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Rating:2014 In Review: the Year In 401k Not Rated 5.0 Email Routing List Email & Route  Print Print
Tuesday, December 30, 2014

2014 In Review: the Year In 401k

Reported by Neil Anderson, Managing Editor

For distribution, funksters basically have two choices of channels that are still growing: advisors, and defined contribution retirement plans (like 401(k)s). For those who choose the DC path, they’re faced with another fork in the road: the large and jumbo market, working with 401(k)s offered by Fortune 1000 companies and the like; or the small and mid market, working with advisors who support 401(k)s for small businesses.

Assets managers used to the traditional defined benefit pension business will probably be more comfortable on the large and jumbo end of the 401(k) market. Yet fundsters who distribute primarily through advisors will naturally be more comfortable on the advisor-sold end of the 401(k) marketplace. And that advisor-sold 401(k) marketplace has changed a lot this year, especially in terms of the broker-dealers.

Giant independent B-D LPL (which, according to data from our sister publication, 401kWire, supports 16.2 percent of the 401(k) plan advisors (KPAs), double any B-D) said goodbye to its celebrity retirement chief, Bill Chetney, who left to buy a competing B-D/RIA, Financial Telesis, Inc. (FTI) and form his own LPL-affiliate focused on supporting retirement plan advisors. LPL promoted Dave Reich to take Chetney’s place at the home office as his retirement partners team continues to build out tools and support for their hundreds of KPAs.

Another big indie B-D is also making waves. Eight years ago, then-publicly traded NFP bought a majority stake in a national KPA alliance, 401(k) Advisors, and its tools-producing affiliate, Retirement Plan Advisory Group (RPAG, then called 401(k) Producer Services). More recently, NFP (now backed by private equity) bought the rest of 401(k) Advisors and RPAG. RPAG’s B-D ally, FTI, sold to Chetney and LPL, with FTI-affiliated KPAs scattering (many to LPL or NFP). Then NFP (now fourth in terms of KPA market share, number two among independent B-Ds, according to 401kWire data) brought 401(k) Advisors more fully into the NFP fold, even rebranding 401(k) Advisors as NFP Retirement.

Other B-Ds made 401(k) moves this year. AIG Advisor Group, Edward Jones and Lockton all hired former 401(k) recordkeeping bigwigs -- Kelly Michel, Jamie Ohl, and Pam Popp, respectively -- to spearhead retirement efforts. Cetera, the second-biggest indie B-D player after LPL, hired its first retirement chief, Jon Anderson. And midwestern indie B-D Cambridge Investment Research promoted its own Colleen Bell to head retirement.

B-Ds aren’t the only ones getting in on KPAs’ business. Big RIA Hightower hired top KPA Jania Stout to lead retirement efforts. Envestnet (under Babu Sivadasan), Pershing (under Rob Cirrotti), and TD Ameritrade (under Skip Schweiss), all of which support B-Ds and RIAs, unveiled or teased their own retirement plan solutions this year.

The upshot is that retail B-Ds and RIAs, and their vendors, are more aware than ever of the 401(k) marketplace. Advisors have more and more places to turn for 401(k) support. And that could spell opportunity for the fundsters who are willing to put in the defined contribution investment-only (DC I-O) effort. 

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