Saturday, September 02, 2006

'Best' Practices

These are momentous times for our industry, particularly for financial advisers. The shift from employer-funded defined benefit plans to employer-fostered defined contribution models may present challenges for this nation’s long-term retirement security, but it surely plays to the advantage of a profession dedicated to helping plan sponsors construct the right programs, and participants make the best of them.

Just as there is little question that those trends favor financial advisers, there is also no real challenge to the notion that you provide an invaluable service to these programs. It has been our privilege these past several years to lend a hand to your efforts—first via PLANSPONSOR magazine; then via PLANSPONSOR.com, the NewsDash, and this publication; and, more recently, via our education arm, the PLANSPONSOR Institute and our PLANSPONSOR Retirement Professional (PRP) designation. Next month, we will take that outreach a step further with PLANADVISER - a new publication and Web site specifically developed for financial advisers.

It was in that spirit that, two years ago, we announced our inaugural Retirement Plan Adviser of the Year award, an award designed to recognize “the contributions of the nation’s best financial advisers in helping make retirement security a reality for workers across the nation.” Today, it is both my honor and privilege to launch the nomination process for our third annual campaign to acknowledge the contributions of the very best financial advisers in the nation.

The criteria that underlie the award are simple, but impactful; we want to recognize advisers who make a difference through increasing participation, boosting deferral rates, enhancing asset allocation, and/or providing better programs through expanded service or expense management. It is no accident that those criteria also underlie the new Pension Protection Act’s future designs for defined contribution plans, for only by getting more workers saving in these programs at effective rates, and invested in prudent ways, can they have any real prospects for retirement security.

This year, in response to popular demand, we are adding a new category – the Retirement Plan Adviser Team of the Year – which will acknowledge the efforts of an emerging generation of advisory support. Surely, no one is an island unto himself in these efforts, but this will allow us to acknowledge the efforts of teams as well as individuals.

We will acknowledge the finalists for this year’s Retirement Plan Adviser of the Year award in the December issue of PLANSPONSOR, as well as the winter issue of PLANADVISER. Those finalists will join me at the 401(k) Summit in San Diego next February 25-27 for the hugely popular “Best Practices” panel, where we will also announce this year’s Retirement Plan Adviser of the Year and the Retirement Plan Adviser Team of the Year.

In addition to myself, this year’s panel of judges includes the two past recipients of the award, Smith Barney’s John Mott and Dorann Cafaro of the Cafaro Group, as well as Steff Chalk of the Chalk 401(k) Advisory Board; Alison Cooke, managing editor of PLANADVISER; and Mark Davis of Kravitz Davis Sansone.

While these awards are designed to recognize financial adviser excellence, we trust the standards they embody will continue to provide a source of inspiration for those who make a difference every day. I look forward to getting to know you, and your practices, better through this process.

- Nevin Adams

Nominations for the award can be submitted online at http://www.surveymonkey.com/s.asp?u=59642531881

Information on the 401(k) Summit is online at http://www.asppa.org/archive/conf/2007/2007401ksummit.htm

More information on the PLANSPONSOR Retirement Professional designation is online at http://www.plansponsorinstitute.com

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