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Average Assets at FT Top 401(k) Advisors Skyrocket

By Rita Raagas De Ramos September 28, 2017

The Financial Times, parent company of FA-IQ, has published the third annual edition of its top 401 retirement plan advisors for 2017 and average assets at these firms have risen sharply compared to last year.

The average top 401 retirement plan advisor for 2017 manages $1.6 billion in DC plan assets, a big jump from the $950 million managed by the average top 401 retirement plan advisor in 2016.

The average top 401 retirement plan advisor’s years of experience is slightly higher at 19 years for this year’s batch compared with 18 years last year.

This year’s top retirement plan advisors are in 38 states across the country, including Washington D.C. The largest number of advisors reside in California (46) followed closely by New York (30), and Texas (26).

Regulations and new client acquisition emerged as the top challenges for this year’s top 401 retirement plan advisors, with each challenge cited by 40% of the elite group.

Foremost in the minds of retirement advisors, when it comes to regulations, is the Department of Labor’s fiduciary rule, which has been in place since June this year.

The full implementation of the rule has been delayed by 18 months from January 1, 2018 to July 1, 2019. The delay was triggered by a February memorandum signed by President Donald Trump, directing the DOL to revise or rescind the rule.

The transition period gives the DOL more time to review the rule. SEC chairman Jay Clayton is also currently reviewing public comments from retail investors and other interested parties on standards of conduct for investment advisors and broker-dealers.

“By requiring plan advisors to put client interests ahead of their own, the fiduciary rule should ultimately help the elite professionals in the FT 401. But in the short run, the impact is a bit of a wild card,” says Loren Fox, New York-based director of Ignites Research and head of the FT 401 top retirement plan advisors ranking.

Loren Fox

It would be pointless to speculate how the final fiduciary rule will turn out because “a lot can change between now and July 2019”, says John Ellis, senior retirement plans consultant, at UBS Financial Services.

Ellis, who is among this year’s FT 401 retirement plan advisors, says he already acts as a fiduciary for his retirement clients. He notes that he and other UBS advisors have a “well-documented process where we’re constantly reaffirming that we’re making decisions that are in the best interest of the client.”

The FT’s top 401 retirement plan advisors lists are developed in collaboration Ignites Research. Qualified retirement plan advisors are scored on seven criteria: DC plan assets under management, DC plan growth, focus on the DC business, experience, advanced industry credentials, employee participation and compliance records.

Read the Financial Times's special report on top retirement plan advisors here.