Employers and HR professionals are busy crunching numbers, answering emails, making phone calls and overall putting out fires.
So it only makes sense that, when it comes to benefits, they could use some help.

That’s where advisers come in.

A group of three plan sponsors discussed what they are looking for in an adviser during the annual NAPA 401(k) Summit in Nashville this week. The big answer: A partner.

Attendees register at the 15th Annual NAPA 401(k) Summit. [Photo credit: Don Jackson]
Attendees register at the 15th Annual NAPA 401(k) Summit. [Photo credit: Don Jackson]

“I depend on my advisers in whatever benefit field to be the expert,” said Rhonda Curry, vice president of human resources for Charlotte Hornets Sports & Entertainment.

“I depend on you to tell me what’s changing,” she said. “I don’t have time to keep up with everything, like the fiduciary rule. Tell me what it means and what I need to do.”

Kathryn Wall, EVP of HR at Mary Washington Healthcare, said the ever-changing workforce and regulatory environment is causing a lot of undue stress, and that having the right partners can help.

“The complexity of what we’re dealing with [is really challenging]. The ACA or the changes in the retirement plans — that causes a lot of anxiety. It keeps me up at night.”

Conveying that information to employees is also an important, but challenging, part of the equation — and one that employers are looking for help with.

Quote
“I don’t want to be overwhelmed with data. I don’t want to hear it at a high level. I don’t have time for that. I want it be succinct.”

“As I look at the ever-increasing complexity of compliance requirements, how do I translate that to the employees? We rely on the adviser to help with that,” echoed James Bunt, chief financial officer of Continental Resources. “We want to make sure we are conveying the information and making participants feel self-assured that they are getting information and they are getting it readily.”

Other tips the panel had for advisers:

Do your homework. Employers want an adviser who researches their organization. They don’t want someone who is cold-calling them, trying to sell them things or asks questions they should already know.

Keep them up-to-date on trends. “We’re [looking for] feedback the adviser is getting from participants. If one employee has an issue, maybe others have it too,” Bunt said. Similarly, Wall said, “I need to know about other benefits like leave or flexibility because it affects total rewards. I’m looking for my adviser to help me with that, too.”

Save employers time. “I’ve got time in my schedule to comb through social media, podcasts and articles to see what’s going on,” Curry said. “But wouldn’t it be great if our advisers do that for us? If they said, ‘Check out this article,’ instead of me having to find it, and I got 15 minutes back in my day.”

Don’t pretend to know everything. “I don’t expect my adviser to be the total expert in everything, but I want [him] to help give me answers and help connect me to other people,” Wall said. “I would rather that than [not] being upfront about what they are good at and what they aren’t.”

Quote
“I don’t have time to keep up with everything, like the fiduciary rule. Tell me what it means and what I need to do.”

Don’t overwhelm. “I don’t want to be overwhelmed with data,” Curry said. “I don’t want to hear it at a high level. I don’t have time for that. I want it be succinct.”

Be a sounding board. “I want an adviser that gets me, gets my organization. Talks me into it, talks me out of it. Help me work both ways,” Curry said. Similarly, Wall said, “I just want someone to bounce an idea off of.”

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