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Most 401k plan sponsors work with an investment adviser to help them manage their 401k plans. Many are unaware that it is reasonable to expect their investment adviser to help manage providers. Leading edge investment advisers are familiar with the marketplace for trust, custody, employee education and recordkeeping services. As a result, plan sponsors should expect help from their investment adviser with:

What You Should Expect

1. Cost management

Your investment adviser should be able to access tools allowing him/her to benchmark your 401k plan (at no cost) to the marketplace in terms of trust, custody, recordkeeping, employee education and communication and plan design consulting costs. As a reminder, the Department of Labor would like to see you perform this sort of analysis at least every three years.

2. Services

The retirement plan marketplace is extremely dynamic. Providers change their offerings frequently in attempts to capture greater market share or are acquired/sold. Your investment adviser should be able to share with you the updated menu of services you can expect from each of the providers that work with your plan.

3. Provider searches

Should one of your providers come up short in terms of services, or prove to be too costly, your investment adviser should be able to manage a provider search for you (at no cost). You should expect to see a list of alternative providers that work with plans your size along with a list of services and their related costs.

4. Plan design

Those investment advisers that are thought-leaders keep abreast of the latest plan design trends. Your investment adviser should share thoughts with you each year on how the marketplace is evolving from a plan design perspective, with suggestions on those changes that would be most appropriate for your plan.

5. Reputation and fit

An active adviser will be aware of the reputation of the many service providers you have to choose from and should be able to easily match the appropriate provider to your unique culture.

6. Problem resolution

In the event that you end up disagreeing with one of your 401k plan providers, it is reasonable to expect your investment adviser to intercede on your behalf and develop a solution.

Your 401k plan investment adviser should function as the lead adviser for your 401k plan provider team and be a member of the small group of trusted advisers you consult when you have a financial or human resources issue. If that is not the case, you may want to consider looking for a new adviser.


About the Author

Robert C. Lawton, AIF, CRPS is the founder and President of Lawton Retirement Plan Consultants, LLC. Mr. Lawton has over 30 years of retirement plan consulting and administration experience and has provided consulting services to many Fortune 500 companies including: Aon Hewitt, Apple Inc., AT&T, First Interstate Bank, Florida Power & Light, General Dynamics, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, IBM, John Deere, Mazda Motor Car Company, Northwestern Mutual, Northern Trust Company, Trek Bikes, Tribune Company, Underwriters Labs and many others. Mr. Lawton may be contacted at (414) 828-4015 or

About Lawton Retirement Plan Consultants, LLC

Lawton Retirement Plan Consultants, LLC is a Milwaukee, Wisconsin-based independent, objective Registered Investment Advisory (RIA) firm providing investment advisory, fiduciary compliance, employee education, vendor management and plan design services to 401(k) plan sponsors. The firm currently has contracts in place to provide consulting services on more than $400 million in plan assets. For more information, please contact Robert C. Lawton at (414) 828-4015 or or visit the firm’s website at: Lawton Retirement Plan Consultants, LLC is a Wisconsin Registered Investment Adviser.

Important Disclosures

This information was developed as a general guide to educate plan sponsors and is not intended as authoritative guidance, tax, legal or investment advice. Each plan has unique requirements and you should consult your attorney or tax adviser for guidance on your specific situation. In no way does Lawton Retirement Plan Consultants, LLC assure that, by using the information provided, plan sponsor will be in compliance with ERISA regulations. Investors should carefully consider investment objectives, risks, charges and expenses. The statements in this publication are the opinions and beliefs of the commentator expressed when the commentary was made and are not intended to represent that person’s opinions and beliefs at any other time. The commentary does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Lawton Retirement Plan Consultants, LLC and should not be construed as recommendations or investment advice. Lawton Retirement Plan Consultants, LLC offers no tax, legal or accounting advice and any advice contained herein is not specific to any individual, entity or retirement plan, but rather general in nature and, therefore, should not be relied upon for specific investment situations. Lawton Retirement Plan Consultants, LLC is a Wisconsin Registered Investment Adviser and accepts clients outside of Wisconsin based upon applicable state registration regulations and the “de minimus” exception.