one of those idiot brokers putting a surrender charge on your plan for more comission that makes it easy for someone like me take it.

troll's picture
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joedabrkr wrote:Prato-Principal has a long standing reputation of sending their own reps out to cannibalize business that was brought in by outside sources....for what it's worth....
Joe,
Just installed my first plan with Principal, and you are right, I found out, in talking to the enrollers, that when they sit down one on one with participants, they do a superficial financial plan, and if it leads to it, they will write business. From what was explained to me, they limit it to term life and 529 plans.
 
I voiced my concern and I was assured that they wouldnt do anything more involved than that - its business that I am not that interested in anyway, althogh I realize that it can lead to other things.
I came to an agreement with my wholesaler (who owes me big time, I referred a number of FA's to her that he is working with now, both inside and outside my firm) that I could give her a list of names, and they would carve those people out of their program, so they would be left to me.
I think its not going to be a problem for me, but they need to be watched. 

troll's picture
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pratoman wrote:joedabrkr wrote:Prato-Principal has a long standing reputation of sending their own reps out to cannibalize business that was brought in by outside sources....for what it's worth....
Joe,
Just installed my first plan with Principal, and you are right, I found out, in talking to the enrollers, that when they sit down one on one with participants, they do a superficial financial plan, and if it leads to it, they will write business. From what was explained to me, they limit it to term life and 529 plans.
 
I voiced my concern and I was assured that they wouldnt do anything more involved than that - its business that I am not that interested in anyway, althogh I realize that it can lead to other things.
I came to an agreement with my wholesaler (who owes me big time, I referred a number of FA's to her that he is working with now, both inside and outside my firm) that I could give her a list of names, and they would carve those people out of their program, so they would be left to me.
I think its not going to be a problem for me, but they need to be watched. It can absolutely lead to other things...including making the firm who has that term life and 529 on the books being the first choice for a rollover when the person leaves the company.If you had a few of those plans you could keep a junior busy writing 529 plans and term life...

henryhill's picture
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Joined: 2007-08-23

the best source for getting 401k leads are 5500 reports.  if you ask your mfd wholesaler, they can provide some for you. 

drk_999's picture
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Joined: 2010-12-28

I am independent RIA and only do SMA's now. One of the clients has small business and wanted me to managed their 401K. Currently Fidelity manages it. Do you have any good suggestions for for TPA's. Should I used wholesalers? Any suggestions

Otane's picture
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Joined: 2008-08-04

I've been doing plans for awhile, and prospect from 1 to 30 million dollar plans. Last year was a good year for plan conversion since a number of companies had overpriced and older plans. Now that everyone seems to have a competitive plan, it is a lot more difficult. If you don't know how to fix testing issues within a plan, then you are going to have a hard time competing. Investments and fiduciary issues which have been hammered by callers is starting to mean very little to the CFO or HR these days. Lead time for plans have been getting longer, and I would diversify in other areas while prospecting for plans. Plus plans don't pay all that well. Get a plan over 5 million and you get 25bps. With all that work and etc., that is a just measly $12,500.  

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